Today I am revealing a huge design fail and a cautionary tale of using sea grass carpet in a basement. Sea grass carpet is so popular right now and for good reason. It’s a natural product, wears like iron,  and is almost impervious to stains. We had a sea grass carpet in both of our previous homes. I love the product, not only for it’s looks but because I am allergic to almost all synthetic carpets. Due to my allergy, my carpet choices are primarily limited to wool, cotton, sisal or sea grass. For me personally, cotton and sisal are out of the question due to staining and durability, so when choosing a carpet for my own home I default to wool or sea grass.

As you know if you have been reading my blog, we purchased a new build condo at the end of August. Since the designated living room is so small, we paid big bucks to have the basement finished. It’s a big open space and was finished off just like the rest of the unit. We have our TV down there as well as our sofa, chairs, coffee table and everything else that was previously in our living/family room. It’s now our primary living area.

Why I chose sea grass

Since synthetic rugs were out of the question due to my allergy, I looked at both wool and sea grass for the flooring. Initially, I chose a wool carpet but the basement is big and the quote came in at close to $10K. Sea grass was much more affordable at 3K so I went with the sea grass. The rug company I worked with agreed that sea grass would be a good option. They had put the product in hundreds of homes including basements and had never once had a complaint. Also, our construction was new and we had no water or moisture issues. Just to be extra cautious though we had the builder install a built-in dehumidifier. Incorrectly, I assumed that since sea grass grows in water it was a good choice if there ever was a moisture issue (wrong).

The problem

Within two months of having the carpet down we had a problem…a big problem. Black mold was growing in half a dozen spots on the carpet.

mold on sea grass carpet

I take mold very seriously and luckily the carpet company I worked with did as well. They sent out two experts and neither of them had seen mold like this on sea grass. They agreed we needed to get it up and out ASAP. So here we are, just days before Thanksgiving and an installer is ripping out our brand new carpet. It is like moving all over again. Everything from the basement that could be moved had to come out.

removing sea grass carpeting

The Fix?

This is where things become even more of a problem. During installation they glued the rug directly to the cement floor. This is what the floor looks like now that the rug is up. The lighter gray in the photo below is the glue and the darker gray is the cement floor.

carpet glue on cement floor

Applying a water sealant to prevent any moisture from coming up is now out of the question unless we sand down the entire floor. That may be what we end up doing but it will be a HUGE dust producing mess of a project. The carpet company is crediting us what we originally paid for the sea grass. However, they are hesitant to recommend anything other than a polypropylene carpet. The problem is, I am allergic to that. It will be weeks (at least) before this situation is resolved. I am unsure at the moment the best way to proceed but promise to update you once I figure it out.

What to do next?

The lesson learned is that almost any carpet other than plastic (polypropylene) can mold, even if the space itself has no known moisture issues. My advice when it comes to basement carpet is to do your homework. Had this been a client’s basement and not my own, I would have done a lot more research. In my impatience to move in and get settled I rushed into making a decision and now I am paying the price.

As I write this, Thanksgiving is in four days. Our basement/living area is a glue covered mess. Since we had to bring everything up out of the basement our living/dinning area isn’t much better.

messy room

I was looking so forward to celebrating Thanksgiving in our new home and certainly did not anticipate this. I also know my carpet problem is a small inconvenience in comparison to what so many are going through in California with the fires. However, if I can spare even one person the headache of what we are going through it’s worth sharing my mistake.

On the bright side, my family is healthy and we have a a beautiful new condo. I know they are happy to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast and don’t care if the surroundings are not perfect. My husband joked, maybe we should celebrate Thanksgiving in our new master bedroom!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog. I am grateful for each and every one of you.

Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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