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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Do You Know the Signs of a Marijuana Grow House in Colorado Springs?

4/23/2019 (Permalink)

SERVPRO Provides Biohazardous Cleanup and Mold Remediation for Grow Houses in Colorado

Denver Police Estimate One in Ten Homes are Grow Houses in the State of Colorado

Giving a home curb appeal has always been a part of selling a home and improving the value of the property. In Colorado, the use of residential properties as illegal grow houses for marijuana is a problem on the increase that can wreck not only the value but also the physical structure. It is imperative that the property is professionally cleaned to ensure the surroundings are healthy for habitation.

What Exactly is a Grow House?
The most simple definition of a grow house in Colorado Springs is a property where marijuana is grown illegally. Because the price of renting a warehouse or commercial property is out of the reach of many illegal growers or they do not wish to invite prying eyes of nearby businesses or law enforcement, illegal marijuana growers usually rent and what the tenant has been doing often is not discovered until they move on or get busted by law enforcement.

SERVPRO states that some of the indicators that law enforcement frequently look for are large amounts of condensation on windows in one area of the home. Also, little to no activity at the property is commonly reported by neighbors. In the winter, because of the warm temperatures required for growing, the roof is often snow-free and stand out against other snow-covered roofs in the area. Also, last but not least, there is a definite odor that is the tell-tale giveaway.

What Factors Make Grow Houses Dangerous?
In the Denver area alone, an estimate by police placed one in ten homes as grow houses. This eye-opening fact means that one in ten homes purchased has the potential to have not been adequately cleaned and may still harbor serious issues when a new owner moves in. SERVPRO recommends a comprehensive home inspection should include evidence of previous illicit activity at the dwelling.

The method most often used to cultivate marijuana indoors in ample quantities is the use of hydroponics, which is the growing of plants in very little to no soil and using water. Some cultivators use large table-like structures with grow lights that replicate the various types of sunlight the plants would be exposed to outdoors. Other set-ups use bucket systems connected by tubes so they can be watered at the same time. No matter the type of cultivation operation, these plants needs high humidity and copious amounts of water which is only one of the many factors that can wreak havoc on a structure. Excess humidity leads to mold growth and potential biohazardous conditions.

What Kinds of Issues Are Seen in Colorado Homes Used as Grow Houses?
A grow house is a lot more than someone with numerous plants. Many landlords have inspected their properties after the tenant has moved out and found varying different types of damages to their properties.

The business of marijuana cultivation often requires modifications to the structure that the owner would have never approved sometimes even as extreme as the removal of walls and supporting structures. After the fact, there can be stains and foul odors in basements or rooms where growing took place that penetrated carpet, padding and porous surfaces — warped and rotten wood or sheetrock that has to be replaced.  Random cuts in walls, even brickwork for venting for the plants may have occurred. If aluminum foil was stapled to the walls and ceilings as a type of containment and concealment, that is more cleanup that can be done by SERVPRO.

There are often fire hazards from modified wiring used to hook up grow lights and other equipment, and overloaded electrical panels are standard. Also, live wires have been found lying directly on insulation where they were hastily dropped. The ductwork in the home may have been modified to route to where the grow room was housed. This is a fire waiting to happen.

How Intensive is the Clean Up for a Grow House?
To sell or reside in a property that has been used as a grow house, it must be professionally mitigated. This level of cleaning is rated as an intense Category 3, Class 4 biohazard job and should never be undertaken as a DIY project. Special equipment and cleaning solutions should be used for this type of cleanup.

It is not unusual for our SERVPRO technicians to find water damage and extensive mold growth on all surfaces in the vicinity of the grow room spreading outward. There have been cases where the mold growth was so severe; colonies were spreading through cracks in the eves, corners, and cracks on the outside of the home. Significant mold remediation is needed to restore this structure to preloss condition.

Wall cavities and the spaces between floors need to be addressed with professional-level remediation techniques that include containment, air scrubbers with HEPA filters to capture spores and EPA-registered disinfectants to return the property to sanitary conditions that are safe to live in. Strong biocides cover all exposed and voided areas.

Hydroxyl generators are frequently used to assist in the neutralization of bacteria and odors during clean up. In many cases, the ductwork needs to be cleaned entirely, and the HVAC filtration changed. Every porous surface in the home has the potential to harbor mold or odors and needs to be professionally cleaned.

What are the Signs a Property was Used as a Marijuana Grow House?
If you have recently purchased a home and see patched circular holes in floor joists or roof trusses that were previously used for venting or brickwork that has been replaced in chunks. Soffits may be stained a brownish or grayish color from previous use for venting the grow room. Stains on the flooring in rooms or basement in the areas where plant pots sat. Strange modifications to ductwork or plumbing with piping that appears to go nowhere. A lingering musty smell could mean there are mold colonies you cannot see but are actively growing within the walls or flooring.

What Should You Do If Your Property Has Been Used as A Grow House?
When you have a house that you want to rent out or sell, you know the property has to meet particular standards before you can do either. It can be overwhelming to realize the level of cleaning your property needs to return it from a category 3 water loss and biohazard rating. It is highly recommended that you outsource the job to a professional remediation company that has experience handling the particular requirements of returning properties used as grow houses to their preloss condition, so they are safe to rent to new tenants or sell to new owners. SERVPRO suggests that our experienced AMRT applied microbial remediation technicians can secure the structure and then have an Industrial Hygienist inspect and document the findings. The proper steps can prevent expensive lawsuits or other unpleasant outcomes.

When in doubt, call SERVPRO of Northern Colorado Springs / Tri-Lakes at (719) 434-4626 for help with remediation and cleanup of a biohazardous situation.

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