Why you need to get your air ducts cleaned (Brace yourself)

Alright, you guys.  This isn’t a post with pretty pictures (or any pictures for that matter).  This is our story.  A testament to why you need to get your ac/heating vents and ducts cleaned regularly.   And let me clarify that this post is not a sponsored in any way.  It’s just that when something pops up that I feel strongly about or that I think may benefit y’all, I’m gonna share.  And this is definitely one of those things.

As many of you know, we moved into our home this past October.  It was built in 1975 and was somewhat neglected over time. It’s gone into foreclosure twice over the past 10 years.  The people whom we purchased the house from bought it as a foreclosure, fixed it up to some extent, then sold it to us.  Unfortunately, by the time they bought it, the house had so many things that had been done the easy/cheap/wrong way that it was impossible to right them all.

Since living here, we’ve been trying to correct as many of these half-done things as possible.  But, one of the items that we hadn’t considered until recently was our air quality.

Shortly after moving in, we noticed that none of our intake vents for our HVAC system had air filters on them.  And there should’ve been three.  Three vents with filters.  Seems like a lot, right?  Our other houses only had one.  Anyways, we had no idea how long they’d been ‘airing out’ naked.  Maybe a week, maybe ten years. Who knows.  So, basically, during that undetermined length of time, dust and allergens flew through our system unrestrained.  We immediately went to Home Depot, purchased air filters and installed them as I described in detail in this post.

After living here for a bit, Lucas (our 4-year-old little man) started having coughs and colds like nobody’s business. Up to this point, he’d always been a super healthy kiddo.  Rarely got sick.   Maybe once or twice per year.   But since moving into this house, coughs and sniffles had been an almost constant.  I didn’t pick up on the connection at first because this was also his first year in preschool, so I attributed most of his ailments to that more than anything.

A few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with bronchitis with a touch of pneumonia.  And at that point, my mom brought up the fact that he’d been sick a lot (especially with respiratory-type stuff) since moving into the house, so she suggested that we get our vents/ducts inspected and cleaned.  I mean, it’s an old house.  Maybe poor air quality was contributing to his illnesses.

So, I called a duct cleaning company (Dallas Air Duct Cleaning was who we ended up with). Now, in honor of full disclosure, I have to tell y’all that in choosing them, I did very little research.  I literally called the first company that popped up in Google (intending to just get information), but they sounded pretty good and offered whole house vent/duct cleaning for $89.  Plus, they could come out the next day.  So, we decided to pull the trigger.  Ultimately, we ended up being very pleased with them, but by all means, if you decide to get your ducts cleaned, do research to ensure that you choose a company that’s a good fit for your home.

Anyways, the following day, the vent cleaners arrived and they asked when the last time the system had been cleaned.

Um, Never?

Their eyes got huge as they took this in.  I explained the history of the house and that I doubted that the system had been cleaned recently.  Or ever.  They explained that vent and duct cleaning should happen every year, but stated that they would take a look at our system and let me know what they found.  So, they inspected.

And I knew it was bad when they opened our hallway intake vent and I heard them simultaneously cry “ooooooh!” in response to what they saw.

After their inspection, they came to us with a vent cover that they’d removed. It was black.  And not black with dust.  Black with mold. Spotted, hairy mold.  I should’ve snapped a picture, but unfortunately, the heebie-jeebies prevented me from thinking clearly.  The leader of the two-man-team asked if anybody in the house had been sick lately, had allergies, asthma, trouble sleeping, etc.   I explained that Lucas’s health was what prompted us to call them in the first place and that he’d just gotten over yet another respiratory issue.  He said that this type of mold will continue to cause problems and can eventually lead to the development of asthma among other things.

He continued to explain that they’d found mold in every single vent and duct in our house and that they could still do the basic cleaning but it would only remove dust and surface mold.  Not kill the source.  To effectively get rid of the mold, every inch of our system needed to be brushed, cleaned, and sanitized.   Otherwise, it would return.  Not only this, he reported that it did indeed appear as though the vents hadn’t been cleaned in a VERY long time (if ever).  He said that there was a thick layer of dust interspersed in and around the mold in all of the ducts.

Greatness.  I mean, the lack of maintenance wasn’t a surprise to us, but having it confirmed was a combination of being super glad we’d called them and totally spooked at the fact that we’d been breathing in that nastiness for five months.

Now, let’s jump back… Allow me to revisit that moldy vent cover for a sec… I’d assumed that the vent cover that they’d showed us was from a moist room like our bathroom.  It makes sense that it would be, given the sheer volume of mold growing on it.  But I was shocked and horrified to learn that the vent cover was actually from our spare bedroom.   OUR SPARE BEDROOM.  Smack dab in the middle of our house!!   At this point, we walked over to the open duct in the spare bedroom, looked up, and sure enough, it was spotted with mold up through the duct as far as the eye could see.

Now it was all making sense.

From the time we’d gotten possession of the home, we’d noticed a strange odor when the HVAC system kicked on, especially on warm days.  And especially around the spare bedroom area.  Joey and I’d often commented on it, while snooping around trying to figure out where the scent was coming from.  And we never did.

Until now.

They told us that another heavily infested area was our master bedroom.  ANOTHER room with a funky smell.  Again, we’d noticed it after we got the keys to the house.  The odor improved after we moved in and I demildewed our previously nasty bathroom shower, but we still noticed it from time to time.   And now we knew why it wasn’t  a constant presence… It returned only when the system kicked on.  Light.bulb.moment.  And also…

Ew. Friggin. Gross.

Lastly, he told us that the third heavily-molded area was the dining room.  UGH!!  So, basically, rooms in every area of our home were affected.

We. Were. Surrounded.

So, needless to say, we ended up having to do the larger mold package through the vent cleaners.  They treated every vent cover and vent, cleaned, vacuumed and brushed every duct, coil, etc. in our system, then sanitized the entire system to kill off the mold for good.  It took them about 3-4 hours.  They were efficient and friendly and explained everything as they went along.

And I’m not gonna lie.  This service was not cheap.  But we knew we needed to suck it up and do it since there was NO WAY we were allowing our son to sleep one more night knowing that he was breathing in mold spores.  We negotiated with them and they ended up giving us 20% off and a 3-year mold warranty for being new customers (so always ask… can’t hurt, might help.).  But, honestly, the cost was worth our peace of mind.  It needed to be done.

At this point, it’s been over a week and a half since our system was cleaned and I have to say that the difference is HUGE.  Not only does the house no longer have that moldy smell (I haven’t detected it AT ALL since they left), prior to the cleaning, I was getting almost-daily headaches (which always started after I was in the house for a bit), and now they’ve stopped.  My allergies are better and I’ve actually felt rested when I wake up in the morning.   The leader-cleaner told me that that may happen… air quality can have a profound effect on our quality of sleep, apparently.  And most importantly, I feel so much better about Lucas living in this house.  I can’t imagine if we’d lived here longer with the mold and he’d ended up with asthma or something that could’ve been prevented.

So, seriously, you guys.  Maintain your vents.  We’ve always had relatively new houses and had never really thought about this before. But now we always will.   If your house is new, start to maintain it now.  If your house is old, get it checked out.

I promise, your lungs will thank you.

TDC Before and After

Tray Matchbox Car Organizer – DIY Monthly Challenge

Howdy, folks!  It’s that time again for our…. (cue announcer voice) MONTHLY DIY CHALLENGE!!! (challengechallenge) <- echo.

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For any newbies, this is a challenge that several awesome bloggy friends and I team up for each month.  The rules are simple… we’re assigned an item and must make something with it.   Easy peasy.   This month’s theme was to use baskets, boxes, or bins for an organizing project.

Like most months, it took me a while to pin-point exactly what I wanted to create for my project.   I hemmed and hawed, and finally one day last week, I remembered these fantastic metal trays that I’d purchased from Target a few months back…

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….. for (drum roll please)…

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$2.98 a pop!!  I pretty much did the happy-dance right there by the clearance end-cap when I found them.   And then proceeded to possessively shove all remaining trays into my cart and make for the hills.   I took six of these babies home that day.  SIX!!   Two are currently residing in various parts of the house, but I still had these four little guys to find homes for.

Now, I’ll be honest… When it comes to organizing, I dub our home’s progress as “sub-par”.    We’ve been so busy working on larger projects since moving in 2.5 months ago that organization has sort of fallen to the wayside.  There isn’t a single space in this house that has reached the point of organization.   It’ll definitely get there once all the larger players are in place (painted walls, larger decor pieces, etc), but for now… well, suffice it to say that I had my fill of choices as to where to utilize my kick-bootie trays.

Ultimately, Lucas’s room won out, though.   His space is the closest to complete (though definitely not there yet).  The more finished a space is, the easier it is for me to visualize and create useful storage solutions that make sense.  Plus, he has a lot of toys.  Most of which are piled in the closet. And drive me crazy every time I walk in there. Thus, I decided to tackle the beast one Matchbox car at a time.

Ya see, my light bulb moment occurred when I realized that my trays were the perfect depth to serve as matchbox car shelves if I were to simply mount them to the wall.  Having my project decision finally made, I completed yet another happy-dance and got going.

Upon examination, I realized that my trays had a raised ridge along the back, which made hanging difficult.   After mulling over a solution, I decided that the best course of action was to hot glue several layers of heavy-duty cardboard…

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…to the back of the trays to create a little “plateau” that would be even with the ridge…

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These would act as mounting blocks for some Command picture hanging strips…

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 Next, I needed to determine placement for my trays, so I created templates by tracing the trays onto brown paper…

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I cut them out and adhered them to the wall with tape (as is demonstrated by this fantastically crummy picture)…

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I played around with placement and once I was satisfied, I marked the location of my templates with a pencil.  Then, I made a more precise vertical line along one side with a level.   This was my guide to ensure that my trays were stacked exactly above one another (P.S. I erased it later)…

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The rest was as simple as following the instructions on the back of the Command box and adhering my trays the wall…

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Next, I decided to add a little more color and function to fill the spot to the left of the trays.   I simply hung this neat orange hook (also found on clearance for $1.78) next to my trays for some hanging storage…

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I added Lucas’s matchbox cars, aaaaaand here’s the final product…

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And the corner of the room, complete with his Ninja Turtle bulls-eye game…

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And a farther shot of this side of his room with the new addition…

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There’s still WAY more to come on these walls, but hey… progress is progress. And I’m totally content with progress. I still need to add art above the head of his bed (and possibly shift that bicycle print down a bit) as well as incorporate a few other decorative elements to help tie everything together.  In any case, though, I really have to thank my bloggy friends for this one.   Honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve thought to create this if I hadn’t been pushed to do so with this challenge.   And I LOOOOVE it.  And so does Lucas.  He was so excited when he saw it.  He immediately began rearranging the cars and has been playing with them much more frequently now that they’re in plain sight.  Total Win-Win if you ask me.

So, with that, I give you the lovely projects created by my fellow bloggers.  Do yourself a favor and check them out!

TDC Before and After