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Old 07-09-2011, 02:32 AM   #1
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Thermal Tracking- Why is there dirt EVERYWHERE?

Hello All-

I found a problem similar to mine posted on the site in 2008, but it didn't exactly answer all my questions.....

It seems I have a thermal tracking issue in my apartment (my family owns the building). It's a 1950's square cement block building that is 3 floors w/ my unit on the top floor. The heating is hot water, baseboard & a single window A/C in the living room (new 3 or so years ago and vacuumed frequently). No fireplace. Electric stove- never really used. I've been in the unit for almost 5 years & started w/ fresh paint, new carpet, new cabinets, new appliances, etc. For the first 2 burned a single fragranced candle in the living room almost every pm. I stopped this because I thought the candle was causing these issues. Yet they continue.

There is soot like material on EVERYTHING, but there's a def pattern on the ceiling in the living room & kitchen and now starting down the walls. It's on the windows, inside the cabinets & even inside the new white refrigerator! I've attached a couple of photos from the 2008 post because they look very similar to my issue EXCEPT: the discoloration is the opposite of that in the picture. In other words- the discoloration is exactly IN BETWEEN the ceiling joists, with the joists looking cleaner. BUT... like in the photos, the nail heads in the joists are darkened (Could the insulation up there be moist??? Getting up there requires cutting into the drywall...). I'm certain the issue is related to the heat- it gets worse in the winter. The discoloration is also heavier right above & on the baseboard heating.

The cream carpet is grungy looking, despite my never wearing shoes in here. Under the doors (closets, etc) there is a black dirty line right where the door sits when it's closed. I thought the issue was isolated to the living room- but the "dirt" on the walls & carpet is all the way to the other side of the unit INSIDE my closet on the walls in there, too.

I know there are moisture issues, as the ventilation fan in the bathroom runs but doesn't get the moisture out from showering; I usually have to open the windows in the winter. Over the years, I'm CERTAIN there have been leaky pipes, etc. and I'm sure there have been things going on inside the walls that we don't even know about.

BUT- WHAT am I breathing? Where does all the dirt come from?? It seems to be on every surface- inside cabinet doors, on dishes, the inside walls of the refrigerator & freezer. I'm confused as there's no real air movement in here.... I'm tired of washing & cleaning things!

The big question: Where does the dirt come from??

I'd love your help!
Attached Thumbnails
Thermal Tracking- Why is there dirt EVERYWHERE?-ceiling.ex.1.jpg   Thermal Tracking- Why is there dirt EVERYWHERE?-ceiling.ex.2.jpg  


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Old 07-09-2011, 07:17 AM   #2
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You would need to take a sample of it to an indoor air quality testing lab or have a testing co come check out your unit to find out. There are always negative pressures in apt bldgs as heat rises and with it air and dirt moves. Unstoppable unless you seal your doors very tight. In large bldgs they pressurize the hallways with a makeup air unit from outside and for ventilation. Cement block bldgs are worse if they are hollow core as air rises thru the core and between the cracks and creates a draft in your unit. I have some 50 yr old cinder block walled condos and there is such a strong draft thru them that water pipes can freeze internally in the bldg if the draft is not stopped. That dirt is not good for your health so you may want to look into a room air purifier with a HEPA filter, Oreck and Bionaire etc make them. Get the bath fan fixed as once you get mold on surfaces and in walls it is next to impossible to get rid of.


"Cut it twice and it is still too short".

Last edited by yuri; 07-09-2011 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 07-09-2011, 07:24 AM   #3
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That is what painters call candle sooting. If the tenant burns candled the soot collects on the cold spots like the studs and rafters---also concentrates around heat registers.

The soot could be from an outside source but that usually takes a long time to look as bad as that.

See if the tenant burns candles.
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Old 07-09-2011, 07:41 AM   #4
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Mike. Those aren't pics of her apartment.
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Old 07-09-2011, 08:05 PM   #5
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Does the "dirt" wipe off the walls/appliances easily?

If not, does it scrape off?

Is it water soluble?

Does it feel dry/wet/greasy/sticky/gritty?

Any condensation problems in the winter (e.g., fogged or iced up windows, water droplets hanging from ceiling or running down walls, etc)?

What are you cleaning the walls and carpet with?

Some pictures of your apartment showing your walls/ceiling/floor/appliances would probably be helpful.
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