Dear Barry,

We are currently having a house built and became concerned when we noticed mold on some of the roof rafters. When we pointed this out to the builders, they had the wood surfaces professionally cleaned and chemically treated. But then we asked them for a warranty to cover future mold, and that’s where they drew the line. They flatly refused. Should we insist that they provide a warranty in case any mold returns, or is that an unreasonable demand? –Frank

Dear Frank,

Construction lumber typically has surface mold and mildew due to moisture retention in stacks of wood during storage. This type of mold can be found on the framing members in most attics and is generally not regarded as a significant health hazard. If it remains dry, as is likely within an attic, it should not become active or have further growth.

You are unusually fortunate to have builders willing to address this mold in such a forthright manner. Although the effectiveness of these procedures cannot be guaranteed, this is more than most builders would have been willing to do. So be grateful and don’t push too hard. Asking them to provide a written warranty against future mold infection is well beyond the realm of reasonable expectations. It would subject them to unpredictable levels of legal liability and would be strongly discouraged by any prudent business adviser.

In the real world, mold happens. You’ll just have to take your chances along with the rest of us. The best way to avoid it is to maintain dry conditions and proper ventilation as much as possible.

Dear Barry,

My kitchen is currently being remodeled, and I’m having trouble with the contractor who installed the new wood flooring. The subfloor was not leveled before the new flooring was laid; some of the floorboards are loose and squeaky; and some of the boards flex when we step on them. I’ve pointed this out to the contractor, but he says this is normal. So I’ve got two questions: (1) Are these conditions truly normal, or do I have a faulty installation? (2) Can this be repaired without ripping up all the flooring? By the way, I still hold 30 percent of the contractor’s fee. Should I withhold payment until the floor is fixed? –Geoff

Dear Geoff,

The conditions you describe do not sound reasonable or acceptable. New wood flooring should not flex or squeak; leveling of the floor should have been done before the new wood surface was installed; and the contractor should take a more active interest in customer satisfaction, rather than sidestepping an apparent defect. Unfortunately, repair of the floor will most likely require a complete reinstallation.

If you don’t get satisfaction from the contractor, you’ll need to file a complaint with the state contractor’s licensing agency. In the mean time, your best means of persuasion is the fact that you have not made the final payment for the work. Hold on to your money until the work is completed in a satisfactory manner.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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