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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,
We built our dream home five years ago. For the last month we’ve had a problem with a musty smell we narrowed down to coming from the electrical outlets on the west (outside) wall of our home and underneath one of the master bath sinks on the west wall.
We called insurance suspected mold, but they tested the wall and said no moisture in the wall but that our room had higher humidity.
We ran a dehumidifier for a week and didn’t get much (I’d been recently using our jacuzzi tub more often so that could explain the humidity in the room).
The smell comes and goes without any connection to when the taps, dishwasher, washing machine are on.
We’ve asked our contractors, the men sent from insurance, two plumbing companies and everyone else we know.
We have all the outlets taped off and ordered an air purifier.
Over a week ago, we noticed the smell faintly in our kitchen and dining room. Now, to make matters even worse... the smell has started On the outside east wall of our home coming from the electrical outlets in our daughters room and the new nursery (we are expecting a baby in a month).
We sprayed water down the vent in roof to make sure nothing was in plumbing vent (PVC pipes and couldn’t be snow or ice at this time of year anyways).
It is not a sewer smell, but more like a super dusty and musty kitchen cloth. It makes us stuffed up, but comes so randomly.
I haven’t noticed it for a week in my room and find it so weird that it’s travelled. Our home is 2400 square feet, and the smells are from the opposite ends of the home.
The basement is unfinished and there are no plumbing leaks.
The outside walls are stucco.

Any suggestions would be helpful. I don’t want a baby and toddler breathing this is and can’t keep taping our outlets indefinitely!
Thanks!
 

· retired framer
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Leaks in walls often show up at the rim joist which is under the outside walls, above the basement walls. Check the foundation outside for wet spots or strange water stains that shouldn't be there.

When it is raining you might check the attic for leaks but that might be hard to see ever nook and cranny up there. Anywhere in the house look for water stains on the ceiling or high n the wall.

Does the basement smell?
Run the fan longer when finished with the Jacuzzi.
 

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I'm not familiar with issues related to stucco and there seems to be old stucco and modern stucco, EIFS. From this link:
https://www.moisturewarranty.com/the-problem-with-stucco-homes.html

I get this list:

  • Increased level of humidity within the home
  • Infestations of termites, ants, and other insects
  • Mold, mildew, or fungi growth on the interior walls or on window frames
  • Cracking of the drywall
  • Cracking, peeling, and bubbling of paint
  • Cracking on the EIFS dressing bands around windows
  • Delamination—EIFS coming loose from the sheathing of the house
  • Rotting of wood trim
  • Loss of structural integrity
Read the article to see where they come up with this list, but it does seem related to your problem.

Add your climate region to your profile and more knowledgeable members will be along

Bud
Also, the natural airflow through a home in cooler weather is into the lower areas, up through the house, and out the upper leaks. So sounds like that smell is inside your walls and following the natural air path, called stack effect.
 
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The dank wet towel smell is also similar to a dead mouse, beginning to decompose. Unable to locate, I lived through one. It's just weeks. Me, my family, had no health problems from it. Also, was the smell confirmed by others who came to test?



If the smell is going around the house, it probably is traveling through the rooms, not through the walls.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The smell can mostly be smelled when putting your nose directly on the outlet. It comes and goes so intermittently it’s infuriating (we’ve tried seeing if the wind was blowing a certain direction, humidity outside, temperature and nothing seems to be in common).
I’ve gone days without noticing it, and then it will surface again. We live in a field on the prairies where there are indeed lots of mice, I’m just unsure of if it could be same problem on either side of house and why it wouldn’t smell all the time if it was indeed mold, mildew, or something rotting. Thanks for your help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm not familiar with issues related to stucco and there seems to be old stucco and modern stucco, EIFS. From this link:
https://www.moisturewarranty.com/the-problem-with-stucco-homes.html

I get this list:

  • Increased level of humidity within the home
  • Infestations of termites, ants, and other insects
  • Mold, mildew, or fungi growth on the interior walls or on window frames
  • Cracking of the drywall
  • Cracking, peeling, and bubbling of paint
  • Cracking on the EIFS dressing bands around windows
  • Delamination—EIFS coming loose from the sheathing of the house
  • Rotting of wood trim
  • Loss of structural integrity
Read the article to see where they come up with this list, but it does seem related to your problem.

Add your climate region to your profile and more knowledgeable members will be along

Bud
Also, the natural airflow through a home in cooler weather is into the lower areas, up through the house, and out the upper leaks. So sounds like that smell is inside your walls and following the natural air path, called stack effect.
Thanks Bud. I am new to this site and appreciate your help with referencing this post in my other one, as well as the link to stucco.
That is something I’m not sure has been looked into.
I am hoping with warmer weather, we see it lessening, but was hoping to solve it before new baby (and indeed next winter).

We live in Saskatchewan- temperate climate. Still just dropping below freezing at night right now. Didn’t notice smell in winter, aside from once in awhile I would smell a bit of musty smell- attributed it to my pregnancy sense of smell... until one day it was terrible.

Aside from two family members, no one else has made it at a time when smell is “active”. Insurance man said he’d never heard of that and that he was confident there was no moisture or water in walls.
Interestingly enough, the first time my husband and I realized it was coming from outlets/light switches, when he removed the cover there was some moisture on inside of panel.
The test was done by insurance the next day and they read no excess moisture inside.
Stumped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Leaks in walls often show up at the rim joist which is under the outside walls, above the basement walls. Check the foundation outside for wet spots or strange water stains that shouldn't be there.

When it is raining you might check the attic for leaks but that might be hard to see ever nook and cranny up there. Anywhere in the house look for water stains on the ceiling or high n the wall.

Does the basement smell?
Run the fan longer when finished with the Jacuzzi.
Thanks for your help. I will double check the outside and basement. There hasn’t been any leaks detected downstairs and no smell, either.
The couple of men who came from the contracting company (sent by our house insurance) said that some soffit needed replaced on the west side, but that it was sealed off and not the cause of the wall smell.
We had a water spot on ceiling of that room where insulation had blown, but that filled and again is closed off from the wall.
If it was mold inside the wall, one would think it would smell continuously and get worse?
Haven’t ran jacuzzi tub in three weeks and didn’t seem to affect anything- not to mention now the smell is coming in opposite end of house.
Bahhhh.
Thanks again!
 

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Thanks for your help. I will double check the outside and basement. There hasn’t been any leaks detected downstairs and no smell, either.
The couple of men who came from the contracting company (sent by our house insurance) said that some soffit needed replaced on the west side, but that it was sealed off and not the cause of the wall smell.
We had a water spot on ceiling of that room where insulation had blown, but that filled and again is closed off from the wall.
If it was mold inside the wall, one would think it would smell continuously and get worse?
Haven’t ran jacuzzi tub in three weeks and didn’t seem to affect

anything- not to mention now the smell is coming in opposite end of house.




Bahhhh.
Thanks again!
At the bottom of the stucco there should be 6" of foundation visible most of the time.


Could a repaired soffet trapped critters in the attic?
 

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Developing mold can require a combination of temperature and moisture and winters are typically dryer, lower humidity. Just guessing.

In climates where air conditioning is needed the stack effect air flow reverses with the colder air pushing out the lower air leaks (those receptacles) and replacement air coming in through upper leaks. Not sure if you ac in the summer but if so it might change the smell even though the problem would remain.

Your nose is a very sensitive test instrument and the insurance company needs to appreciate that it is detecting something. The fact that you saw moisture is important. More testing is needed and there are better experts out there than the insurance company or myself, they may need to be brought in.

Bud
 

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It may help to open the wall around at least one outlet and physically look for anything unusual. Drywall can be carefully cut, even the screws can be found, around an outlet box, paint matched (5 yrs old paint should be clean enough for spot painting). If fiberglass insulation, don't worry about removing it. It's been shown by the experts that you can stuff it back in without losing its function although you're not getting more r value. If foam, maybe has to be dug out and replaced later with canned foam.

Cut about 12x12" piece, put some nailing blocks behind, put the piece back, tape the cut gaps with painters blue tape. Whenever you get that smell, remove the piece and feel/test for moisture, look around the insulation, dampness on the underlayment, electrical cables looking melted/scorched, etc.
BTW, what kind of siding? Windows, example, can leak under the siding. Any correlation between the windows and the outlets?


Another way to learn is actually get samples of things in that wall and burn them. New house owners may have confused sense of smells.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It may help to open the wall around at least one outlet and physically look for anything unusual. Drywall can be carefully cut, even the screws can be found, around an outlet box, paint matched (5 yrs old paint should be clean enough for spot painting). If fiberglass insulation, don't worry about removing it. It's been shown by the experts that you can stuff it back in without losing its function although you're not getting more r value. If foam, maybe has to be dug out and replaced later with canned foam.

Cut about 12x12" piece, put some nailing blocks behind, put the piece back, tape the cut gaps with painters blue tape. Whenever you get that smell, remove the piece and feel/test for moisture, look around the insulation, dampness on the underlayment, electrical cables looking melted/scorched, etc.
BTW, what kind of siding? Windows, example, can leak under the siding. Any correlation between the windows and the outlets?


Another way to learn is actually get samples of things in that wall and burn them. New house owners may have confused sense of smells.
The siding is stucco.
They’re all outside walls, and no windows on any of them.
I am definitely willing to have section of wall cut out. I am appreciating the suggestions- thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Developing mold can require a combination of temperature and moisture and winters are typically dryer, lower humidity. Just guessing.

In climates where air conditioning is needed the stack effect air flow reverses with the colder air pushing out the lower air leaks (those receptacles) and replacement air coming in through upper leaks. Not sure if you ac in the summer but if so it might change the smell even though the problem would remain.

Your nose is a very sensitive test instrument and the insurance company needs to appreciate that it is detecting something. The fact that you saw moisture is important. More testing is needed and there are better experts out there than the insurance company or myself, they may need to be brought in.

Bud
Hi Bud,
We won’t be needing A/C for awhile, and even in summer we don’t tend to use it very often as we find our house stays a pretty decent temperature.
I am sure hoping I can find an expert that can help. It’s just frustrating, as the people who plumbed, did electrical, and built the house are all adamant it cannot be a plumbing, electrical, or structural issue. I’m a teacher married to a farmer, and our ideas are limited!
 

· retired framer
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The siding is stucco.
They’re all outside walls, and no windows on any of them.
I am definitely willing to have section of wall cut out. I am appreciating the suggestions- thank you.
Maybe it is the house.
Do you have regular wood floor joists or TGI which look like I beams?
what is the wall sheeting outside behind the stucco?

Do you have a vapour barrier on the walls inside behind the drywall?
 

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Asking a contractor if a problem is related to their work will almost never result in a confession.

As for warmer weather and using the ac, that won't resolve the problem, just temporarily mask the symptoms, actually making it harder to explain to those on the suspect list.

If you turn on any or all exhaust fans, kitchen, bathroom, dryer, that volume of air must return to the inside from the outside and might enhance your ability to detect the smell. An oil or gas heating system may also exhaust to the outside but newer ones provide their own combustion air intake. just a way to test. With one or more exhaust fans running you should feel an increase in air through those outlets.

Saskatchewan is a big place, can you give us a nearby big city.



Bud
 
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Hi there,
We built our dream home five years ago. For the last month we’ve had a problem with a musty smell we narrowed down to coming from the electrical outlets on the west (outside) wall of our home and underneath one of the master bath sinks on the west wall.
We called insurance suspected mold, but they tested the wall and said no moisture in the wall but that our room had higher humidity.
We ran a dehumidifier for a week and didn’t get much (I’d been recently using our jacuzzi tub more often so that could explain the humidity in the room).
The smell comes and goes without any connection to when the taps, dishwasher, washing machine are on.
We’ve asked our contractors, the men sent from insurance, two plumbing companies and everyone else we know.
We have all the outlets taped off and ordered an air purifier.
Over a week ago, we noticed the smell faintly in our kitchen and dining room. Now, to make matters even worse... the smell has started On the outside east wall of our home coming from the electrical outlets in our daughters room and the new nursery (we are expecting a baby in a month).
We sprayed water down the vent in roof to make sure nothing was in plumbing vent (PVC pipes and couldn’t be snow or ice at this time of year anyways).
It is not a sewer smell, but more like a super dusty and musty kitchen cloth. It makes us stuffed up, but comes so randomly.
I haven’t noticed it for a week in my room and find it so weird that it’s travelled. Our home is 2400 square feet, and the smells are from the opposite ends of the home.
The basement is unfinished and there are no plumbing leaks.
The outside walls are stucco.

Any suggestions would be helpful. I don’t want a baby and toddler breathing this is and can’t keep taping our outlets indefinitely!
Thanks!
Key word OUT SIDE WALLS ARE STUCCO
Improper installation of drainage system behind the Stucco system.
Water barrier behind the Stucco installed with joints over lapped incorrect.
Improper caulking joints.
Improper water proofing of framed openings.
Or all of the above.
 

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Key word OUT SIDE WALLS ARE STUCCO
Improper installation of drainage system behind the Stucco system.
Water barrier behind the Stucco installed with joints over lapped incorrect.
Improper caulking joints.
Improper water proofing of framed openings.
Or all of the above.
We almost bought a $600k house that had this issue. Was doing a tour and everything looked great. Then went into the home theater and saw a line of black mold along the bottom of the wall.

We moved on because it was a bank own property and they weren't going to address the issue, and we learned later that the entire outside façade of the house (stucco) had to be torn off and completely redone because if the issues you mentioned.

This was a newer house, about 6 years old.
 

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We almost bought a $600k house that had this issue. Was doing a tour and everything looked great. Then went into the home theater and saw a line of black mold along the bottom of the wall.

We moved on because it was a bank own property and they weren't going to address the issue, and we learned later that the entire outside façade of the house (stucco) had to be torn off and completely redone because if the issues you mentioned.

This was a newer house, about 6 years old.
Take a moisture reading from the exterior.
Check below any windows on the effected elevation also check about 6 to 18 inches above the finish floor elevation.
As for the Stucco is it conventional Stucco or Synthetic Stucco?
 
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