Holey Walls

Dear NH,
The landlord opened the bathroom wall recently to install some new pipes because of a problem with the tenants upstairs. He left a small (about 8"wide and across) hole open because a pipe protruded. I'm wondering if any bad spores or mold could be coming in (it's an old building).

We have the windows open and try to keep the place ventilated, and I have the hole stuffed with plastic shopping bags. Your comments would be appreciated.

Dear FM,
Don't ask... demand that the hole be closed up as soon as possible. More than mold could come through that hole. As a rule, no dwelling should have open holes in any walls except of a temporary nature. I can tell you for sure that your local health department would frown on it! In some areas, that could be enough to have the apartment condemned and the owner heavily fined. The problem is simple... the same sloppy holes that allow pipes to enter your home can also allow an easy path for mice and insects.

Sometimes, especially in older structures, it is impossible to totally conceal pipes within the walls. One repair would be to construct a "box" around the pipes, either from wood or drywall, so that the opening to the wall is totally closed. A removable door could even be installed if there is reason to believe the repair may need to be redone.

Sometimes, sealing around the pipes is sufficient, but, when the repair is completed, there should be as little space as possible around pipes as possible. Then the remaining small gaps can then be sealed with caulk to keep both dust and vermin out. In some cases it is more effective to fill larger gaps with expanding foam insulation.

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