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Old 02-18-2010, 10:03 AM   #1
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


First of all, the water heater burst (and flood) 4 days into a flooring improvement project! The flooring, while extremely problematic, is not the issue right now...

The water heater was in a closet in a second floor kitchen and the water seeped down into the dry wall of the first floor entry way. The closet itself was a soggy, gloppy mess and the wall and ceiling below it began to bubble. The water heater was (is) located directly above the front door stair well and the musty odor is intense upon crossing the threshold.

Any tips on eliminating this odor? I hope that since there's no more water going in it will eventually dry out and the smell will dissipate. But in the mean time, if I put a bunch of charcoal or lava on the bottom of the water heater closet, will it help? TIA if anyone has suggestions!

Here's a pic of the situation. That's the new, larger water heater and the space below it where I would have to put the odor treatment. The diagonal floor is the ceiling of the staircase.
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Old 02-18-2010, 10:06 AM   #2
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


OI! Interesting and unfun.

If I were you I'd let it dry out completely, of course, and then I would carefully water-seal the entire surrounding wood area if it's accessible.
I, also, would build a drain-floor *with* a drain (complete with a P trap - the whole nine yards) so in the future, if anything happens, the water can drain away without causing any damage.

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Old 02-18-2010, 11:27 AM   #3
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


Oi, indeed! Thanks for the suggestion!

I'm now thinking that since the smell is moving downward, I don't want to draw it back upward into that closet. You can't reall tell from the photo but the heater is set in the back - and I removed the sliding shelf/drawer storage that goes in front of it.

The space had to be enlarged for the new heater because it's bigger (aaahhhh.... long showers) and the whole thing is just 'tore up from the floor up'.
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Old 02-18-2010, 11:48 AM   #4
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


Just looking at your picture I do not think the water heater is supported well enough. 40 gallons is 320 lbs. If you have moister behind sheetrock you need to remove the sheetrock.
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Old 02-18-2010, 11:54 AM   #5
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


IMO---from experience with dealing with this exact situation, and I'm sure you're not going to like this: 1) You should remove any water damaged drywall immediately! Any insulation which may have been within a wall is now wet and IS promoting mold growth, therefore the musky smell. IMO--proper remediation of this problem is essential. This will lead to the removal of the odor. Tear out the water damaged drywall, remove any/all water damaged insulation, spray all water contacted surfaces with a 10% bleach mixture to kill any prevailing mold--you may not see the new growth, ventilate this area as well as weather/home conditions permit, and allow to dry thoroughly. Please--don't try to save any monies by not doing this. I've seen homeowner's allow the 'leaky water heater" damaged walls to just "air dry" so as to save monies, only to have horrific and deep rooted mold problems. 2) As suggested--a drain pan under that water heater unit is a must do, do soon, project. I highly do not recommend those plastic units sold at apron stores. I have a local HVAC shop build them for me, after all they build sheet metal ductwork every day, and they are usually in the $20-$30 range. The drain, no less than a 1", is essential with a P-trap. Good Luck, keep us posted, David Just read "mikey48" post--I agree.

Last edited by Thurman; 02-18-2010 at 11:56 AM. Reason: mikey48 post
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Old 02-18-2010, 11:58 AM   #6
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


Yeah, "just try some Febreeze..."

Are you kidding me? charcoal...?lava???? Look, you have mould smells, coming form the walls and the floors and every piece of wood you can see. Mould starts growing after 24 hours...

You have to tackle this the way we do - and get paid for it.
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:15 PM   #7
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


All the sheetrock that is down stream from this needs to be removed. You keep going until you reach areas where there are no water stains on the sheetrock. If you need to remove sheetrock down to the basement, do it. If you don't do it quickly and completely you will have serious issues to deal with. Health and habitibility will be at risk.
When you're ready to put in the new one, post for suggestions, so you can avoid this issue in the future.
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:36 PM   #8
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


Unfortunately I agree with all of that - you have to remove and replace all water damaged drywall, too.

Consider green board - which is water resistant and somewhat repels mold problems.
And maybe backerboard, as well.

If it happens once - it might happen again. Our entire home has remnants of old water damage from the previous water heater flooding - and we're just a 1story over a crawl space so our problem is far less devastating than yours.
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:41 PM   #9
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


For a situation like that, look into automatic water shut-off valve alarms that close down your water supply at the first hint of a water leak...
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Old 02-18-2010, 12:58 PM   #10
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Oh, ...
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Old 02-18-2010, 01:27 PM   #11
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Water heater burst - musty odor in wall!


Yeah, I hear ya! Sorry.

But we see this as a 'routine' water damage job for which insurance companies pay us handsomly to fix. Where do you stand there?

Look, you can wait around and dry it (I've never seen it dry out sufficiently, btw) or just rip it out. I'll tell ya, the way insurance companies are these days with respect to mould litigation, we could do no less that tearing it all out, or they'd call someone who would tear it out, just to be on the safe side. Look at it as: one 4'x8' $13 sheet of half-inch drywall is alot cheaper to manage than trying to dry it out and hoping you don't have mould.

That's a two day job for a crew of three. But I'd add plumbing extras like that water alarm I mentioned and at least a drip pan. But solid flooring for starters

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