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Plaster Smells, fear of moisture problem


cyriousn
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I have a bedroom in my house that smells almost like Body Odor. The walls and ceiling of the room are of plaster just like most of the upstairs. The house is from the late 20's early 30's and I cannot figure out if I should open up the wall to see if there is a mold/moisture problem going on. I just fixed a leak in the roof right above this bedroom and I'm reluctant to open up any part of the walls/ceiling to see what's on the other side. Any advice for this newbie?

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I have a bedroom in my house that smells almost like Body Odor. The walls and ceiling of the room are of plaster just like most of the upstairs. The house is from the late 20's early 30's and I cannot figure out if I should open up the wall to see if there is a mold/moisture problem going on. I just fixed a leak in the roof right above this bedroom and I'm reluctant to open up any part of the walls/ceiling to see what's on the other side. Any advice for this newbie?

My teenage son's room has that odor as well! [:D]

Seriously, if the room/walls have a sour or off odor chances are very good that you have moisture in the walls or somthing has died in the walls. You said you repaired a leak, so I would be going with moisture in the walls.

Have you painted the walls recently? Paint can sour and it will really stink up a room or the entire house.

Really about all you can do is to open the wall up and take a look.

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Yeah the room smelled like that when I moved in but when the guy reparied the roof last week he said that sheathing was pretty well rotten so who knows how long it had been a problem... I'm going to flip the breaker to the outlets in that room and take a cover off to see if it gets worse. I've got my hands on a moisture meter and I'm going to see what it reads at as well. If all fails I might just use a circular hole cutter with my power drill and open up a peice large enough to look in but small enough for a not so complicated patch job. Thanks for the advice!

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Another thing I forgot to mention, you can smell the odor from the hallway and as you walk in but when you have been in the room for a minute or two you don't notice the smell anymore, its kind of weird how it works.

I took off the outlet cover closest to where the leak was in the roof and the smell did not get any worse. I just tested out the double prong moisture meter and it was within 6-7 percent result on the probe result. Instructions said that it isnt too bad unless its up in the 30 percent range...hmmm It makes me wonder if I gave that room a fresh coat of paint would it make the problem go away.....? Any thoughts about putting a new finish or removing existing finishes?

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Did you get up in the attic and look at the ceiling over this area?

Like most smells our sense of smell cancels it out after awhile of being exposed to it. It's still there but your nose doesn't notice it as much after a few minutes.

Might just be a dead animal that you either need to find and remove or wait for it to dry out.

-

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Due to the stack effect, smells from the attic won't get pulled in to the bedroom unless something really big and drastic is sucking the air down in to the room. I wouldn't spend a lot of time up there unless you're looking for water damage from the roof leak.

I'm thinking soiled floors; urine or dander soaked in to the flooring and/or baseboards?

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  • 2 months later...

It's been a while since I've responded to this but it took me a while to get the IR camera from work! The only thing I noticed with the camera was the cold chimney behind one of the walls.

It's been a while since the roof has been fixed and some days it doesn't smell so bad and other days when the humidity level is higher the smell gets worse. This makes me think even more that its a moisture problem in the wall.

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  • 2 months later...

I have a neighbor who asked me to come over to smell their master bedroom closet. The closet smelled damp, musty and akin to body odor. This is a second floor room in a 57 year old house with no roof leaks. I went into the basement in the same location as the closet. It is a room where they have a sump pump. The room in the basement was finished with rock lath and plaster and was soaked at the base from water intrusion. The walls were moldy and wet and reeked. I told them to gut the room. After they gutted, let dry and re sheetrocked the basement area the smell in the second floor closet went away.

What's under the room? A chimney flashing can leak into a basment or rooms other than those directly under the roof.

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It doesn't have to be the flashing at the chimney but the chimney itself.

Get a good inspector to check the roof and flashing but also the chimney brick, mortar joints and condition of the crown. You also need to look at the chimney liner which may be falling apart. All these things can let water into your wall.

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I went into the attic and there are signs of water in the area of the chimney on some boards that were installed on the underside of the rafters. It's some particle board that I don't really understand what they are there for (venting maybee? but the board goes all the way up to the peak so it's not like it would be able to vent to the top...) Maybee they didnt like the look fo the rafters when storing stuff in the attic? Either way I have a masonry guy and roofing guy that will be taking a look at both the chimney items Mike listed below and the roofing where it meets the existing flashing.

The room underneath is the living room and the smell is not in that area, the fire place is in there and I've seen no signs of water damage so hopefully the water intrusion isnt bad enough where it makes it past the second floor and into the first floor. My plan is to fix this at the source of the problem and then hope for the best with the walls drying out and the smell going away. I'm a little irritated that our home inspector did not catch something like this, and when we asked the previous owners about the smell in the room they "didn't know what it was" even though it looks like someone did a half-*** job trying to add to the flashing with some tar substance. This is my first home so I guess all I can do is consider it a learning experience.

If after I get the chimney/roof area fixed and the smell still persists I will open up the wall in the area of the chimney, but hopefully I do not have to get to that point.

I'll post back when I make some more progress. Thanks to all for the help and feedback on this.

Allseason, interesting to know that the moisture would creep up the walls like that, was it balloon framing?

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Nobody has asked,

Were the former owners very elderly; or did they have a very elderly relative living in that one room perhaps? I have a friend who is about 86 years old. He keeps a tidy house and is always clean shaven and neat but when I visit him I have to force myself to ignore the odor in the house, which unfortunately follows him around. It's a sort of cross between sweat and urine smell. Don't know what it is or why it is; but I hope to hell I won't smell like that when I'm that age.

I've inspected a lot of homes that have that same old person odor and it seems to permeate the structures. Some homes had retained the odor long after the owners had gone to live in a nursing home. One former client who'd bought one of these houses from an estate told me the odor wouldn't dissipate until he'd replaced all of the carpeting and had repainted every wall and surface.

Sorry if this post offends anyone's sensibilities but it had to be said.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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There are recent studies that show old people smell better than young people: Old people have a reputation for producing a distinct stink that follows them around like, well, a bad odor. Now, chemosensory experts have found that people can indeed pick out the aged aroma ? and it's actually more pleasant and less intense than body odors from twentysomethings and middle-aged folk.

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/31 ... l-20120531

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Yeah,

I saw that "study" but I don't believe it. I've been in a lot of homes owned by young folks and there is no one distinct odor that identifies the home as a geezer home. Today's house was built in 1980 and the folks selling have been there since it was new. I didn't know that when I arrived. The home is no longer furnished and there was really nothing in the home that said, "Hey, I'm a geezer house," but as soon as I walked in the door my noze screamed "Geezer odor!" It was overpowering. couldn't get the stench out of my nostrils for hours afterward.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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  • 7 months later...

haha this thread turned pretty funny but the people who owned the house before us were not very old. I did have a masonry/chimney guy take a look at the roof and he is going to seal up some cracks, fix the flashing, put a new liner in it, and put a cap on the top of it as well. Unfortunatly I have to wait until the winter is over so that the masonry work will form correctly with warm enough temps. We got some rain one day and I could see the water dripping into my fire place and I also saw some water in my basement coming out from the base of the chimney where my furnace connects in. Hopefully the cap can prevent that from happening but the flashing at the top certainly needs to be fixed as well. for as old as this thread is you wouldve thought i got this fixed by now....such is life!

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