Musty Damp Odors

This time of year brings in many calls with some nasty irritable odors. After a dry, but an unusually high hot and  humid summer, the Fall season here in the Greater Boston area has brought some rain fall with the same type of humidity; but now it is getting a bit colder. This means the windows have to be closed and air quality tends to get stale or odors are more noticable.

What’s that smell? These complaints are often called in and I ask a few questions such as: Have you been flooded due to the recent heavy rains last spring or prior years. How about roof leaks? How effective was the cleaning, drying out process and did you get to the water early such as within 24 to 48 hours to help avoid potential mold growth problems.  What type of smell are you experiencing such as is this a chemical smell, foul smell, a rotten decomposed smell such as a dead rodent, or a strong musty mold smell.

Not all odors are mold or due to water damage, so an investigation requires a rule out process. Taking a few samples for mold is not necessary the solution, it may help in the ruling out process.

Conducting a thorough visible investigation of the odor or where the smell appears to originate is a beginning is important. Some odors can be on the second or third floor but have originated from the basement. The basement flooded out months prior and now the relative humidity “fuels the fire” for the odor and the draft from the stack pipe or plumbing drift up to the upper levels. A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Imaging, cannisters, etc.

In a recent odor investigation of a bathroom-Laundry area in an antique home 150 + years on the north shore, the smell was overwhelmingly strong. It did not necessarily have the odor of mold but strong in this area to say the least. After a plumber, contractor, and even a pest control company, the odor was not solved up to this point. This can be frustrating and costly. I don’t like to use the term “witch hunt”, but at times professionals can go on a witch hunt and it can end up being very costly in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars with no solution in sight. The key is the scope of work conducted has to be a rule out process and talk about a budget that you may be willing to spend before the work begins. There is no guarantee for discovering the odor problem, even after paying for this type of service. To sum up this antique house, a dead rat was trapped behind the lower wallboard behind the washing maching shut off valve. This was even after a company inspected this area. Again, sniffing odors can be hard to find even when they are right under our nose!

Most odors are caused by ventilation issues in general. It is best to open windows until the odor can be discovered. HVAC systems, pet, rodent odors, dampness, mold, the trash can, refrigerator, etc. Sampling can help as an inidcator, however, a thorough visible inspection with the right tools from a professional is an excellent start if you have come to your wits end as to finding this irritable odor.

Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors.  We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.

Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061