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Old 05-29-2014, 07:25 PM   #1
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


First off, sorry, I'm not sure this is the right forum, but I'm not sure where else this should go!

Anyhow, we moved into our first ever house in late winter - it's a stucco tudor style 2 story built in 1930, with hot water heat and no ac, so no ducting. As soon as the weather warmed up a little, we started noticing a bad smell in a few places in the house, notably one bedroom and also the top of the basement stairs.

The smell is like that mercaptan additive they add to natural gas, or sewer gas.

At first we suspected a gas leak, and called the gas company. They checked and found nothing. Also strange is that the bedroom where the smell is strong should have no gas lines nearby, nor is any plumbing nearby (all the drains are on the other side of the house).

What we've definitely noticed is that the smell is:
  1. Worse the warmer the weather is
  2. Very 'sticky' and localized... even with the windows open and a fan blowing air through it's very noticeable, unlike with a gas leak.. but move away from the area and the smell is gone.
  3. Has been present for over 2 months, not really getting any better (actually worse as the weather warms).

I was wondering if it was dead mice, as the previous homeowner had been very old and disabled and a rodent problem had spread, but after she died her family used d-con to kill the mice. We haven't seen any, and were told that mice killed with d-con don't smell. Also, 2 months seems like a long time for mice to decompose...

Any other ideas? The smell gives us headaches and has made one bedroom totally unusable and the other unpleasant to be in!

Thanks,

Robin

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Old 05-30-2014, 06:21 AM   #2
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


I think you are on the right track---have you inspected the attic?

Dead animals, even small ones--really have a lingering odor--

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Old 05-30-2014, 07:42 AM   #3
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Most likely a bunch of dead vermin. They will give off a sick sweet smell that really can not be described. they might have killed the adults with decon but the young may have froze or starved to death and now you smell them. they could be in the walls or in the attic. follow your nose
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:59 AM   #4
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Could this room have been where the family pets been kept? Has the carpeting been replaced, often someone will replace a badly soiled carpet, and forget to clean the sub-flooring underneath. leaving a "stink" behind after it gets warmer.

look around in the attic, crawlspace, etc. for dead animals too.

ED
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:51 AM   #5
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


I think it's a dubious claim that "mice killed with D-Con don't smell." It's a rotting animal corpse, it's gonna smell, right?
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:57 AM   #6
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


We've checked the attic (most of the attic above the smelly room is accessible) and the attic doesn't smell funky at all. However, that's where we saw the plentiful mouse droppings that caused us to ask the former owners's family about the mice.

Even if D-Con killed mice don't smell (seems dubious, I agree), good point about the babies.

But is 2+ months with the smell normal?

As for flooring and pets, it's all hardwood, and it was refinished just before we moved in. I've sniffed all over the room and can't pinpoint a source. It's not coming in through the windows, it's not the floor, not the closet, and it's not the electrical receptacles. The one place I couldn't sniff easily was the ceiling or upper exterior facing walls, hence the theory that that's where it's coming from.

What would people's next step be? Wait another couple more months and see?
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Old 05-30-2014, 10:13 AM   #7
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


See if you can rent a SEE-SNAKE , from a rental store, or H D , or buy one, but expect a HIGH price.

This device is a fiber optic camera, made for poking into wall cavities and shining a built in light, and displaying the view on a small screen. Poke it in around the outlets, switches, heat vents, etc.

You may need to make a few holes in the wall in inconspicuous places to see everywhere.


Another thought, ( MORBID IT IS) Is this the room that the elderly lady passed in, and was she discovered right away, or semi decayed there, And if so that smell stays a loooong time.



Might be able to look down from the attic into these wall cavities.

And I was told that mice will eat their dead, thus passing the d-con along to the next generation.

ED

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Old 05-30-2014, 11:23 AM   #8
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Sniff around the receptacles in those rooms. If it is coming from within the wall spaces, it should be stronger there. Any evidence of water leaks or infiltration in those areas? Damp fiberglass insulation has a nasty smell. Mold can too if it's severe.
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Old 05-30-2014, 12:40 PM   #9
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Quote:
Another thought, ( MORBID IT IS) Is this the room that the elderly lady passed in, and was she discovered right away, or semi decayed there, And if so that smell stays a loooong time.
Heh, we wondered about that, but from talking to her family they were there when she died so I don't think that was the case. Also, she did not use the upper floor after she was wheelchair bound - basically treated it as an attic with boxes of stuff sitting there for many years, hence mice having a party up there.

I've sniffed the receptacles, but can't detect any stronger smell from them.

The camera thing is an interesting idea...
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:40 PM   #10
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Poltergeists !
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:45 PM   #11
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Try going back into the attic and finding the opening(s) where the mice were going from the attic to the lower floors. There have to be some holes there. The insulation in the attic may be preventing the smells from emanating up into the attic. Then determine where those points are on the lower floors and investigate in those areas more closely. See if the smell is worse near those parts of the wall, etc. Then maybe cut into the drywall to investigate. Repairing a small patch in the wall is no big deal and might be less money or hassle than renting a camera. If it were my house, I would want to know what the heck is rotting behind those walls. And, yeah, if there are enough of them, I think any dead rodents would smell. It is going to be a nasty chore climbing around in the attic but that is where I would start.
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Old 05-30-2014, 07:04 PM   #12
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Re the camera idea, USB inspection cameras have become very cheap. You can get a 5m long somewhat-waterproof camera with its own lighting for around $20. Dozens to choose from. Need a laptop with USB of course.

Go to Amazon and search "endoscope camera".
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Old 05-30-2014, 10:01 PM   #13
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Did you do any wall repair/repainting over the winter? Do you know if the previous owner just repainted?

I used old joint compound to repair nail pops and do a skim coat prior to repainting, and experienced the same situation. Once the weather warmed up, we got an odor in those two rooms.

Got rid of the smell by using Zinsser BIN primer to seal the walls and ceiling.

In our situation, opening the windows made it worse, but running the ac made it go away.

Jeff
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Old 05-31-2014, 11:08 AM   #14
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


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Originally Posted by roboth View Post
We've checked the attic (most of the attic above the smelly room is accessible) and the attic doesn't smell funky at all. However, that's where we saw the plentiful mouse droppings that caused us to ask the former owners's family about the mice.

Even if D-Con killed mice don't smell (seems dubious, I agree), good point about the babies.

But is 2+ months with the smell normal?

As for flooring and pets, it's all hardwood, and it was refinished just before we moved in. I've sniffed all over the room and can't pinpoint a source. It's not coming in through the windows, it's not the floor, not the closet, and it's not the electrical receptacles. The one place I couldn't sniff easily was the ceiling or upper exterior facing walls, hence the theory that that's where it's coming from.

What would people's next step be? Wait another couple more months and see?
Might need to lift and move the insulation. I had rat die and it took me a few weeks to find the darn thing it was under the Blown in paper insulation. That was fun digging around in that stuff!
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Old Yesterday, 09:42 AM   #15
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Bad smell in certain parts of house in warm weather


Resurrecting a slightly old thread to say that we may have a breakthrough.

The smell problem had not been going away, and was bad enough that with relatives from out of town visiting, they opted to sleep on the basement floor rather than upstairs due to the smell being sickening.

Yesterday while in the laundry room I somewhat randomly decided to climb on a chair and sniff at a gas pipe joint near the ceiling under the stairs to the first floor, as it looked a bit corroded... and got a whiff of gas!

I immediately called the gas company's leak hotline again, and they sent someone out.

Remember that I'd done this before, when we first moved in months ago and smelled the smell, and the gas guy said he smelled nothing and his meter showed nothing, although I didn't have an exact spot on a pipe to point to. Yesterday, same thing... even in the parts of the house that smelled strongly, the gas guy said "That's not gas smell"... he proceeded to check nearly all the pipe joints with his meter, and got nothing until he got to the leak i'd found - at that joint his meter showed a small reading when he applied it directly to the leak.

Here's the thing. He shut of the gas to the house, and we're waiting on a plumber... but when he shut of the gas, the house stopped smelling within half an hour.

So two gas professionals insist the smell is not gas, but the first time the house has been stink free in months is immediately after the gas line to the house is shut off, and we now know there *was* a gas leak in the basement.

Furthermore, the guy insisted that even if the smell was gas, the small leak in the basement (he said they call these small leaks 'fizzers') would not have been smellable upstairs, where the smell gets pretty strong. Does this mean more leaks?

Anyhow, we have a plumber coming over this morning, so I will ask them too. Is there some sort of test they can do to find further leaks? I've heard of a 'pressure test' but wasn't clear how that worked...


Last edited by roboth; Yesterday at 09:44 AM.
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