DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum (
-   Building & Construction (
-   -   chemical/solvent smell in basement/crawlspace?! (

DXT2007 10-22-2011 01:17 PM

chemical/solvent smell in basement/crawlspace?!
hi everyone, 1st post!

My basement currently reeks of an odour that resembles acetone, or rubber cement. The odor is extremely strong and is coming out of the seams of our climb-in crawlspace. We've had to leave our house for the last two weeks as we don't know what it is and the smell has not dissipated in the last two weeks. My neighbor did mention that he spilled about a gallon of paint thinner in his yard 3-4 days prior to the smell in an area adjacent to our house, which is downhill from his. We are not sure if this could be the cause or if it is a mere coincidence, since the smell does not seem to match that of the Recordsol paint thinner which he claimed to have spilled.

We've had the city check out the sewer drains for possible backups or for signs of chemicals being dumped in another location, but with no results. We've also had the fire dept come to investigate with their LEL (low explosive levels) sniffer device, but everything came back negative.

Fire department only suggested ventilation of the crawlspace and basement with fans with open windows as a solution. The neighbor actually had come out to admit his "small" spill to me while the firemen were still at my house. They went over and checked out the spill site and to smell the rocks that were soaked with the paint thinner, but said that wasn't the cause.

We had a contractor said as a solution (more temporary than eliminating the source) he could seal off the crawlspace (the hot water tank and furnace close is an open back cavity, with the crawlspace behind it) to ensure none of the contaminated air gets sucked up in the furnace and blown through out the house. He would also put in 2 vents in the crawlspace for air blower and venting, and seal up the two hatch doors on either end. This would at least "isolate" whatever smell/chemical that's seemingly seeping up from the space.

Another air quality testing company said to use their Ozone machine to fully clean the house, and hopefully that would get us a couple of weeks of clean air so we can move back into the house while we continue to figure out what's wrong. Again, not a solution, just a temporary band-aid.

I'm at my wit's ends! I really don't know what's going on. Help!!

Wanted to ask the community for any thoughts on what could have caused this and if you've ever encountered any similar situations. Any help or advice you can provide would be helpful. I'm afraid of the impact on my 6 month old daughter, and for my wife and I. We are desperate to get back into our house!!

Thanks everyone!

gregzoll 10-22-2011 01:29 PM

First question is, how long have you been in the home. Second is, why do you use for heating for winter. Also, any paint cans stored near the space, or any other types of materials? Also, any flooding in the area recently?

Ron6519 10-22-2011 01:48 PM

Do the simplest first, ventilate the area.
Does the crawl space have vents?
-You can mount a small vent fan to exhaust the crawlspace air
What's the floor made of?
-if dirt, I'd cover it with a thick plastic(6mil).
If the smell lingers after that, I'd have the air tested to find out exactly what it was. Some things smell, but aren't dangerous. Other things, not so much. Testing will let you know the level of concern you need to have and whether it's safe for the family, especially the infant.

DXT2007 10-22-2011 03:07 PM

House was built by the original owners 17 years ago. We bought the house in January 2010 from the 2nd owners who had lived there since 2002.

The house is heated with forced air with what i can only assume to be the original furnace. No recent flooding, although the previous owners/sellers needed to have a corner/side of the crawlspace/foundation (facing the outside/side of the house) repaired due to water leakage. I need to contact the sellers to get further details on this repair they had done.

There are no cans of paints or solvents stored in the crawlspace, and we haven't done any renos since moving in 2 years ago.

The crawlspace area is about 5 feet high, and is fully slabbed with concrete. No dirt exposed. There are cracks all along the edge of the floor where it meets the concrete foundation, and I can smell the odor from a few different locations along the edges.

My main concern is that, if it wasn't the neighbor's paint thinner that's causing the smell, then it could be that the house builders threw a bunch of cans into the area to dispose of it before back-filling it with dirt. 17 years later the material is eroding through the cans and the smell is coming out. Not really looking to have the house jacked-up and have a full soil remediation!!

We had a couple of air quality testing companies come in, but they said conducting Air Tests would be pointless since they'd have to know what they're testing for. Apparently the tests cannot determine what the composition of the air is, without giving it a specific solvent to test for. It simply can say "nope, it does not match the paint thinner properties".

If you know of any other types of air tests where it can just take an air sample and ID the smell, then please let me know!

Thanks again everyone!!

gregzoll 10-22-2011 03:40 PM

Get some expoxy from Lowe's that comes in the 1 qt containers, used for sealing cracks. Also, what kind fuel is used for the furnace, is it natural gas, fuel oil, propane or electric? If you are smelling it through the cracks, then it is possible that there may be contamination in the ground from past factory, or maybe gas station. Do your neighbors also notice this same type of smell in their basements?

How far is your home from nearest industrial parks, or gas stations? Is the neighborhood as old as your home, or are there homes there that are older? You can check also with local library in their archives, or even city hall if you want to go further in seeing if there was any type of industry where your neighborhood was. Odd things have happened with some neighborhoods. I still remember about the one in St. Louis as you go to Six Flags, that was contaminated, same thing with a few others, that are now EPA super sites. People noticing smells that are odd, bring up the attention of those that can take it further.

You can also check with the epa who have monitors that they can place to check air quality, and if needed, they will take soil samples, especially if multiple neighbors have noticed this odd smell in their homes.

Ron6519 10-22-2011 04:01 PM

Have you checked with neighbors to see if they share the issue? That would be another can of worms.
What is the history of this land? What was it and the surrounding acreage before it was a developement?
If the neighbors share the smell, I'd search it's history. The prevoius use could have contributed to the smell.
There are Federal cleanup sites all over the country and the list grows on a regular basis.
Hopefully this is isolated and temporary.

TheCamper 10-23-2011 09:33 PM

Dig Test Holes
I can't see the neighbor's paint thinner spill causing this large a problem if he only spilled a gallon. Depending on your soil type and depth of ground water you might want to dig some holes with a post hole digger parallel to the sides the foundation and see if you can take some water samples, and have them tested. It seems like they can always determine the chemical in water. Whether the hole fills up with water from the water table or rain water I am guessing the water will pick up any chemicals in the soil.

I have spread diatomaceous earth on basement floors to absorb fuel oil spills. Does anyone know if diatomaceous earth absorbs odors? You may want to give it a try.

antoniomikes 06-11-2012 01:00 AM

The topic is one of the important important one about which every one should aware of. The Odour and water vapour from crawl spaces can be stopped when we install high quality ones. I have a medium sized basement, a crawl space, and a part of the hoem built on a slab, The slabs in the house and garage can be sprayed with some unique water based chemicals. We should also avoid the use of solvents based products.

mold removal ottawa
residential air quality testing

cheezyches 07-23-2012 09:08 PM

We also have chemical smell seeping from basement
I read a previous post by DXT2007 about a chemical smell coving from the basement/crawl space. We have what sounds to be the EXACT same problem. I would love to hear your experiences, and if you found a resolution. WE are still in explore mode, but after spending two hours down there this afternoon, I feel chemically intoxicated (and not the good kind!)


md2lgyk 07-24-2012 10:30 AM

You really need to get the EPA involved. The house may be 17 years old, but there's no telling what was happening on that property 60 or 70 years ago. Literally almost anything could be buried under your house, or could've been dumped there in the past. Ever heard of Love Canal??

cheezyches 07-25-2012 11:39 AM

Thanks for responses, problem fixed
Thanks for you response. I figured out the problem. As is often the case, the most likely answer was the correct one. I thought my basement smelled like paint thinner. That is exactly what the odor was. I had removed all paint thinner cans from my basement a couple weeks ago, but the smell was persistent. I discovered, that paint thinner had spilled and was trapped.

I started by covering up floor drains to "capture" any smell coming from them - nothing (and be sure the odor was not coming from the sewer). I called our nat. gas company to be sure we were safe - that was ok. Next, I rented a little VOC detector from our local Opportunity Council and discovered a high concentration of odor emitting from underneath a hardened patch of spilled paint on our basement concrete floor. The paint had spilled before we moved into the house in a neglected corner of the basement. I think one of my thinner containers developed a leak over time, and the thinner seeped underneath the hardened paint. When I took a scraper to the paint, it came up in thick slabs and reeked of thinner underneath. I pulled it all up, spread some kitty litter across the still reeking concrete, set up some basement fans to ventilate, and hopefully my problem will be solved within the week. The house already smells MUCH better. I think Toluene may be the Volatile with such an acrid odor.


Cheers15 12-15-2015 01:51 PM

toxic paint smell coming from crawl space

Originally Posted by cheezyches (Post 972786)
I read a previous post by DXT2007 about a chemical smell coving from the basement/crawl space. We have what sounds to be the EXACT same problem. I would love to hear your experiences, and if you found a resolution. WE are still in explore mode, but after spending two hours down there this afternoon, I feel chemically intoxicated (and not the good kind!)


Cheeze, what did you find?

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:10 PM.

vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.1