The nuisance aroma associated with today’s home environment is complex, confusing, and almost always unhealthy. The issues that drive bad odor are often elusive, surprising, and difficult to address because it’s often the result of several seemingly insignificant causes.
Building materials absorb and re-release odors differently; soil gases come and go; ambient impacts (pets, occupants, lifestyles, etc) are ever-changing where we all just smell things differently. One thing is for sure; if that odor came from the leftovers in your refrigerator you probably wouldn’t eat it. So what makes it ok to breathe it.
We like to break the odor down into a base category: Chemical (paint / new car smell / VOC), Organic (insect / animal / rodent / sewer / essential oils) or Biological (bacteria / yeast / fungus / mildew / virus). This is how we start designing a testing protocol to pinpoint the odorous source.
Where’s That Smell Coming From?
Bad Odor can be hard to pinpoint an exact location. They can become hidden in dead air spaces, bound up in building materials, or saturating softer materials. They often come and go tied to the structures changing ventilation or due to environmental conditions tied to Temperature, Pressure, and Humidity. But the CDC can help with overall Environmental Odors to help narrow possible sources of the odor.
There’s Always a Pattern
The smell may come and go, be intermittent/constant, maybe location-specific, or revolve around outside issues like temperature, pressure & humidity. It might be associated with turning the Air Conditioner on or recent home improvements (new windows, siding, painting, roof). But there is always a pattern that once identified is crucial in designing an appropriate remedy.
What Can I Do Right Now?
If you can’t identify the cause or “Migration Pathway” it is important to bring in a professional to conduct an “assessment”. But there are some steps you can take yourself.
Fresh Air Movement
Open windows, cross ventilation, exhaust fan are good steps. Turning the furnace blower to “on” instead of “auto” will move air.
Work well on particulate based odors like mold, cigarette smoke, dust, pollen & allergens, and chemicals. Use in the furnace and monitor results.
Ozone producing filters can have serious health issues. Best to avoid them if at all possible.
Focus on One Room
If the odor is throughout the home, take the bedroom and make it a “clean room” environment so you can at least get a good night’s sleep.
Remove Items That Can Hold Odors
Papers, stuffed animals, stored clothes, etc. These items can hold allergens and bad odors like a sponge.
Try Sprays For Musty Odor Removal
There are chemicals that can neutralize odors but use sparingly on test areas as may create additional problems.
Getting Help – Identification & Correction
There are environmental professionals that specialize in odor identification. But they are hard to find. Typically these “Building Biologists” are familiar with both chemical, biological, organic, and particulate air contaminates. They generally have an understanding of building design, construction/trade practices, HVAC systems, hydrology, and a solid understanding of the surrounding natural environment (.
Finding someone for musty odor removal can be even tougher. Firms that do both are often the best bet as every odor problem is unique requiring expertise across the board. Like a good mechanic who diagnoses why your “check engine light” won’t go off. He’s often the best guy to then fix it. It all boils down to trust so don’t feel pressured.
What Does It Smell Like?
Some common odor descriptions as received from our Clients:
- Body Odor
- Dead Animal
- Damp Dirt
- Dirty Dog
- Fried Shit
- Natural gas (mercaptans)
- Old Carpet
- Offensive Smell
- Rotten Egg
- Rotten Flesh
- Rotting Wood
- Sewer Gas
- Stale Air
- Stinky Trash
- Sweaty Socks
- Sweet Nail Polish
- Wet Cardboard
- Wet Dog
Typical Causes of Bad Odor
- Bacteria / Mold / Yeast
- Chinese Drywall
- Gas Leaks & Pesticides
- Improper Heating Equip.
- Hidden Leaks
- Open Sewer Vents
- Spilled Chemicals
- Odorous Building Materials
- Moisture & Elevated Humidity
- Soil Gases
- Blocked Chimneys
- Dead Air Spaces
- Pet Odor
- Critter / Rodent Infiltration
- Crawl Spaces
- Interior Sump Pumps
- Breakdown of Materials
- Cleaning Chemicals
- Contaminated Groundwater
- Bad Soils
- Wetland Soils (Sulphur-Like)
Environmental Odor Health Symptoms
Symptoms vary depending on your sensitivity, type of substance, concentration, exposure (frequency & duration), age, and overall health. NYSDOH has great advice.
- Chest Tightness
- Heart Palpitations
- Irritation (eye,nose,throat)
- Mental Depression
- Nasal Congestion
- Sore Throat
- Shortness of Breath
How Do You Know I Will Do a Good?
With Odors, it’s really hard to determine which contractor is best. But if our on-line Google 5-Star testimonials are any indication of how we operate, you will be excited to read how we have helped dozens of folks with similar issues. Be wary of firms who can’t back up the quality of their work without at least a few referrals.
Turn-Around Time (TAT) & Pricing (Typical)
We typically require 10-15 business days (not including weekends and holidays) to complete a Limited odor Investigation (LOI) which ranges from $895 – $1,295 and usually includes 4 samples for odor identification. More complex Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) type odors may require specialized sampling. But standard air sampling methods aren’t designed to measure the wide variety of odorous compounds we come in contact with. So expect us to be relying on our best piece of equipment – our nose. The clock starts typically One (1) business day after the property has been investigated. Add a $295 fee to rush the service (5-10 days) where additional samples if needed are billed separately.