Skunk on the Vassar Golf Course (C) Daniel FriedmanBuilding Odor Diagnosis & Cure

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How to find & get rid of smells & odors in buildings:

Find & Remove Odors Gases & Smells in or around Buildings. These articles explain how to diagnose, test, identify, and cure or remove a wide range of obnoxious or even toxic odors in buildings, in building air, in building materials, or in the building water supply.

In alphabetical order we discuss odors from a variety of sources including animals including pets, dogs, cats, or unwanted animals or dead animals, formaldehyde odors in buildings from building products or furnishings, plumbing drains, plastic or vinyl odors from building products, flue gases, indoor mold odors, oil tanks or oil spills, pesticides, septic odors, sewer gases, and even abandoned chemicals at properties.

Our page top photo shows our local skunk rummaging on a nearby golf course. This is about as close as you want to be, especially if you see a skunk meandfering in daylight. This skunk was found dead two days after this photo was taken, most likely due to rabies. .

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Building Odor Guide: How to Find the Source of Odors, Smells, or Gases in Buildings

Smell test method (C) Daniel Friedman

At left the author demonstrates a smell-patch test that can be used to track down odors to their source in buildings.

This article gives links to key steps in diagnosing and removing building smells and odors.

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Odor Diagnosis Strategies:

You can start tracking down the cause or source of an odor in one or more of several ways:

  1. ODOR DIAGNOSIS SIX STEPS - taking an orderly approach to odor source tracking

  2. ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST - an easy checklist of stuff to examine or test

  3. ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE - includes a catalog of places to look when tracking down an odor source - this article

  4. SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE - procedure for testing specific surfaces or items to see if an odor souirce of if they have absorbed and are re-emitting an odor

Checklist of Places to Look & Things to Do to Track Down an Odor to it Source

Here are some possible sources of an odor or smell in building air, water, mechanical systems, heating, cooling, or other locations.

Odor Traced to HVAC Condensate Pump

Condensate pump (C) Daniel Friedman[We] had a very bad smell in basement some days worse than others changed seal on toilet at the top basement steps re caulked the lead seals on the two cast iron stacks.

The days we washed clothes [the smell] seemed worse so we washed one day and didn't dry until the next day. When we ran the dryer the smell really was bad.

So I got on the floor started smelling every thing I could find. I finally got by furnace and got close condensate pump [on the floor next to] the air handler [heating and air conditioning equipment]. And there it was [the source of the horrible odor].

I had installed [the condensate pump] about five years ago and I had never cleaned it. What a mistake. I [removed and thoroughly cleaned the condensate pump] AND NO MORE SMELLS! - Gene Lovasz

Comment: Odors coming from dirty condensate pump reservoir

Thanks Gene for pointing out that a dirty condensate pump can be a source of unexpected odors and smells.

I suppose that on an HVAC system whose condensate pump runs only seasonally, water left in the pump body may support both algae and bacterial growth that could smell horrible. Cleaning the pump with household cleaner or even a dilute bleach solution was a smart step. I'd take a look at the condensate pump tubing as well; sometimes crud can collect in a low spot in the plastic drain tubing that ultimately blocks drainage.

Plumbing Vent leaks (C) Daniel Friedman Cheryl Lidawer Condensate pump (C) Daniel Friedman

Gas leaks at plumbing vent (C) Daniel Friedman


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