Mysterious odor! Can a new roof installation make your house sti

joyjoy45April 5, 2011

My sister has smelled an odor in her house for about three months or so. It began after she had a hail-damaged roof replaced with dimensional shingles.

This odor doesn't necessarily always permeate the whole house (but it sometimes does). You can sometimes smell it more in one room or part of the house than in others. Sometimes you just seem to run into a pocket of it or it just wafts by you. It is present in the garage.

Some have described the odor as chemical, ashy, and/or sweet. It is more pronounced for and offensive to my sister than to others, but others have definitely smelled it.

She has made many phone calls, had various professional people come to her home, and picked the brain of everyone she can think of. Her house is nine or ten years old, and the only things different are the new roof, a heating/cooling unit which was replaced a year or so ago, and a prefinished wood floor which was installed in one room last fall. The heating/cooling unit has been thoroughly inspected with no problems. Pieces of the flooring have been placed in an air tight bag or heated in the microwave to see if they would give off any odor. They didn't.

The roofer came back and made sure that nothing was covered on the roof that shouldn't be. But she later found a piece of a roofing tile and broke it. What she smelled on the "inside" of the roofing tile is what she is smelling in her house.

We have been telling ourselves that you probably couldn't smell your roof inside your house, but I read online today that differing barometric pressures from outside to inside could cause odors to be pulled inside.

Has anybody else had or heard of a similar situation??? Any info at all would be so appreciated. She is at her wit's end!!!

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If the attic is not well sealed from the rest of the house the tar-paper and other underlayment products used in the roof can produce odors that may appear in the house.

It normally smells like tar, and gradually subsides after a summer season bakes the volatiles out of the roofing material.

The first step is to identify the smell.

If is is off-gassing from roof material you need to make sure the attic is correctly vented and sealed from the living space.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:01AM
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Did the old roof allready have sheeting, that is plywood, under the old shingles? If yes, was the old sheeting replaced? Where I'm going with this, some roof sheeting is glued together with a formaldahyde (spelling) based glue.

Next, is there an attic? If yes, is it adequately ventilated? Just guesses.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 2:37PM
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Thank you both for responding! The odor problem is still there and still behaving the same way. Yesterday, for instance, was a good day but the odor was very present late last night. Often it seems to be worse at night than during the day.

To answer your questions, the sheeting and underlayment under the old roof were not replaced. The old shingles were removed and then the new roof was put down.

Another roofer (with years & years of experience) came on Friday and looked at the roof. He also went up in the attic and said that it was very well ventilated. Because of the design of the house roof, he said that it would be very difficult to get into every little area to completely seal the attic off from the rest of the house.

My sister installed a permanent filter in her air return on the recommendation of the roofer. This doesn't seem to have made any difference as of yet...

The roofer said he had been using this kind of roofing (Tamko Heritage 30) for some time and had never had a similar complaint. He was able to get a sample of her roofing shingle off the house & she could smell the familiar odor when the shingle was broken apart. The roofer was having spring allergies and was unable to smell anything.

Somebody (she has talked to so many people) told my sister that the odor will probably go away with time but that it may get worse before it gets better. They said, in fact, that it would probably get worse with the hot weather we are about to have here in the South. The roof was put down during October/November and we had an early winter, so there hasn't been a lot of real heat on the roof yet.

Thanks again. If anybody else has any thoughts, please post.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 11:36PM
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I'm so glad to have stumbled on this blog!

We thought we were going crazy! We had a new roof installed in the winter,
so we didn't have any smells until the hot humid weather of the summer!
When the roof gets super hot - the upstairs bedroom towards the rear of the
house is almost intollerable.

This is the second summer with the new roof! Having forgotten all about the
odour since it disappeared over the winter months. We realized the smell is
back as of yesterday - since it was one very hot day.

Last summer was the first summer with this mysterious smell - of oil or
asphalt! We can quite put our finger on the smell. We had the roofer come
back - who claims he didn't smell a thing. Someone even told us to call the
Fire Department to have the smell identified! So we did. They too were
unable to identify the smell. They didn't seem to think it was coming from
the roof...however, where else would it be coming from!

If these off gases are bad for our health - how are we supposed to sleep in
the same room? The smell needs to be identified.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 12:15PM
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Its simply off gassing. Same as if you were to put in new carpet, etc. It takes time for these chemicals to evaportate. Heat / sun will speed up the process.

The smell is probably strongest in the attic, and there are MANY ways for attic air to get into the house, and many situations can cause negative pressure (outside air being drawn in). So you could be smelling it in a negative pressure situation, too, for example: if the pressure outside drops and your chimney flue isnt totally sealed, some of the outside air (roof air) could be drawn in through the chimney and fill the house that way.

Or lets say you are using the fireplace and haven't cracked a window. The fire will eventually (well mine does any ways) draw air from some source- a cracked window, a leaky vent, in my case, the trap from the bathtub. Talk about stinky.

My bathroom vent is strong enough to pull swamp gas from a leaky toilet ring. Ick.

My attic vent, on a bad day, would suck in air from the outside and it would permeate the house. This is how we found a slight leak in the gas meter several hundred feet from the house.

Regfarding your roof, there are a variety of ways the offgassing smell could, and will, find its way into your house. Its all to do with outside weather conditions- appliances in your house, venting, etc.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 11:22AM
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For everybody who posted and especially for you, Dini, the mysterious odor that made my sister miserable for all of those weeks has largely disappeared! We have had lots of incredibly hot weather already this summer and, apparently, that is what was necessary for the roof chemicals to burn off. Our brother is an engineer & he had assured her that this would happen but she was skeptical because she kept getting conflicting information from others she talked to.

She's just thankful it's gone. I hope your problem is soon resolved & I agree with you that we need to know exactly what is causing the odor, how toxic it is, and why some roofing smells so much worse than others.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 2:34AM
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We've been having the same odor problem in our baby's room upstairs. When it's hot and sunny outside and the door to the baby's room is closed we've noticed there's a really strong odor - sort of like oil burning. The gas company came and ruled out any leaks in the house. My husband believes it's coming from outside, maybe from the roof. The odor is only apparent when it's warm and sunny. Only the baby's room has this odor. On these days our son sleeps in a pack-n-play in our room. We've lived in this house for the past two years. I believe the roof was changed 19 years ago. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 11:08PM
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