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ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
BOOK MOLD, Moldy Book Cleaning
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
CAT DANDER in buildings
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
DIRT FLOOR MOLD CONTAMINATION
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
Fireplaces & Woodstove Contaminants
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
GASES, EXPOSURE, TESTING
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS
GLUES ADHESIVES, EXTERIOR CONSTRUCTION
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
INDOOR AIR HAZARDS TABLE
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
GAS LP & NATURAL GAS SAFETY HAZARDS
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOTHS, MOTHBALL ODORS
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL, HEATING, EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
OIL HEAT ODORS & NOISES
OIL TANK LEAK & ODOR CAUSES
OIL ODOR SOURCES
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
OZONE MOLD / ODOR TREATMENT WARNINGS
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PET STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS
PET STAINS on WALLS
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
STAINS on CONCRETE
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION, UFFI
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VINYL Siding or Window PLASTIC ODORS
VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
Six-step procedure to track down the source or cause of odors or smells in or around buildings. Here we describe six areas of investigation that can help direct the inquiry as to the cause or source of an odor or smell in or around a building.
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. 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 meandering in daylight. This skunk was found dead two days after this photo was taken, most likely due to rabies. .
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
The photo at left shows steel chemical drums that we discovered on a residential property during a home inspection.
Not only did these steel drums raise a question of possible environmental contamination of this site, even worse, they were uphill and close to a stream, raising a still more broad question of area contamination.
Hire an Inspector or Consultant vs Do-It-Yourself?
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem such as this one. It is a frequent frustration to discuss with readers and clients the common experience of hiring a costly investigator or hygienist to help with a problem only to find that that expert does the easy part - conducting a few (sometimes unreliable) sample collections, sends them to a lab and gives you a report. Such tests alone, without a translation into sufficient diagnosis as to permit action, are of limited use.
How to Track Down & Remove Source of a Building Smell
1. Try odor source tracking: try the
At left the author demonstrates a smell-patch test that can be used to track down odors to their source in buildings.
2. List building and building condition factors causing odors:
If you suspect sunlight related odor emission note:
3. List & investigate building history, materials, location: in the odor checklist cited at item 2 we provide examples of building history that can point to a particular odor source. Add some more detailed considerations such as
4. Use surface testing to confirm an odor source: best performed after we have some most-suspect surfaces in mind, it may be possible to collect and send a small physical sample to an appropriate test lab for confirmation of what we're looking at.
For example, at a home where I suspected amateur application of pesticide (chlordane), I cut a small sliver of wood that we sent to an independent test lab (my lab specializes in particle forensics not chemicals) who confirmed that the wood had indeed been soaked with pesticide.
5. Temporarily Contain odors & smell-related risks: if odors appear to originate in just a single room in a building, temporarily, try keeping the offending room's door shut and are minimizing exposure to risk.
Watch out: for odor desensitization: anyone who remains in an area where odor-producing substances are present, eventually becomes desensitized to the odors and can be thus fooled into thinking that the odor is not present or has been diminished. A good test is to consider how things "smell" to you or others on entering the condo just after you've spent hours or longer out in fresh air.
6. Remediation of odors or smells: don't do anything expensive or disruptive towards a "cure" before you have a reasonably confident idea of what the problem is..
At ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE we list many sources of odors & smells in buildings - the list itself may suggest some candidates for you that can help tracking down your own complaint.
Separately at ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE we offer a procedural checklist that can help in tracking down an odor
How to Find Cures for Building Odors
I found your site and have found it full of helpful possible explanations for an intermittent odor experienced in our condo rental. ... After intuiting possible causes of the odor I was interested in what cures or remedies were suggested and could not find any. ... I haven't yet found any cures or remedies related to my suspicions. ... I would like to describe our situation and see if I can be directed to a source or information that suggest possible cures or remedies.
We rented a condo where we are now living in May 2014. Prior to signing a lease, I noticed an odor that was somewhat pungent but dissipated after being inside for awhile. I thought it was the previous occupant's belongings or poor choice of scented products that left a lingering odor.
The odor has never completely disappeared and is intermittent. We've invited neighbors to witness it with some success and other times it disappeared too quickly for one to "smell". We've complained to the owner and management but haven't found a source and no one takes responsibility to remedy. A contractor that claimed he can rid odors with a machine was summoned but wouldn't guarantee an outcome without figuring out a source. Here's what we've observed and what we've done to date:
Odor is pungent and most obvious upon opening front door and strongest in the foyer.
Holding our breath and walking into the unit past the foyer, the odor is not as strong unless the place has been closed up for a longer period of time, then it is everywhere.
HVAC, air filters, all plumbing, gas logs, washer, dryer vents etc have been checked.
Does not smell like gas, septic or mold. Pungent is our best adjective and on occasion can seem like a lingering body odor. I've painted with oil and latex numerous times and refinished furniture and it is not like those odors.
Have put out vinegar, washed surfaces, aired out daily with fans, open windows and running the HVAC fan.
Have left for an hour or two and upon our return it can be as strong as before airing out. OR we recently left for 7 days and it was hardly noticeable upon our return.
The condo is about 1500 square feet. Building contains flats with a total of 24 units. Believe there's concrete between the floors with HVAC ducts and sprinkler system between our ceiling and the units above and below. The building was built in 2008. We believe the unit was empty for several years until it sold. The owner said she just thought it was new building smell and she lived in it for a couple years.
The hallways do smell of concrete but is different than what we are experiencing.
No other resident has complained.
Unit is on 2nd floor with one unit above, one unit below and garage below that.
There is a wood product floor and carpet. The foyer is the wood product, think it's wood flooring that's glued down to the concrete. Other materials are painted Sheetrock and wood trim, cabinetry, tile, plastic shower floor.
The building has had some gutter issues with rain leaks in other areas I've heard about.
The occupant above keeps a dog indoors and has had complaints about her trash and her doggie pads, but that's not the odor we have experienced.
I've kept a log on and off and think higher humidity/rain does impact the intensity.
I thought the test your site has with paper towels and aluminum foil was interesting but even if that does isolate it to our foyer floor for example, and it could be speculated where the location is, what are the possible remedies? How does one identify the odor itself?
Thanks for guidance you can suggest. - S.B. 10/3/2014
Reply: find & remove the odor source
There are no trivial or external "odor cures" that are valid, such as generic sprays or ozone. Rather, the proper approach is to find the cause or source of the odor and remove that source by cleaning, sealing, or if necessary removing contaminated or outgassing materials, or where odors are traced to a mechanical system such as a leaky plumbing vent, fixing that problem.
You can start tracking down the cause or source of an odor in one or more of several ways:
The smell patch test procedure we describe at SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors and which you note you've reviewed is useful when an odor seems strongest in a particular room and we want to determine if it is emanating from a specific surface or material.
If we confirm that that's the case, then depending on what the surface or material is we can decide on an appropriate action such as clean, seal, remove, or in some cases, cut open (a wall or ceiling cavity for example) to investigate further for a buried odor source such as a dead animal, a chemical leak into a cavity, or wet insulation such as some UFFI formulations that may outgas when moist or wet.
Check for Odor Transport from Other Locations
You might also want to look at the heating and air conditioning systems and also possible air leaks between your unit and neighbors to see if air movement or air delivery are transporting odors from another location (neighbor's pet, spills, etc.) For example
"Pungent" Odor Sources?
I have a 4 year old brick home, on basement, 1 story. I have smelled a faint odor in one area of the home which is around the master bedroom, master bath, and hallway leading to that area.
The smell tends to be stronger in the hallway area which is on the other side of the wall from the bathroom. My husband does not smell it and thinks I am crazy. Some days is it stronger than others but I can't figure out why. The smell is not in the basement, and not in the attic.
We replaced the toilet wax ring, with no results. We put a vent cap on the roof vent of the toilet so that wind would not blow the gases back inside, with no results.
How can I track down the smell? My only other ideas are that the roof has leaked and the wall has molded, or there is a problem with the bathroom fan leaking in foul air. Or a dead animal stuck somewhere in the wall.
Desperate for some fresh air,- J.H.
See our odor diagnosis procedural checklist at ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDUREor review the six-step approach to odor diagnosis described in the FAQ just below.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem or source of an odor. That said, It is an error for someone to assume that because they do not personally smell an odor that it is not present. Individual sense of smell varies widely among individuals. However on occasion there are medical or other sources of perceived odors that only the affected person will experience. Therefore in some cases it may be appropriate to also check in with a physician. But it makes sense to look for the obvious: an actual source of odors or smells in the building.
I am in England, UK and cannot afford to pay for advice. If you can give me any help with my situation I'd be grateful:
I am experiencing an overpowering 'electrical burning' odour in my bathroom. There is no obvious problem with the electrics. Electrics switched off and room ventilated/flushed out but smell continues. The bath is old cast iron, with damaged enamel and a lead waste pipe. I have used limescale removing chemicals (some weeks ago) and bleach (two days ago). There is no blockage in the drain. There is green algae/weed growing outside at the end of the lead pipe as it hangs over and empties into the storm water (not foul water) drain system. Advice asap most appreciated. Currently waiting emergency plumber on household insurance. - A.G. 3/4/2014
I'd like to help Amanda but I have to say that from your description you need someone on-site.
Your description of odor includes
And of course there could be a different odor source that has not yet been realised. Some help in identifying the odor and its source, perhaps by asking for assistance from others or from your plumber is what's needed along with a visual inspection for safety and sanitary concerns in your home. It may help to try the six simple odor diagnostic steps in the article above on this page, or to try our more detailed ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE.
Questions & answers on how to identify the source of smells or odors in buildings - an odor source checklist.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
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