Real estate

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Mold habits die hard, so here’s what to do

Q. Is there any kind of professional certification for people who claim to locate and remove mold in private houses? I asked the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, but they didn’t know.

Our house (which was built in 1973) has had a moldy smell in the summer for as long as we’ve lived here (almost 16 years). I’ve cleaned everything in sight, but that didn’t help. I think there is something inside the walls. There are people who claim to be able to find and fix these problems, but I’d like to be sure they really know what they’re doing before I pay them a lot of money.



A. There is no official organization in Massachusetts that I’m aware of. There is the National Association of Mold Professionals (, which is a nonprofit that develops and promotes the mold inspection and remediation industry. The association has been around a long time and has a reputation for developing best practice-training and public mold education.

Moldy smell

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Basements are notorious for having a moldy smell — they are dark and dank. The smell in most finished basements is mold growing or thriving on organic matter such as wood, fabric, furniture, rugs, books, and paper-backed wallboard.

Eliminate basement moisture and increase the airflow, and you’ll probably be well on your way to curing your moldy basement problem. In addition:

 Throw away anything that smells or has visible mold.

 Control the humidity. The biggest odor-causing problems in homes are mildew and mold. I suggest running a dehumidifier in the basement all year long. I always try to install them on a shelf or counter near a sink. I buy the types that allow a drain hose and run it directly into the sink so I’m not emptying — and spilling — what’s in that stupid reservoir tank.


 Is your laundry room in the cellar? If so, this is another reason to clean your dryer vent. (The most important one is to prevent a fire.) Blocked vents can leak into the basement.

 Look for dripping pipes and install a sump pump and floor-drain system. Water is the cause of many air-quality problems. A small leak can produce a tremendous amount of moisture and even cause the other side of the home to smell bad.

 Ensure that rain drains off the roof and away from the foundation.

Q. I did not understand why cutting through fiberglass to replace a shower valve would be impossible. Can you explain? Thanks!



A. Most fiberglass shower stalls are formed in a factory, ready to be installed, and are no longer waterproof after you cut a hole in them; it would be impossible to repair the cut-out fiberglass.

While it is possible that an entire shower stall could be removed without damage, this too is problematic, requiring you to open up the adjacent wallboard. The shower stall-nailing flanges are secured to wall studs, and the wallboard overlaps these flanges.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @globeaddress or @robertrobillard.