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  1. #1
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default What do you think this is?

    Hello all,

    Any idea what this is?

    What is the brown stuff on top of the insulation?

    Thank you

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Looks like wet insulation or dirt.... possibly a ventilation-mold problem. I've found the flashes and various cameras in attic can really distort reality. Being there is undoubtedly the biggest help.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    It could be a mold growth of some kind. I don't recognize it. But whatever it is was on the underside of the sheathing and chunks have fallen onto the insulation. You can see that the dark pattern on the plywood roughly matches the pattern on the insulation.
    It wouldn't be mud by any chance?

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  4. #4
    H.L. ( Buddy ) Ligon 111's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    It looks like mold or algae from the roof decking, possibly an on going leak in the roof ?


  5. #5
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Without doing a belly crawl through the insulation (not
    happening) I couldnít get any closer. Iím
    not a mold expert but I thought it probably is mold. Then I noticed the small brown piles of stuff
    which really threw me off.


    I told the buyer I would check into this and get back with
    them. I will recommend they have it
    looked at. They may need to ventilate a
    little better.


    The house has soffit and roof vents. I also notice a power vent but I was not able
    to get to the switch to see if it worked.

    Yes the picture makes the stuff on the sheathing look a little
    darker than it does with the flashlight.

    Thank you for your help all. I appreciate it.





  6. #6
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Krueger View Post
    Hello all,

    Any idea what this is?

    What is the brown stuff on top of the insulation?

    Thank you
    Did the stuff on top of the insulation look like this

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  7. #7
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Garton View Post
    Did the stuff on top of the insulation look like this
    Not sure what I'm looking for nothing stands out?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Krueger View Post
    Not sure what I'm looking for nothing stands out?
    Was this stuff every where or in one spot? Maybe someone blew insulation in an attic that had a moisture problem.


  9. #9
    Dennis Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Garton View Post
    Was this stuff every where or in one spot? Maybe someone blew insulation in an attic that had a moisture problem.
    Maybe it's bat dung


  10. #10
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Smith View Post
    Maybe it's bat dung



    I initially thought the stuff on the sheathing was some insulation
    that was blown in and just stuck there. I thought the brown stuff was bat dung too. I decided it looked like too much dung in one
    pile for a little bat unless it is from a bunch of them sitting close together.


    I will have to do a search to find what evidence of bats would look like.

    Thank you





  11. #11
    alex kasubienski's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    As a Home Inspector, without being able to crawl in and take a look and a sample. Just from the picture I would be inclined to believe either bat or mouse dung; however, with viewing the sheathing above I would say it could also possibly be a moisture issue creating a mold issue. it is really difficult to actually say without actually seeing it in person.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    I am going to hazard a guess that the insulation has simply been discolored by moisture and I agree that it appears to have been originally stuck to the underside of the roof decking.

    While there, the insulation likely absorbed enough moisture to assist in a change color. This could be the result of a ventilation problem in the attic causing a dew point issue during cold weather for the underside of the roof decking.

    Also, I would very much doubt that mold has anything to do with the discoloration due to the borate treatment the cellulose insulation undergoes but its not out of the question.

    Moisture alone is enough to bring out some of the tannins from the plywood and the brown tannins could have been absorbed by the cellulose when it was in direct contact with the plywood.

    The test would be to get a chunk of the brown stuff and get a 1st hand look at it. I suspect that one would find that the brown coloration is predominantly found on the face-up surface of the clumps.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Krueger View Post
    Hello all,

    Any idea what this is?

    What is the brown stuff on top of the insulation?

    Thank you
    Look at how the insulation has been blown against the rafters and on the sheathing. Now tell me what you see for venting. I see 1 very small chute. It is possible the chute is crushed or has insulation blown into it.

    There should be lots of chutes in the attic. I can tell from this picture that there is in adequate venting. A chute should extend the full width of the rafter bay, that chute doesn't. There should be at least 1 inch of air space across the entire cavity, it doesnt meet that requirement either. At a minimum every other cavity should have a chute. Also the chute should extend well above the top of the insulation to prevent blowing insulation in the chute. It is better to be able to blow against the chute and let the insulation fill in against it then trying to strategically place the insulation so it doesn't get in the chute. The other question I have about that chute is what was done at its base to prevent insulation from getting in to the soffit.

    In conclusion my guess is that insulation was adhered to the sheathing. With out adequate venting it appears that there was condensation and the wet goo fell on the insulation. Look at the clean patches on the sheathing.

    I am an advocate for more chutes because the air should wash from low to high. If there are only a couple of chutes then air is not able to wash most areas from low to high. It flows in at specific points and then up and out.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Here is a theory...

    It might be a type of (brown) sprayed cellulose that was used in the wall.

    It looks like the brown cellulose that was made from kraft paper (cardboard) marketed under the name "Cordex". It might be that if the walls were "wet-sprayed" there would be over-spray on the roof decking, drywall hung, attic blown with regular (newsprint) cellulose...and later the "Cordex" cellulose has fallen on top of the gray cellulose.

    If you have access to the house you might be able to see if the home was sprayed with this type of cellulose by removing a receptacle or switch plate on the exterior and looking at the side of the box.


  15. #15
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phillip Stojanik View Post
    I am going to hazard a guess that the insulation has simply been discolored by moisture and I agree that it appears to have been originally stuck to the underside of the roof decking.

    While there, the insulation likely absorbed enough moisture to assist in a change color. This could be the result of a ventilation problem in the attic causing a dew point issue during cold weather for the underside of the roof decking.

    Also, I would very much doubt that mold has anything to do with the discoloration due to the borate treatment the cellulose insulation undergoes but its not out of the question.

    Moisture alone is enough to bring out some of the tannins from the plywood and the brown tannins could have been absorbed by the cellulose when it was in direct contact with the plywood.

    The test would be to get a chunk of the brown stuff and get a 1st hand look at it. I suspect that one would find that the brown coloration is predominantly found on the face-up surface of the clumps.
    Good idea!


  16. #16
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Good stuff
    Thank you all!


  17. #17
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Garton View Post
    Was this stuff every where or in one spot? Maybe someone blew insulation in an attic that had a moisture problem.
    As already suggested, it appears as thought the cellulose might have been sprayed over an existing mold condition. Borate additives or not, it would likely not adhere to any growth for very long, hence the flaked discolored droppings.
    Was this the north side, and where else in the attic was this showing?

    R


  18. #18
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Souter View Post
    As already suggested, it appears as thought the cellulose might have been sprayed over an existing mold condition. Borate additives or not, it would likely not adhere to any growth for very long, hence the flaked discolored droppings.
    Was this the north side, and where else in the attic was this showing?

    R
    It was a basic ranch and this was the West side. It was like this as far as I could see down the West side.

    This is what I could see from the garage attic looking into the house attic. The only way in would be to crawl through the insulation and I don't go to that extreme. Whoever I wish I would have thought to reach in with something so I could take a look at one of those clumps.

    I recommended further evaluation...

    Thank you!












  19. #19
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    to me it looks like something has come off the sheathing above to cause the discolouration. is it possible ice damming issues? or water has backed up and soaked thru the sheathing. not mice or bats. the stuff seems to just be on the top of the insulation and same colour as the sheathing so makes sense that gravity has been involed. also maybe someone was spraying water up there to clean outside and water was sprayed in the vents.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Hetner View Post
    to me it looks like something has come off the sheathing above to cause the discolouration. is it possible ice damming issues? or water has backed up and soaked thru the sheathing. not mice or bats. the stuff seems to just be on the top of the insulation and same colour as the sheathing so makes sense that gravity has been involed. also maybe someone was spraying water up there to clean outside and water was sprayed in the vents.
    This area of the roof was snow covered. The East side was clear and looked fine. The roof is probably about 12+ yrs old.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Smith View Post
    Maybe it's bat dung
    Dennis,

    Here is what bat dung (guano) can look like.

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  22. #22
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Williams View Post
    Dennis,

    Here is what bat dung (guano) can look like.
    I assume it's more like droppings then piles.

    Thank you for the photo!





  23. #23
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    That looks more like cow plop than anything those other guys are suggesting. Has that house ever taken a spin through Kansas?
    Seriously, that stuff fell down from the plywood sheathing. Bat or rodent guano is ridiculous.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  24. #24
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    That looks more like cow plop than anything those other guys are suggesting. Has that house ever taken a spin through Kansas?
    Seriously, that stuff fell down from the plywood sheathing. Bat or rodent guano is ridiculous.

    At first I thought it might be bat dung but noticed it looked more
    like a small dog had the runs.

    I agree John it came from the sheathing. I'm sure it is due to moisture and maybe it is wet insulation that fell from the sheathing or maybe a mold like growth that fell. I'm not sure about that part.

    Thank you all
    Have a great weekend!







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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Just a thought, but my house has two layers of blown-in insulation, the older bottom layer is similar in color to the brown stuff in your photo. The newer stuff on top is more like the rest of the insulation in your picture. If some of the brown stuff stuck to the sheathing and fell down after the top of the whiter stuff, it would look a lot like your picture.


  26. #26
    William Galbraith's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    There is a history of water leakage. When this occurs through the wood the stains are brown from the tanins in the wood. I would not be too concerned about the stains. This looks like a low level of leakage unless you can detect moisture in the insulation.

    Last edited by William Galbraith; 03-09-2011 at 08:07 PM.

  27. #27
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    I feel terrible. They had it tested and found it was just the insulation. Ouch $475

    The insulation must have gotten moist and fallen off forming
    those piles (as some of you said). I try to error on the side of

    looking out for the best interest of my client but sometimes it backfires.

    Not feeling good about this call!

    Most of the time I donít find out how things turn out but this time
    I did so I thought I would share.

    Thank you all for your help.

    Have a great weekend!




  28. #28
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Krueger View Post
    I feel terrible. They had it tested and found it was just the insulation. Ouch $475

    The insulation must have gotten moist and fallen off forming
    those piles (as some of you said). I try to error on the side of

    looking out for the best interest of my client but sometimes it backfires.

    Not feeling good about this call!

    Most of the time I donít find out how things turn out but this time
    I did so I thought I would share.

    Thank you all for your help.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thanks for giving us the rest of the story


  29. #29
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Yes, thanks for the follow up.
    That is a lesson for us all. Once in a while if there's a question unanswered, back up, take another look.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  30. #30
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Krueger View Post
    I feel terrible. They had it tested and found it was just the insulation. Ouch $475

    The insulation must have gotten moist and fallen off forming
    those piles (as some of you said). I try to error on the side of
    looking out for the best interest of my client but sometimes it backfires.

    Not feeling good about this call!

    Most of the time I don’t find out how things turn out but this time
    I did so I thought I would share.

    Thank you all for your help.

    Have a great weekend!
    I wouldn't beat yourself up too much over this. The only thing you could have maybe done differently was to investigate it closer yourself, and maybe make a judgment call that it was "just the insulation" And nothing the matter with it.

    But really, what were you expected to do "Certify that this was just the insulation and contained "No harmful Mold"...I guess you could have done this by testing the unusual colored (insulation) for mold...for $475.00,

    And felt completely confident (but in the red)

    I have been an insulation contractor for over 25 years, And maybe I would have stuck my neck out...because I have seen this a few times and believed that I have enough experience to tell the client..."No Problem".
    Similar to a Home Inspector that is/was a Master Electrician seeing an instance of a questionable electrical anomaly (to me) might not even call it out as anything. While I might recommend an Electrician further investigate. BECAUSE I Don't pretend to know everything...Just as you did not have a Portable lab to test the abnormal substance you found in the attic. We are not experts and we need to know our limitations!!


    A Doctor may see an anomaly on an X-ray and knows that 90% of the time it is nothing...but still Recommends or order a test. If that test comes back Negative we all cheer. So Great! It is not mold!...or cancer. Do you think your doctor feels foolish?

    Frankly the Mold, Asbestos and Radon Lobby have us all running scared or at least covering our butts...Heck, many of the posters here jumped on the Mold bandwagon with out much prompting.

    Last edited by Larry Morrison; 03-12-2011 at 01:05 AM.

  31. #31
    Andy Jarchow's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Morrison View Post
    I wouldn't beat yourself up too much over this. The only thing you could have maybe done differently was to investigate it closer yourself, and maybe make a judgment call that it was "just the insulation" And nothing the matter with it.

    But really, what were you expected to do "Certify that this was just the insulation and contained "No harmful Mold"...I guess you could have done this by testing the unusual colored (insulation) for mold...for $475.00,

    And felt completely confident (but in the red)

    I have been an insulation contractor for over 25 years, And maybe I would have stuck my neck out...because I have seen this a few times and believed that I have enough experience to tell the client..."No Problem".
    Similar to a Home Inspector that is/was a Master Electrician seeing an instance of a questionable electrical anomaly (to me) might not even call it out as anything. While I might recommend an Electrician further investigate. BECAUSE I Don't pretend to know everything...Just as you did not have a Portable lab to test the abnormal substance you found in the attic. We are not experts and we need to know our limitations!!


    A Doctor may see an anomaly on an X-ray and knows that 90% of the time it is nothing...but still Recommends or order a test. If that test comes back Negative we all cheer. So Great! It is not mold!...or cancer. Do you think your doctor feels foolish?

    Frankly the Mold, Asbestos and Radon Lobby have us all running scared or at least covering our butts...Heck, many of the posters here jumped on the Mold bandwagon with out much prompting.
    Thank you for that!

    Have a great weekend!


  32. #32
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    And Now you know where the phase: "What has that got to do with the price of Tea in China"...Comes from!

    China: Your one stop shop for everything... Lead in your kids toys, Drywall, and now, SPAM!


  33. #33
    Michael Musgrave's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Jarchow View Post
    I feel terrible. They had it tested and found it was just the insulation. Ouch $475

    The insulation must have gotten moist and fallen off forming
    those piles (as some of you said). I try to error on the side of
    looking out for the best interest of my client but sometimes it backfires.

    Not feeling good about this call!

    Most of the time I donít find out how things turn out but this time
    I did so I thought I would share.

    Thank you all for your help.

    Have a great weekend!

    Andy,
    I see this a lot in Northern Illinois. It is from moisture and the insulation being spayed on the sheathing. You really need to do all you can to get in there and see what shape the sheathing is in. I have found it to be moldy once I got a closer look. I know that a lot of guys don't like crawling around in attics or crawlspaces but that is where most of the problems are going to be found. Better to find them when you are there then from a phone call.


  34. #34
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    I know what it is...brown stuff.

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  35. #35
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    It sure looks like it could be cellulose, especially if it is throughout the attic. However, it is in just one section of the attic make sure it isn't lint from a buried clothes dryer vent. That could help to explain the moisture problem. Also, as someone else mentioned, I'd recommend they put more chutes/baffles in between the rafters to increase the efficiency of the soffit vents which appear to be doing a poor job of ventilating the attic.

    I'm sure you have already checked, but if you find it's lint from a buried clothes dryer vent, I'd write it up as a safety hazard. 1500 house fires are caused each year by lint collecting and catching on fire in improperly installed dryer vents.


  36. #36
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Jarchow View Post



    I initially thought the stuff on the sheathing was some insulation
    that was blown in and just stuck there. I thought the brown stuff was bat dung too. I decided it looked like too much dung in one
    pile for a little bat unless it is from a bunch of them sitting close together.


    I will have to do a search to find what evidence of bats would look like.

    Thank you


    Bat dung is very similar to mouse droppings and there'd have to be a heck of a lots of bats in that one spot to even be able to notice anything. Could have been insulation blown onto sheathing and there may have been high humidity in the attic prior to the amount of ventilation you seen during your inspection, which then condensation formed on the sheathing and the insulation dropped when it became moisture laden. How else could you explain the darkend sheathing?


  37. #37
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Jarchow View Post
    Hello all,

    Any idea what this is?

    What is the brown stuff on top of the insulation?

    Thank you
    From your photo, it simply looks like cellulose insulation to me.


  38. #38
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    This flying rat was just sitting under the eave catching some sun during Friday's inspection.

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  39. #39
    aefieldinspectors's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do you think this is?

    I think its mold or algae from the roof decking..
    Right...??


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