Dear Barry,

A plumber has confirmed that we have mold in the crawlspace beneath our home. This is surprising because the house is only two years old. According to the plumber, the mold is caused by the heavy black plastic that has been placed on the wet soil beneath the building. He suggested removing the plastic, drying out the dirt, and running a fan to circulate the air. There are six vents in the foundation and all of them are open. There is also a sump pump to remove excess ground water. Do you agree with the plumber’s evaluation? If not, what do you recommend? –Delpha

Dear Delpha,

Plumbers are experts in water supply, gas supply and wastewater systems, not issues that involve mold or groundwater drainage. Covering wet soil beneath a building is an accepted method for reducing air moisture and condensation that could lead to mold or fungus infection. If moisture is causing mold, removing the plastic could make the condition worse by increasing the humidity beneath the building.

The proper course of action is to leave the plastic where it is, while increasing the number of vents around the building. And make sure that these vents are located on opposing sides of the building, if possible, to promote cross ventilation. If the vents are not sufficient to prevent condensation, vent fans should then be added.

It would also be advisable to have the property evaluated by a geotechnical engineer to determine the cause of ground moisture beneath the building and to recommend a means of reducing this moisture.

Dear Barry,

One of our neighbors is preparing his home for sale, but we don’t like what he’s doing. Yesterday he asked me how to cover up and conceal some severe cracks in the laundry room and bathroom walls. His house sits on a hillside and the foundation is cracked. He also wanted to know if there was any way to redirect water runoff that drains into his garage. It seems to me that he is hiding problems, rather than repairing or disclosing them and I feel bad knowing that some buyer (my future neighbor) will get stuck with some expensive problems. My question is this: Should I inform his Realtor to make sure all these defects are disclosed? –Neal

Dear Neal,

What your neighbor is contemplating is totally illegal, besides being unethical. State laws require disclosure of all conditions that could be of concern to a buyer. If he does not fully and honestly disclose these defects, he will have to sign a state-mandated disclosure form knowing that the statements therein are false. That could probably be regarded as fraud.

I share your concern for unsuspecting buyers and have received e-mails from many who have been damaged in this way. For some, the consequences have been devastating financial loss.

If you decide to inform the Realtor, beware that the neighbor doesn’t learn of your disclosure and make trouble for you.

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

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