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Thread: Interior odor

  1. #1
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    Default Interior odor

    Hi folks. I have a new, weird and difficult question.

    I inspected a home about eighteen months ago and the new owner recently contacted me with an intriguing problem. There is an unusual odor in the interior of the home, concentrated in the dining room, radiating out from there and becoming noticably less in the upstairs bedrooms. The home was occupied when I originally inspected it and is tenant occupied now. I do not recall any unusual odor when I orginally inspected , but that was a while ago.

    The home was constructed about 2002 and is in fairly good condition. Country property on well and septic. There was no unusual odor in the attic or the foundation crawlspace area. The dining room projects out from the bulk of the house, but is original to the house. Flooring in the house consists of carpet and oak strip, with the oak flooring in the dining, kitchen and foyer. While the odor is present in these areas, it is noticeably less than in the dining room. I did smell the floor in the dining as well as the foyer and did not notice any increase in odor near the floor. No noticeable difference at the heat register or the receptacle outlets.

    The odor is just plain weird. Not like a rodent or something dead, but somewhat reminiscent of Penofin. The weirdest part is that the odor has apparently been present ever since they purchased the property. It seems to me that if it was some off-gassing from the floor finish, it would have been stronger near the floor and would have diminished over the first several months. They kept thinking that it would go away, but it apparently hasn't. They also mentioned that it seems to get stronger as the weather warms-up. They have not reported any ill effects and the current tenants do not seem to mind it. The odor is not necessarily nasty, just strong.

    So, has anyone ever run into something like this? Any ideas as to what to do next? I suggested an industrial hygienist, but I am not entirely sure if that is the right direction. The owner was not angry or frustrated, he just seems to be looking to find out what is going on and if it can be corrected.

    Thanks.

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  2. #2
    Tom Thompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Penofin has a lasting odor, sounds like the hardwood floor stain used.


  3. #3
    MARVIN TOWNSEN's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    If you havent already I would talk to the purchaser and homeowner to find out what kind of products they have been using on the floors and woodwork. Certain products my wife has used in the past has left strong lingering odors,i.e. old english and others, some of them re-act with certain types of finishes especially oil based. She has actually cleaned the woodwork and removed it, then re-applied citrus products to remove it. Some products dont react till they have a chance to penetrate for awhile.

    just thougths


  4. #4
    MARVIN TOWNSEN's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Also when was the smell noticed by the ho or tenant. Is it possible the last tenant did something intentional?


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by MARVIN TOWNSEN View Post
    Also when was the smell noticed by the ho or tenant. Is it possible the last tenant did something intentional?
    Marvin,

    The odor was noticed by the current homeowner and current tenant before the tenant moved in, so it is likely that it existed prior to that.

    Apparently, the seller left irate. The current owner reportedly does not know what occurred to anger the previous owner and the possibility of deliberate sabotage was raised. The house was left in good condition otherwise, so I would hope that they would not set themselves up for a lawsuit by doing anything intentional to the house.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Thompson View Post
    Penofin has a lasting odor, sounds like the hardwood floor stain used.
    Tom,

    Yes, I have smelled Penofin used in exterior applications and it can stick around for a few weeks. I realize that being indoors might retard the off-gassing, but a year and a half? The wood floor was finished with a clear product, but I don't know what it was. There was no real noticeable difference in odor when I got up close to the floor. Typically, with finished wood (or any finish for that matter), the odor becomes much stronger when I get up close to the source.

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  7. #7
    MARVIN TOWNSEN's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    was the home repainted by the previous owner? Sabotage could be hard to prove if you cant find it. I have seen deliberate acts of sabotage in home transactions. I had a buddy of mine (gm mechanic)who couldnt determine and odd noise in a new car, when it was found it was a wrench tied to the inner frame. The note on it read " Ha ha how loing did it take you to find this" who knows what people will do. could it be inbetween the floor insulation and decking?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Why not sample the air in the home to see what shows up? I have used this company since March and have been very happy with what their testing can do. Home Air Check

    It is amazing what shows up in the air folks are breathing.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  9. #9
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    I think that I would seal the ground in the crawl space with plastic and then ventilate the house with fans so the odor is completely gone. Then close up the house and see if and where the odor returns. During this period the HVAC should not be run. If after a few hours the odor has not returned then cut on the HVAC system and see if it returns then. Might be a waste of time but at least the exercise is free.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Gunnar,

    Why not tape a 2' x 2' (or 4' x 4' if there is a large enough space available) piece of plastic sheeting to the wood floor in the areas with the wood floor.

    Have the homeowner or tenant monitor the sealed off areas, have them do this at 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, etc.

    If they see moisture accumulating in one of the sealed off areas and not the others, note that.

    After 48 hours or 72 hours (to give time to acclimate) have a corner of the sealed area lifted and see if the odor is more concentrated than it was.

    If yes, then it could be in the wood, the stain, the finish, or something below the wood floor.

    If no, then it is likely not the wood floor, the odor would likely be coming from another source.

    That would help eliminate the possible sources.

    As Thomas Edison was supposed to have answered Henry Ford after Henry Ford asked him why he (Thomas Edison) does not quit looking for the material which will work for the filament for the incandescent lamp because he (Thomas Edison) has already tried and failed so many times: Thomas Edison replied something to the effect of "Why should I stop searching for the right material now? I now know 568 materials which WILL NOT WORK and which I DO NOT NEED TO TRY ... again."

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by MARVIN TOWNSEN View Post
    was the home repainted by the previous owner? Sabotage could be hard to prove if you cant find it. I have seen deliberate acts of sabotage in home transactions. I had a buddy of mine (gm mechanic)who couldnt determine and odd noise in a new car, when it was found it was a wrench tied to the inner frame. The note on it read " Ha ha how loing did it take you to find this" who knows what people will do. could it be inbetween the floor insulation and decking?
    Marvin,

    Don't know if it was repainted or not. The interior paint and floor finish was in very good condition, so it is possible.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Jerry, James & Scott,

    Thanks for those suggestions. I will pass them on. I have asked that I be kept in the loop, so if they find out, I will update any who are interested.

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  13. #13
    MARVIN TOWNSEN's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Let us know I hate unanswered mysteries.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Look inside the curtain rods.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Martin View Post
    Look inside the curtain rods.
    Along the same lines, you might check behind the AC grill, inside receptacles, light fixtures, under and inside furniture, etc.

    Let us know what you find!

    R


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Thanks folks, I hadn't thought about curtain rods. I did take a whiff of the registers, receptacle outlets and switches.

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  17. #17
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Gunnar go back under the home and check the HVAC Ducts and the plumbing pipes.

    "They also mentioned that it seems to get stronger as the weather warms-up"

    Sometimes termite guys will get something on the pipes has no visible evidence but when the hot water is ran the pipes will heat up and the odor then becomes active.

    Go to ( Structural Pest Control Board ) and do a property search and see how many inspection are listed. if you find 2 dates listed alike thats an indication of a treatment. if you have dates listed order these report form the state. when you get these reports contact that company and ask about a treatments.

    Do they have AC? If so then go back and check the vent ducts. Some bugs and/or beetles or even a paper wasp nest inside the duck work can give off an odd odor.

    Best

    Ron


  18. #18
    Norman Ellis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Thompson View Post
    Penofin has a lasting odor, sounds like the hardwood floor stain used.
    OK odd oder? does it smell man made like chemicals, decaying materials, maybe a daed animal? location of the dining room should be your focus point, but if it is making it to the upstairs it could be in the wall escaping from the cutout areas of the outlets or ductvents. some materials such as chinese drywall, throwrugs, foam insulators for wood flooring can produce oders. if it was vandilism by the previous owner/tenant locations mentioned are a good place to look, but you might also look for wall patches, loose boards, or darker areas in the crawlspace from something being barried.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Have you checked all the plumbing traps? Traps that dry out due to lack of use can allow sewer gasses to flow into the house. Run water in sinks and tubs and flush toilets in rarely-used bathrooms. Pour water in floor drains. Pour water in the standpipe for the clothes washer discharge.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
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  20. #20
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    Question Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Jerry, James & Scott,

    Thanks for those suggestions. I will pass them on. I have asked that I be kept in the loop, so if they find out, I will update any who are interested.
    Okay, Gunnar
    It's been over a year since your post. What are the updates on the condition?


  21. #21
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
    Garry Blankenship Guest

    Default Re: Interior odor

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Why not sample the air in the home to see what shows up? I have used this company since March and have been very happy with what their testing can do. Home Air Check

    It is amazing what shows up in the air folks are breathing.
    An excellent suggestion. Any off gassing should have been done years ago; I'm thinkin.


  22. #22
    Katie Austin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    There may be some old stuff around the home or some problem with the hardwood of the home.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Thanks for bringing this back up. Turns out it was an area rug that belonged to the tenants. The new owner had the room emptied of furniture and accessories and the smell went away. They then started looking at (smelling at?) the furniture and finally came to the area rug. I don't remember the rug smelling bad, but I didn't smell the entire thing, just an area or two. It wasn't a urine odor, so I'm guessing some kind of dye or maybe the slip-resistant thing. Anyway, problem gone.

    One odd thing in the whole story is the rug belongs to the tenant, but he claimed the odor was there before he moved in. Go figure.

    Similar to the other current thread, the owner's wife (I know, she's the owner too, but I can't think of how to designate her) was refusing to move in until the smell was eliminated.

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  24. #24
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    Smile Re: Interior odor

    Thanks, Gunnar for bringing us up to date on this....although anti-climatic. A stinky rug ... hmmmm. but good to have this come out in the open and know there is no sinister gasses seeping up from the ground into this home.
    Katie - hello to you in Australia. Welcome to the board....Do you inspect homes there?
    A really good guess - "There may be some old stuff around the home..."
    Well done. Come back again real soon.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    [quote=Gunnar Alquist;211458]

    One odd thing in the whole story is the rug belongs to the tenant, but he claimed the odor was there before he moved in. Go figure.

    quote]

    Never trust a tenant's version of any story......LOL.......have dealt with thousands of them and I could write a book on the stuff I have heard


  26. #26
    Leo Wheeler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Interior odor

    Get a black light and UV glasses and check the room for florescence. If you see areas that glow under the black light then the odor is from urine, either a pet or human. Urine is known not to smell until the home heats up.


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