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Old 05-02-2013, 02:34 PM   #1
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


New homeowner here, hoping to get some advice

Long story short: we believe the previous owners had some water damage from the opened bay window. Although the area is completely dry, it looks like a bad patch/paint job was done on it.

What worries me most is the slight "wet wood" odour that I can smell when the sun is hitting the window directly. The smell seems to be coming from under the window trim - I circled it on the attached picture.

We had an infrared camera scan done and no mould was detected, but I would like to open up the area and see what's causing the smell. I'm not sure where to start with this. I'm thinking about cutting open a small area in the bay bench to take a peek. Or should I rather do this from outside?

I'll be grateful for any help with this.
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start-01.jpg   Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start-02.jpg   Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start-04.jpg  

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Last edited by WhiteBeard; 05-02-2013 at 04:33 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:38 PM   #2
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


Before cutting holes in anything I'd start by popping off the lower trim on the inside to see if anythings wet. Also that just looks like sheet siding on the outside, If you can access that easily you should be able to remove and re-install that siding without damaging anything. If there are leaks then the fix is all outside anyway.

Just don't want you to damage the interior if you don't have to.

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Old 05-02-2013, 09:30 PM   #3
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


Well, first of all, the infrared method is not capable of detecting mold. It is capable of detecting temperature differences. Labeling IR cameras as "Mold Detectors" is misleading and scurrilous, in my opinion, but we are seeing more and more of this type of thing. They are fully capable of "seeing" the evaporative cooling that takes place when a wall is wet, and drying, but they cannot "see" mold.

Most legitimate people that do non destructive IR testing for moisture intrusion use several methods to verify and back up their findings. The first method I would have used for this problem would have been a Capacitance moisture meter. I would have then used a Delmhorst conductance probe, and finally, I would have used a boroscope. The latter two are somewhat destructive, but to have looked at this problem with an IR camera, and walked away tells me that someone with very limited knowledge did the inspection. The point I am trying to make here is that anyone with enough money can buy an IR camera, but at the end of the day, it is just another tool. A good tool in the hands of an experienced operator can tell you a lot. In the hands of someone who knows nothing about buildings, it can simply mislead. Garbage In, Garbage Out, if you take my meaning.

It is hard to tell from the photos you posted, but it looks to me that the metal hood that you have above your window is not properly flashed or counter flashed, to what appears to be the brick veneer on your home.
If you could post some close-ups of the flashing around the window, maybe we can help.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:24 AM   #4
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


Quote:
Originally Posted by kwikfishron View Post
before cutting holes in anything i'd start by popping off the lower trim on the inside to see if anythings wet. Also that just looks like sheet siding on the outside, if you can access that easily you should be able to remove and re-install that siding without damaging anything. If there are leaks then the fix is all outside anyway.

Just don't want you to damage the interior if you don't have to.
"ditto"
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:06 AM   #5
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeard View Post
New homeowner here, hoping to get some advice

Long story short: we believe the previous owners had some water damage from the opened bay window. Although the area is completely dry, it looks like a bad patch/paint job was done on it.

What worries me most is the slight "wet wood" odour that I can smell when the sun is hitting the window directly. The smell seems to be coming from under the window trim - I circled it on the attached picture.

We had an infrared camera scan done and no mould was detected, but I would like to open up the area and see what's causing the smell. I'm not sure where to start with this. I'm thinking about cutting open a small area in the bay bench to take a peek. Or should I rather do this from outside?

I'll be grateful for any help with this.
Hey whitebeard,
In my opinion, whether mold is present or not, your smell concern is what brought you to ask this question. I do not see any way to eliminating this problem except to start removing some interior surfaces to identify the source.
Mold is not hard to detect by the musty smell and the spots (discoloration) it leaves on attached surfaces. Mold has been around forever. It will continue to be around too. It is found indoor and outdoor. In your home, on your clothing, in your car, etc. If there is a level of moisture, mold is present.
The question is: is there a health risk to you and your family in the presence of said mold. Most affected people experience respiratory/asthma like symptoms to be associated with harming mold exposure (see CDC link). I hope this puts the mold concern into perspective.
Now, back to the odor. It could be in your wood trim, your drywall, wood framing, insulation, moisture membrane (if applicable). Anywhere damp, covered, and moist will be a great location for mold to grow and spread. Here is my suggestion for steps to take:
1. Check exterior of bay window frame. Make sure there are no exposed edges for water to infiltrate. Seal/Caulk all opening if you find any.
2. Remove trim from interior of windows. Look at them from the back for mold growth or black or white spots.
3. Remove the damaged drywall are that was patched. Again look at the backside for mold growth or black or white spots.
4. Check in wall framing and or insulation for the same. If the odor is getting stronger, you're getting warmer.
5. When you identify the area, sponge it with bleach and water solution (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water). Let the area air out and dry.
6. Proceed to patch interior surfaces when you can no longer smell the musty odor.
I hope this is helpful. Good luck!
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:15 AM   #6
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


I totally agree on the Infrared mold detection process, it seemed like a gimmick to me right from the start.

@jagans: I'm posting some of the closeup shots, best I could take without a ladder.

Is the vapor barrier generally installed right underneath the window bench (screenshot below) or does it vary depending on the builder?

@InspectorZo, COLDIRON, jagans, kwikfishron - big thanks!
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:44 AM   #7
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Bay window - locating source of smell, not sure where to start


Step back until you can see the curved portion to the right and left of center on the hood, and take photos with a telephoto lens. The top has a cut in counter flashing, the curved portion appears to have no Counter-flashing, and no flange turned up to speak of. If the curved portion is simply pie cut and caulked, that is quite possibly your point of moisture entry. You are in Canada, the vapor barrier always goes on the warm side where the winter heating season is longer than the summer cooling season, as vapor pressure is from warm to cold. I think you probably have an active leak, not a dew point problem.

The problem with IR today is the cost of the equipment. When we bought our first camera it was $33,000.00. You can buy a camera now for under 4K Big difference in commitment. Again. IR is a tool. In the hands of a craftsman, a very good tool. In the hands of a scheister, well, you get the point.

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Last edited by jagans; 05-03-2013 at 09:56 AM.
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