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Musty smell


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I was asked to check out a condo that had a musty odor. Approx a year ago the condo owner had to have repairs performed due to a leak from the bathroom water line. The new owner is complaining of the smell and it is quite noticeable. She even pointed out some of her interior plants that had visible mold growth on top of the soil. I ran the moisture meter around the area that was repaired it was dry. I then tested the wall area on the interior of the bathroom and had a 25%+ reading in an area where no water lines are installed. The condo owner had a contractor come out and open the wall up and it was dry, no stains what so ever. I am using a Tramex Moisture Encounter Plus. The "smell" was really noticeable around the bathroom area. No leaks, floor was in good shape, fan working and being used.

Anyone have any other ideas on what might be causing this? And why would my moisture meter have read so high if there was no moisture present?

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Because your moisture meter doesn't measure moisture.

Just as non-contact voltage detector doesn't detect voltage and an infrared camera doesn't see heat.

Let me guess...The infrared camera detects temperatures, the non-contact voltage detector actually detects 60 cycle magnetic fluctuations and the moisture meter (the high frequency type) detects impedance.

How did I do Jim?

Marc

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Because your moisture meter doesn't measure moisture.

Just as non-contact voltage detector doesn't detect voltage and an infrared camera doesn't see heat.

Let me guess...The infrared camera detects temperatures, the non-contact voltage detector actually detects 60 cycle magnetic fluctuations and the moisture meter (the high frequency type) detects impedance.

How did I do Jim?

Marc

Beats me. I thought they all worked by magic.

As far as I can tell, an IR camera sees radiation in the infrared spectrum just as a conventional camera sees radiation in the visible spectrum. Hot surfaces radiate energy in that spectrum, so the camera can infer heat.

The volt stick is actually sensing the potential that's present in the capacitively coupled circuit formed by your body and the wire you're testing. Lots of things can cause this potential to develop. One, of course, is if the wire is energized at 120 volts. But it can also see the "shadow" of voltage in nearby wires. That's what happens when you test an old antenna wire in an attic. Also, your body might be slightly energized and the wire completely dead -- the volt stick will still beep because it doesn't know the difference. Of course, any kind of shielding will prevent the capacitive coupling and the stick will indicate nothing -- a false negative.

As for the pinless moisture meter, I honestly have no idea how it works. I just know that all sorts of things other than water will set it off -- including dried urine.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I then tested the wall area on the interior of the bathroom and had a 25%+ reading in an area where no water lines are installed. The condo owner had a contractor come out and open the wall up and it was dry, no stains what so ever. I am using a Tramex Moisture Encounter Plus..

That's why I use several different moisture meters. In that situation, I would have started with the Tramex ME+, but with 25% indicated, I would expect to get an elevated condition with both pin and pinless modes of the less sensitive Surveymaster, and If I don't , then it's more than likely not moisture.

Just about everytime I find a bonafide moisture issue, I scan the area with both my Tramex and SM (both pin & pinless modes) and the IR cam so I can learn the subtle signs to discern the difference between bonafide moisture and other anomalies.

The "smell" was really noticeable around the bathroom area. No leaks, floor was in good shape, fan working and being used.

That musty smell is probably soured particle board. It's either the floor underlayment or one of the cabinets. I haven't yet found that same smell with drywall. Moldy damp drywall has a different smell.

Chris, Oregon

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