If you've watched one of the cable television shows about hoarding, you might already know that hoarding is a compulsive disorder where sufferers have an unreasonable need to keep things, even if they are dangerous, unsanitary or have no value. In most cases, the hoarder becomes emotionally attached to the hoard and items in the hoard, making it a complex situation to address. Adding to that complexity is the damage hoarding can do to the structure and integrity of a home. Let's take a look at several ways hoarding can damage a home:
1. Water damage - Particularly an issue in rainy climates like the southeast, water damage can easily be hidden by the piles of items that make up a hoard. Unaddressed water damage impacts indoor air quality, causes rot, weakens construction materials and inevitably leads to mold growth.
2. Mold growth - Mold growth is a significant health risk that compromises indoor air quality, causes serious illness and also causes major structural damage within walls and between floors of a structure.
3. Rodent infestation - Rodent infestations are common in hoarding situations. Rodents damage a home by creating holes in walls and ducts, damaging insulation, chewing wiring and damaging woodwork. The wiring is particularly concerning as it can lead to electrical fires and the piles of collected stuff in a hoard already present a serious fire hazard.
4. Termite infestation - Similar to rodents, termites are common in hoarding situations. Termites compromise any wood beams, supports and structures throughout the home. Over a period of years, the activity of termites can compromise the structure of a home so severely as to case total or partial collapse of floors or the roof.
5. Compromises mechanical systems - Hoarder houses commonly have compromised mechanical systems because technicians are unable to get to HVAC systems, plumbing systems or electrical systems inside the home, often for a number of years or even decades. This results in unaddressed plumbing leaks, electrical shortages and inoperable HVAC systems.
6. Uneven weight distribution - As a hoard grows, the weight of it also grows and is generally not evenly distributed. Uneven weight distribution puts additional pressure on some structural elements moreso than others in another place on the same floor. This can result in extra stress on support beams to the point of causing a partial or total collapse of walls or floors.
Unfortunately, hoarding doesn't just damage the home containing the hoard. Often, the sufferer also collects items in the yard or areas surrounding the home. The outdoor part of the hoard can even be more severe than the indoor part of the hoard. The outdoor hoard is unsightly and extends the damage to the surrounding homes and neighbors in the form of decreased home values and difficulty in finding qualified buyers when they list their home for sale.