The Systematic Sniff

Home inspection

A home inspector was called in to help an Illinois woman get rid of an odor in her family's home.  According to the woman, “The odor is driving us nuts.  We've checked the crawl space for dead animals, we've cleaned up the dog run on the side of the house, we've even filled the house with air purifiers.  Nothing seems to help."

The home inspector has been called with this problem before.  He says locating odor problems can be very frustrating, often because the odor may be most noticeable in one part of the house but may actually be coming from an entirely different area.  He also adds that very often, the situation will get worse over time, not better.  A slight but noticeable odor can eventually become a truly offending stench.

To address the problem, this home inspector suggests that a systematic sniffing program is called for.  This does not necessarily mean sniffing particular items in the house, such as under a couch, but instead, entire rooms.  We share his advice here:

Kitchen.  Start here.  Very often food is decaying in or under a cabinet, behind a garbage can, or in a concealed area.  Since this family has a dog, he also suggested looking under all lower surfaces.  Sometimes dog food finds its way under counters and surfaces because some dogs like to put their food in a hiding place.  It’s no surprise that the hidden food will then begin to decay and result in a terrible odor.

Attic.  In more cases than he can count, this home inspector reports homeowners having bats in their attics without even knowing it.  These tend to be creatures of the night and very often they have found a smooth and quiet way to enter and exit the attic, so the homeowners remain unaware.  One major problem with bats is that their waste is highly pungent.  Further, it's continuous, so the odor magnifies as time passes.

EverPrime, liquid drain primer

Laundry.  Most homes have a laundry room, and in that room, a sink is often installed.  While this is handy, our home inspector says that very often these sinks are rarely used.  Because of this, the water in the trap underneath the sink dries up, releasing sewer odors into the room.  This is a widespread problem, but fortunately, one of the easiest to fix.  Because these sinks are so rarely used, the inspector suggests pouring a few ounces of a liquid primer into the drains.  This way the trap remains filled for months at a time.

Basement.  While fixing odors coming from drains tends to be the easiest, the most difficult and often the most costly is when moisture is building up below the house, often in basements.  The problem here is that most basements are rarely accessed.  The moisture build-up soon starts to promote the growth of fungi and mold.  Plus, there may be a drainage or ventilation problem in the basement.  When this happens, homeowners typically must call a contractor to address the issue.

For more information on ways to prevent sewer odors from being released, contact a Waterless Co representative.