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        Cheesy stuff on dirt basement floor -- What is it??? Sign In/Join 
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted
        Hello,

        My wife is in the process of selling her parents' home (they passed away a few years ago).
        The place has a dirt floor basement. The floor joists are only about 4 feet above dirt level. Often times the house feels damp and has an "earthy" smell, so I was considering putting down a heavy mil plastic in the basement.
        There is this "stuff", however, all over the basement floor. It looks like the corrosion you get on a car battery, but it has a consistency like cream cheese. Yuk!
        What is this stuff? I don't feel good about covering it up with plastic. What (if anything) should I do with it?

        Thanks in advance for your ideas.

        Dirt-floor-covered-with-cheesy-stuff
         
        Posts: 348 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        Hard to tell for sure from a picture, but my first guess would be crystallized minerals (calcium) from water that has seeped into the space over the years and evaporated.

        It's possible that it's some form of mold growth, but it just doesn't look like it.

        Test an area with bleach - if it's mold it will go away. If it's calcium, then it's not going to harm anything and it can be covered up with a poly vapor barrier.

        You should install the vapor barrier. From the rust around that support pole, it's obvious there is a fair amount of moisture in there. That moisture will migrate upwards into the house. If you are gong to sell, it would also look much better to have a clean vapor barrier instead of what it there now.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10477 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of GardenSprite
        posted Hide Post
        This looks like the stuff that grew on houseplant soil when I had indoor plants. I also found some on one of the plumbing pipes in the most damp area of the basement, by the laundry tubs.

        I used to think it was mold, but eventually decided it's more likely leachate from hard water.

        The first 5 posts might help in analyzing what you have:

        http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/848603/

        Unfortunately I couldn't find any good photos for comparison, but I think Jaybee's right - calcium leachate.

        I don't exactly know how how it could accumulate from airborne water from a damp basement though. Typically it's from watering plants with hard water and is a problem with indoor plants.

        The posts on the link also have remediation suggestions, but unfortunately they're not practical for large scale applications.

        When it grew on my houseplants, I had to scrape it off and bottom water instead of top water.
         
        Posts: 1964 | Registered: Oct 06, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        if it's a mineral deposit it will be hard, if mold or fungus, soft. Just to be sure, make a dilute solution of muriatic acid and water and apply it to the stuff, if it foams and fizzes, it's mineral deposit. Bleach will kill it if it's molds, fungus or algae. If the stuff reacts to the bleach, switch to pool chlorine ( it is 10% chlorine , and the bleach is half that.)
        after killing the mold, fungus or algae, drench the area with a copper fungicide.
        As to the rusty column, check to see how much of the column has been compromised, and repair it as necessary. If the rust isn't too bad, wire brush it then treat it with a product such as "extend" then paint
         
        Posts: 2584 | Location: florida | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted Hide Post
        Thanks JayBee, GardenSprite, and nona.
        I'll try the bleach and muriatic acid tests the next time I go out there.
        I'm hoping it's mineral glop, but it's definitely not hard. Whatever it is, the combination of that stuff mixed with dirt was pretty hard to clean out of the treads of my boots this morning.
        My wife says that they did have plastic down a long time ago, but pulled it up because stuff was growing under it and it smelled nasty.

        I'm attaching another photo because it may have a bearing on this problem (or maybe it's a totally separate problem). I'm guessing that, at some point, there was a drain pipe that was taken out of service. It appears to have been left open though.

        Open-Pipe
         
        Posts: 348 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        Now that's just nasty looking!

        Is this a drain from the crawlspace to somewhere outside? It certainly doesn't appear to be draining.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10477 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted Hide Post
        Jaybee, on the other side of that wall is the driveway.
         
        Posts: 348 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        What type of walls does the basement have.?
        Is there a sump pump in basement.?

        This is just my opinion and has nothing to do with codes or best methods.
        It will be hard sell a home with a wet basement and what looks like you had a pigeon problem.
        I would take out about 3" to 4" of the dirt,cap the pipe, install a french drain system, and sump pump.

        This message has been edited. Last edited by: ron45,
         
        Posts: 907 | Registered: Jan 29, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted Hide Post
        ron45,
        The walls are block (I've attached a dark picture).
        No sump pump. Other than the wetness in front of that open drain, there is no standing water in the basement.

        No argument with your opinion. There has been little interest in the house --very few bodies even coming through to take a look. Houses are just not selling in the area. I don't even think anyone has seen the basement yet. But, you're right, if it were me looking for a home in that area, the basement is probably the first thing I'd want to see.

        Block-Wall
         
        Posts: 348 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of joecaption
        posted Hide Post
        By the looks of that efflorescenc it looks to me like that foundation was never sealed on the back side before back filling and or at least there's some drainage issues on the outside.
        http://www.basementquestions.com/efflorescenc.php

        This message has been edited. Last edited by: joecaption,


        joecaption
         
        Posts: 18039 | Location: Hartfield VA | Registered: Jan 31, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of GardenSprite
        posted Hide Post
        SN, I was thinking that to eliminate the "earthy" smell you could set out bowls of cat litter or baking soda. I've used both successfully to eliminate dampness odors.

        Crumpled newspaper and coffee grounds have also worked, but I prefer the cat litter and baking soda.
         
        Posts: 1964 | Registered: Oct 06, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of joecaption
        posted Hide Post
        Use lime, it's cheap and will mask the smell.


        joecaption
         
        Posts: 18039 | Location: Hartfield VA | Registered: Jan 31, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted Hide Post
        Thanks Joe and GardenSprite,

        I do think I need to attack that "earthy" smell. Honestly, to really solve the problem would likely cost more than the house is worth.
        There is sidewalk or driveway around most of the perimeter of the house, so it would be very difficult to excavate and seal out moisture from the outside.
        Even laying down plastic will be difficult as there are piles of dirt and stone in places. There are also a couple of large (around 3 feet diameter and 1.5 feet deep)concrete "plugs" down there.

        I'd like to remove the 3-4" of dirt that Ron45 suggested, but it's a job that's probably too big for me to tackle on my own.
        Plus, I need to find out what that "glop" is. I have allergies and, the day after being down there, I woke with swollen eyes and wheezy breathing.

        I appreciate your suggestions.

        Thanks.
         
        Posts: 348 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of Jaybee
        posted Hide Post
        What about adding a VB and gravel base? The gravel could even things out to make it look and feel better.


        Jaybee
         
        Posts: 10477 | Location: Knoxville, Tennessee | Registered: Sep 27, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        If it were me....
        I would search the area for some small contractors, it's winter and prices are usually lowered. I would have them clean the walls, floor joist, and take the 3" - 4" of dirt out. Make sure you have the proper slope away from the foundation outside and the rain gutters are pushing the water far enough away. I would still think about the french drain.

        I would call a place called BY OWNER for selling the house, It's one flat fee for everything. You have to show the house yourself when someone comes to look at it, but it's more then worth it, less then half of what realtors want. They handle everything else, it's so easy and we sold two houses through them in less then 3 months.
        I wouldn't waste anymore time, cap the pipe do to the water being stagnant, this will make you sick. Be sure to use a mask and rubber gloves.

        This message has been edited. Last edited by: ron45,
         
        Posts: 907 | Registered: Jan 29, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        Picture of SturdyNail
        posted Hide Post
        Jaybee, I like your idea of the VB and gravel base. I'll need to price it out.

        Ron45, I like the idea of contracting out the heavy work. It's 1200 sq feet. Trying to haul out 3-4" of dirt and stone from a cramped area in a wheelbarrow would be real back breaker if I tried to do it myself. I'll need to price it out.
        Also, I like the idea of "BY OWNER", but my wife has already signed a contract with a realtor. Also, we live about 45 minutes away, so it would be difficult to get out there for showings. Still, I like the idea and, if we haven't sold by the time the contract expires, it's a route I'll pose to my wife.
        When you say "cap the pipe", would that be a permanent or screw on/off cap? I wonder if that pipe is/was attached to some sort of drain at any time. If it was, maybe it could be put back to good use.

        Thanks again.

        This message has been edited. Last edited by: SturdyNail,
         
        Posts: 348 | Location: Western NewYork | Registered: Jan 26, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
        posted Hide Post
        The good thing about BY OWNER is the people call you direct and you set the date and time. You also decide who buys and who doesn't.

        About the pipe.. You could snake it and see if it drains, if not, I would permanently cap it.
        The french drain would give the potential buyer a more peaceful mind.
         
        Posts: 907 | Registered: Jan 29, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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