Ask the Inspector: Identifying Efflorescence

An example of efflorescence on a basement wall.

Recently, a past client called us in a state of confusion and worry. They had planned to paint some rooms in their home when they noticed a white powdery substance on the walls, which they had assumed was something nasty like asbestos. He was not sure what it was or what to do about it, so he decided to reach out for clarification.

They went searching for our contact information when suddenly, our monthly newsletter arrived in his inbox, right at 10 a.m. that morning!

After getting all the details of the situation, we were able ease his concerns when we able to finally explain it was probably just efflorescence – and not much more than that.

For those who don’t know, and there are many who don’t, efflorescence is a white crystalline or powdery substance, often a fluffy/fuzzy deposit, which can appear on the surface of masonry materials like concrete, blocks, clay tile, etc. While the salts brought to the surface are rarely a concern, the presence of efflorescence indicates that water is moving through the masonry in ways that are not intended. The presence of uncontrolled moisture can lead to more serious issues, such as mold and structural concerns.

Once we were able to identify the problem as likely just efflorescence, we suggested that the client check the outer walls to assess for cracks and have those repaired to stop water-ingress, before even attempting to paint inside. We also let them know we could help
guide them with that, if needed.

Rather than having to test for asbestos and/or worry that his home was contaminated with hazardous toxins, the client was able to take our advice and get the cracks repaired and then continue on with his painting project without worry, after cleaning and preparing the inside wall surfaces properly.

If you or anyone you know has any questions similar to the person in this story, or any other building or home-worry needs, Duxbury & Associates can help assess the situation and make suggestions on a solution. We can also refer you to reliable contractors if you need more help.

Don’t hesitate to contact Glenn Duxbury for all your home and building worries and needs!

Turning worry lines into smiles is our daily goal!

About Glenn Duxbury

Duxbury & Associates Building Inspection and Consulting Ltd. has received the 2004 Douglas College Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the ‘Consulting’ category for persistence and pursuit of excellent service delivery to clients by providing very thorough and professional Inspection Reports and dedication to those involved in buying / selling / building / renovating and maintaining uncompromised customer focus.