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Moldy Smells and Water Damage
Q. Can you help me? I have had problems in my condominium unit. I was unable to live in it during the six months that it was under repair from water damage, the cause of which was never found and does not appear to come from the unit. I have once again moved out due to livability problems. I had water in my dining room, hallway, and entry in February. There was no apparent reason for it. I began to notice a moldy smell and have implemented efforts in an attempt to remediate the problem, including the use of air cleaners. When I am at home I continue to become ill - Nola, Washington
A. The problem you describe is not uncommon, that is, water coming into a house or housing unit with no discernable source. I have observed it happen in both new and existing houses. In the former, it is usually associated with some kind of construction defect - rainwater coming through roofing vents or flaws in application of roofing materials. The rain only comes in during a wind-driven rain from a particular direction. Once it comes in, it flows down along wall surfaces in the living spaces below. In such cases, much of the water damage will be internal to wall cavities and remain hidden.
Since I don't know the nature of your condominium (whether it is a multi-story unit or not), it is difficult to give specific recommendations. If your condominium has an attic above it, that is the first place to start. It is not uncommon to find water stains on the rafters where water came in. Once you have found those water stains, you can have a contractor repair the cause of the problem.
As the water comes down the rafters, you should be able to see where it dripped onto attic insulation and the pathway it took to get into living areas. I suspect that wetted areas have yet to be remediated.
Finding the source of water entry is essential for remediating the water problem and the mold problem associated with it and, of course, the health problems you have been experiencing. I believe the problem lies in the roof, particularly if it has a ridgeline ventilation installation.
The health problems you have been experiencing are classical mold-type exposure problems. They will continue if you attempt to live in the house without remediating all mold-infested areas associated with the water leaks.