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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    2

    Question Damsel in Distress needs an Smell Slaying Champion

    HELP!!! I'm losing an odor battle in my new-old house .

    I recently purchased a 1965 quad level house in Michigan and I love everything about it minus an icky smell that seems to come from the vents. I wouldn't describe the smell as musty but more a mix of stale/old wood with a funky twist. I've been hunting the source of this smell for about a month to no avail and was hoping some of the experts on here might be able to offer new leads!

    The smell exists mainly in the first floor (which has absolutely nothing in it), but I can get a hint of it pretty much anywhere in the house. I can get a whiff of it if I stick my nose down a vent when the air is running (with either air conditioning, furnace or plain old fan use). It doesn't appear to fluctuate with weather although the house has bad and less bad smell days. There is no mold anywhere in the house and the basement and attic are dry. Here's what I've tried so far:

    -Leaving windows open for days on end
    -Changing out the furnace filter
    -Vacuuming out all of the registers/vents (found lots of random stuff including a cache of socks, nothing smelly though...)
    -Ripping out the carpet from the first floor (right now I've just got a subfloor for flooring!)
    -Kilz'ing the first floor x 2
    -Using Room Shocker in the entire house
    -Putting out baking soda everywhere (yeah, pretty bizarre I know but I'm desperate)

    I'm not sure what to try next (perhaps exorcism?) and would be forever in the debt of the individual who could grace me with a solution to this formidable problem.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,480

    Default Re: Damsel in Distress needs an Smell Slaying Champion

    Go poke your head up into the attic and have a whiff, see if that's the odor you're picking up. If so, I would have the duct work inspected, it sounds like you've got a leak and it's drawing air into the system from the attic, basement, or subarea of the house.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    The Great White North
    Posts
    4,045

    Default Re: Damsel in Distress needs an Smell Slaying Champion

    Quote Originally Posted by tiffanymlove View Post
    HELP!!! I'm losing an odor battle in my new-old house .

    I recently purchased a 1965 quad level house in Michigan and I love everything about it minus an icky smell that seems to come from the vents. I wouldn't describe the smell as musty but more a mix of stale/old wood with a funky twist. I've been hunting the source of this smell for about a month to no avail and was hoping some of the experts on here might be able to offer new leads!

    The smell exists mainly in the first floor (which has absolutely nothing in it), but I can get a hint of it pretty much anywhere in the house. I can get a whiff of it if I stick my nose down a vent when the air is running (with either air conditioning, furnace or plain old fan use). It doesn't appear to fluctuate with weather although the house has bad and less bad smell days. There is no mold anywhere in the house and the basement and attic are dry. Here's what I've tried so far:

    -Leaving windows open for days on end
    -Changing out the furnace filter
    -Vacuuming out all of the registers/vents (found lots of random stuff including a cache of socks, nothing smelly though...)
    -Ripping out the carpet from the first floor (right now I've just got a subfloor for flooring!)
    -Kilz'ing the first floor x 2
    -Using Room Shocker in the entire house
    -Putting out baking soda everywhere (yeah, pretty bizarre I know but I'm desperate)

    I'm not sure what to try next (perhaps exorcism?) and would be forever in the debt of the individual who could grace me with a solution to this formidable problem.
    I'll throw out some thoughts .

    Based on the information you provided it sounds as though you have a forced air central heating/air conditioning system.
    It's very possible the evap coil ( for the air condintioner ) and the condensate pan located in the supply plenium of the furnace has midew / mold buildup. This is not uncommon and requires an HVAC tech to come out to access and clean the evap coil unit.
    This would explain why the smell is noticeable while air is being circulated throughout the ducting.

    Another consideration --- if there is a fresh air intake duct attached to the furnace this could also contribute to mildew build within the system as well. This fresh air intake -- which typically is usually a 6 inch round duct connected to the air return plenum with the other end connected to a vent to outside --- is used for make up air ( drawing fresh air from outside ) while the furnace is being used for heating during the cold season.

    The issue becomes during the season of hot and humid outdoor conditions -- when you're likely to be using the A/C. Drawing that hot and humid air from outdoors and mixing with the cold air being generated by the A/C could potentionally create mildew within the air handler ( furnace ) and/or the duct work.
    During the times when the A/C is being used it wouldn't hurt to close off this fresh air intake to prevent the possible issue mentioned above --- just remember to open the fresh air intake for the heating season.

    It probably wouldn't hurt to have the duct work in the home professionally cleaned as well.

    This may or may not pertain to your situation --- many years ago there were instances where forced air ducts need to run under concrete slabs --- some installs used round cardboard tubes ( similar to Sono-Tubes used for concrete forms ) . The thought was since metal ducting in contact with the ground and concrete would corrode badly and the cardboard wouldn't corrode. However years later it was discovered the cardboard tubes were found badly deteriorated and having wide open sections to the ground under the slab. This causes issues with foul smells as well.

    Hopefully this helps.
    "" an ounce of perception -- a pound of obscure "
    - Rush

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Damsel in Distress needs an Smell Slaying Champion

    Thank you for both for the suggestions! . And yep, I've got a forced air system.

    First, I checked the attic but no dice - it's hot but not stinky. Next, I ventured into the basement - I pulled off the panel to the evap coil and didn't notice anything furry or funky growing on them and the condensate pan was pretty clean with a bit of rust but no smell. I couldn't locate a fresh air intake but what I did find in my voyage downstairs was a vent on the side of the return air plenum that sucks air directly from the basement. As a little experiment, I duct taped a piece of cardboard over it and will do the first floor sniff test tomorrow. If that gets rid of the smell - would my little fix serve as a permanent solution or is there a less MacGyver way to fix it?

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