Wood-Rotting Fungus Eats Falkville Couple Out of Dream Home

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FALKVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A couple in Morgan County is sleeping outside of their dream home because the floor of their master bedroom collapsed.

They say it's due to a wood-rotting fungus that attacked the underside of the home.

Mold experts told WHNT News 19 that such fungus is prevalent in Alabama.  Any home is susceptible to it and there's no way to get rid of it entirely.

From the outside of Glenda Lockhart's home in Falkville, is the epitome of serenity, beauty, and comfort.  Built in 2008, it is her dream home.  But on the inside, there are signs of severe trouble, coming from problems she said she never imagined could happen.

"Our house is in a very bad state of collapse," said Lockhart.  "General contractors do not believe at this point that the house can be salvaged."

She said contractors built the 4,200-square foot home carefully following the building codes in Morgan County.

On August 17th, four years after they finished it, Lockhart said she came home from work to find something she couldn't believe.

"Our floor in our master bedroom had fallen about three inches," she recalled.

That was just the beginning.

Lockhart's husband snapped several pictures from the crawl space underneath the home, showing fungi that's been devouring the I-beams.

"I had never heard of wood-rotting fungi," Lockhart said.  "I had never experienced anything like this before."

WHNT News 19 showed the pictures to Neil Matson of Terrell Technical Services, Inc., an expert on mold who says wood-rotting fungi is prevalent in north Alabama and thrives on cellulose-based materials.  That's the kind of materials used to build thousands of homes in the Tennessee Valley.

"They're usually categorized as brown rot or white rot," said Matson of the mold that is attacking the Lockhart's home.  "A lot of times people use the term dry rot. And it's confusing because the issue that's contributing to that decay or rot is moisture."

Matson said the high humidity and relatively warm temperatures of north Alabama make it a breeding ground for such wood-decaying mold and any home with a moisture problem is susceptible.

Furthermore, the fungus is not something that can be killed, only controlled.

"It is part of our environment," said Matson.  "You're not going to get rid of all of it.  We've got to control the environment."

That means controlling moisture the structure is exposed to - more specifically, through condensation, vapor barriers, water drainage or leaks.  Matson said damage can be fixed if it hasn't gone too far, but it usually requires replacement of the wood the fungus has attacked.

For the Lockharts, however, it may be too late.

"This is our home.  This is where we have to stay," said Lockhart, her voice trembling with emotion.  "This is where we live.  I'm not leaving."

So, how can you protect your home?

Matson says homeowners should get any moisture issues fixed immediately.

Homeowners should inspect crawl spaces or any other areas where the fungus could live at least twice a year.  If your house is built on a slab and doesn't have a crawl space, there are still many other areas where fungus could grow.

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