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jokrupinski 08-08-2006 02:45 PM

Will my house make my kids sick???
Hi everyone,

I'm hoping someone out there can help me...I have a 4-year-old girl and a boy on the way, due in November. I'm having strange problems in my new house and I'm getting desperate, as no one seems to know the answers.

First of all, my husband and I moved into an 8-year-old, multi-level home in March, just after I found out I was pregnant. The carpets were really dirty and stained, so we decided to have them professionally cleaned the week before we moved in. However, a day or two after the carpets dried, I noticed a very strange musty/mildew/mold smell in the house. At first I thought it was just musty from being closed up for 6+ months (and having been winterized). So we opened up the entire house and aired it out for almost two weeks straight.

Unfortunately that did not work, and (because of the pregnancy) the smell made me so sick that I began vomiting and had to leave the house. We decided to pull up some of the carpet and replace it with new to see if that would make a difference. Although it seemed to help in some areas, the smell still exists (5 months later) in three places of the house: the foyer (which is off of the garage and leads directly into the first floor living room), the living room (just mentioned, and directly above the basement), and the downstairs rec room (also off of the basement).

We had the house checked by an indoor air specialist, and he found high humidity levels in the house (around 64%) as well as a very low CO reading in our foyer. We put a dehumidifier in the basement and had the air conditioner serviced. There were leaks in the air conditioning unit, but we had them all fixed.

No I don't know what else to do, but the smell is driving me crazy! I'm worried that my kids will be harmed in some way by this problem, especially a newborn baby (whose room happens to be one of the most humid). I would truly appreciate any ideas that any of you may have...and I'm sorry for writing you a book. I just wanted you to have an understanding of the entire story. Please help! Thank you so much for your time...


ron schenker 08-08-2006 04:36 PM

First of all, did the indoor air quality specialist have any advice? Secondly, was there anything out of the ordinary when the old carpets were taken up? Thirdly, has anyone checked the attic for dead critters?
It sounds like the smells are coming from the basement though, is there carpet down there? Have you had the ducts cleaned? Could the smell be a sewer gas type smell?
Sorry, gotta ask some questions to try to pinpoint the problem.

jokrupinski 08-08-2006 08:34 PM

Hi Ron,

Thanks so much for responding...when the specialist came to the house, he thought that most of our problems stemmed from the high humidity. He only had a couple of comments: 1) Check with the air conditioning folks to make sure the unit is not undersized for the house. 2) Have the duct work cleaned out within the next year, and 3) As a last resort, perhaps look into adding ventilation in the larger rooms.

As for the carpeting, it was completely ruined, even through the padding (Besides the fact that it was original carpeting, the previous owners had pets who ran rampant through the house). But we bleached the plywood underneath all of the floors, and the carpet installers said everything looked fine.

We don't really have an attic, just a couple of sealed spaces between the roof and ceilings that have no access. And my husband just put cement sealant on the basement floor (the very bottom of the house). However, there is a room off of the basement, just a small level up, that has the original carpeting (our rec room), and I definitely get a funky smell from that room, too.

I'm pretty convinced (as was the specialist) that the smell is not sewer gas. I used to do septic inspections when I worked for the health department, and came to know that smell very well! And I really only seem to get the smell in three rooms. The upper two "levels" of the house don't have any smells, they're just humid.

Anyway, I really appreciate your giving this some thought for me. Hopefully you can help me figure this thing out!

jokrupinski 08-08-2006 08:39 PM

Ron -- forgot to mention one thing. When we had the air conditioning unit serviced, the gentleman who fixed the leaks said that he felt as if the unit should be able to cool the house appropriately.

ron schenker 08-08-2006 09:34 PM

Looks like you've got the bases covered. Maybe now it's just a matter of time for the a/c to dry out the stale humidity..

slickshift 08-09-2006 05:29 AM

64% is high?
I don't see 64% even in the winter or with A/C in the summer
Well, maybe a few weeks in the winter
...but then, I do live in the ocean here

If all the rugs have been pulled up and the floors have been properly de-deodorized (those pet smells can sink in), I'd open up that common wall looking for must/mold/mildew, or get someone with one of those moisture graph machines, I forget what they are called, it's like a Doppler radar picture on any moisture in/on your walls
I'll try and find the name of it for you

jokrupinski 08-11-2006 09:25 PM

Thanks for giving it some thought for me...I think we'll just try some things and see what works...

Pearce Services 08-12-2006 07:01 AM

Call a home inspector, they should find any issues with the house that may cause excessive moisture, and make recommendations as to some upgrades that may be needed.

if the moisure appears to be originating in the basement, you may also want to test for radon.

stuccoman 09-05-2006 06:53 AM

This type of inspection might hold the answer.

adoble 09-13-2006 06:29 PM

It sure sounds like the house has water or excessive moisture in the walls or slab, 64% is a little on the high side but what you describe sounds like permanent damage somewhere hidden.

What was under all the carpets when you tore them up and removed them?

I sure hope they found low CO levels, as obviously high levels could be fatal.

Definitely check for mold.

rjordan392 09-13-2006 08:05 PM

The water table (I think thats what its called) may have risen from excessive rainfall. This would make your basement slab give off excessive moisture. When there is excessive moisture and insufficient fresh air circulation, mold and smells will appear. You may notice this if you keep the shower curtain or door closed when not in use. You say your home is eight years old and I suspect it is as air tight as the builder could build it. This would have to be corrected as all homes need fresh air ventilation. This is usualy accomplished by adding an air exchanger to the heating and AC system. A lot of older homes are not as air tight and the normal opening of doors and windows plus leakage through the construction is usually enough. You need a building inspector to check and find the source of the high humidity and not just test for it.
Do that first. Also see if your home sits lower then surrounding properties (the water table) and ask your neighbors if they had excessive moisture and what did they do to solve it. There are companies who specialize in waterproofing and installing systems to pump out excessive water from under your house. But don't get an opinion from a contractor or salesman. Get advice from a consultant or building inspector first.
If you are using the garage to park your vehicle, then that is where the carbon monoxide is most likely coming from. A detector is a good investment. You may need to install a exhaust fan in the garage with a timer.
I would consider to get rid of any rugs that may have been exposed to animal urine. Also in the future, after your bleach any wood surface, put a sealer on it for extra protection. This is what I had to do and I had to throw the rug out as shampooing was not enough.
So in summary, it appears you will need either a air exchanger or a pumping system plus sealing at the ground level or both.

747 09-14-2006 04:55 AM

I think needs to cut a hole in the wall and make sure something isn't going on. Everything else has been covered. Unless there is a lot of water under that slab in basement. But then if theres a basement it should have sub pump.

J187 09-14-2006 01:18 PM

JO, has anyone in the house had trouble with their sinuses? Stuffy nose, unusual allergies? It sounds to me like you might have mold. If the carpets and the rest of the house was not cared for for as long as your post suggests, there may be mold present. REmember one thing. mold is NOT always visible. In fact, its' most dangerous when its airborne and it can absorb into pourous materials like carpet, couches, ply woods, curtains, plaster, etc etc. Unfortunately, mold testing is astronomically expensive, but if all else fails, you may wan't to consider it. They have cheap test you can buy at drugstores and hardware stores, they work to some degree. Was your vomiting caused by nasua associated with a strong smell or just as soon as you noticed the smell, you found yourself vomiting? The latter would suggest a toxic presence rather then the former which could just have been a gag-reflex due to the aweful smell. Penecillium and aspergillius are two common molds that can cause vommiting, but also are very likely to cause nasal discomfort and sometimes nasal pollyps and asthma.

J187 09-21-2006 09:23 AM

What is the status of this problem?

jokrupinski 09-27-2006 04:00 PM

I've been away from the chat board for awhile, so I was surprised to see so many new responses! Thanks to all of you for your advice...given tight money situations right now, we really haven't changed anything, other than buying two more dehumidifiers for each level of the house. I think getting a building inspector is a great idea -- we've spent so much money as it is, I think my husband wants to wait until the baby is born before we spend any more time on this problem. Especially since nothing has really seemed to help so far. The smell still exists, but it seems like only a select few people can actually smell it -- myself, my best friend, and my mother. A lot of people have come in and out of our house and say I'm crazy. I'm hoping maybe it's just my "bionic" pregnancy nose, and that it will go away after the baby. I've a strong suspicion, however, that it won't...I'll keep you updated once we make another move to fix the problem. Thanks again!

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