Weekend Finds: Mold, Spiders and Heat Rash

As many of you know, I often refinish, restore and resell many of the great finds I show you on the Snag blog. What you might not know is that until I have a chance to figure out what to do with those finds, many of them live in one of my storage units. Sometimes for days, sometimes for years. Managing storage can be tricky, you have to be great at stacking, balancing and sometimes even climbing sock-footed to the top of furniture mountains. But recently, while jockeying around large pieces of furniture, I discovered a tiny nightmare growing in one of my units—mold! It’s basically the worst thing that can happen to your stored goods, like a cancer eating away at your precious wooden furniture. Fortunately for me I caught it early before anything suffered damage, but still, there was no time to be wasted. I spent the entire weekend in the hot, blazing sun, with the help of my patient mother, hauling out, inspecting and disinfecting 500 square feet of stored furniture. It looked something like this:

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And that’s only one unit. There were two. Really only one unit seemed to have a moisture problem and I decided to move the contents of that unit to a climate controlled facility where the temperature and humidity are kept constant, eliminating the possibility of future fungi scares. While mold didn’t seem to be an issue in the unit pictured above, I decided to mold-proof the unit anyway and take precautions to keep my stored items safe. Hopefully you can use these tips if you ever have to store your belongings.

Mold damage can actually be a big issue with storage units. Why? They have giant concrete floors and little or no ventilation. The concrete not only transfers moisture from the ground beneath it, but can also form condensation when conditions turn warm and humid. With nothing to dry it, the vapor makes its way toward your belongings where it sits waiting for the mold-splosion to begin. The first precaution I took was creating a vapor barrier and a thermal barrier between the concrete and my furniture.

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First I lined the concrete with a moisture-proof tarp. I had been searching for something to add even more protection above the plastic and would be easy to move furniture on. Fiberglass backed carpet tiles would have been an ideal option, but the expense was too great. Fortunately, as I was just wandering around Home Depot looking for ideas, I found these 24 inch square particle boards for only one dollar each. These were perfect, easy to transport, lay down, slide furniture on and they add a significant amount of thermal insulation to the floor.

The second precaution I took was adding desiccants to the unit. Desiccants absorb ambient moisture, thus reducing the humidity in enclosed spaces. Think of the tiny silica gel packets you find in shoes or electronics. There are some commercially available options for larger spaces, but I chose the most economical route—aluminum pans filled with silica kitty litter. I placed these sporadically through the unit, especially under case pieces that could trap moisture low to the ground. I also put small bowls full of the litter in drawers and cabinets for added protection. Every couple months or so, the pans of litter can be placed in the oven at 350º for a couple hours to dry back out for another tour of duty.

My third precaution had nothing to do with moisture, that should be taken care of with step one and two. No, this had to do with spiders. Namely the THOUSANDS of them that had congregated in the storage unit during the past year. After relocating the majority of them—into my Shop Vac—I sprayed Ortho Home Defense around both doors and the entire perimeter of the unit. I’ll repeat this process a few times a year. I don’t mind a few spiders, but I’m not running a spider hotel here.

So, after three solid days of grueling work, I’m bruised, sore, sunburnt, heat-rashed and exhausted—but I can sleep easy knowing my loot is safe from the spores of fuzzy death.

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