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Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

Posted by biodole (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 12, 14 at 12:57

Hello everyone -

I purchased a new home (south florida) a few months ago that was built in 2003, with a 1,200 sq ft addition built in 2004. The house is stucco over concrete block with a tile roof. The interior is drywall with a thin layer of vapor barrier between the drywall and concrete block.

About 3 months ago, I had my house pressure washed. After the pressure washing, I noticed that two rooms of the ADDITION developed a musty smell. I ended up opening some drywall in the "office" room, and discovered that the concrete block behind the vapor barrier was wet. I opened two 20x20 sections in the wall and used a large air mover for about a week to get the walls dried out. The smell in that room has subsided, although the smell of wet concrete still lingers if you smell inside the holes of the drywall.

The other room, call it the game-room, still maintains a persistent foresty-musty-damp/earthy odor. I've cut a 20x20 hole in the wall above a window, but there is no smell in the wall and no signs of dampness. I have an industrial air mover going along with the ceiling fan. The A/C system is brand new, and humidity in the room never goes above 57%, but tends to stay around 54%. The smell sometimes gets much stronger, and other times it goes away completely. I've had the smell when it's wet or dry outside, as well as when it's cold or hot. It seems temperatures don't really matter to it.

Some background on the addition.

There was a mold problem in one of the OTHER rooms (that has no smell). We remediated correctly, 2 ft of drywall, negative air, air scrubbers, hepa vacs, concrobium, etc. Mold air tests showed extremely low mold counts, lower than the "low" spectrum of new homes, with a ZERO reading of toxic molds. The two rooms with the odor were not infected with mold at any time.

Doors/windows of this addition had never been properly sealed. Water had entered through the window frames on several occasions before we took ownership. All windows have been sealed since.

The attic is fine, with no unusual odors or signs of moisture intrusion.

The floor is a concrete slab with tile on top of it (original construction).

The drywall is american made, and the room has been freshly painted with 2 coats of Behr and 1 coat of Killz primer.

I've had several different opinions from several different GC's ranging from trenching and sealing the concrete walls to the foundation, demo'ing the tile floor + sealing the slab + re-tiling, or even demo'ing all of the drywall and investigating the concrete block.

I'm at my wits end - as I've been trying to find out the source of this smell for almost 3 months. I find it strange that the smell would start immediately after pressure washing, but by the same token it's been 3 months and it should have dried out by now (assuming water got in through a stucco crack or something).

If anyone has some suggestions on what I could do to get rid of this "basement" smell from this room, I would greatly appreciate it.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

First thing you need to do is get the humidity in the 35% range your house is much too humid. Surprised your walls are covered with mold.


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

I've lived in South Florida my whole life, and I've NEVER seen a home with below 45% humidity levels. When it's rainy and hot outside, levels in the 55-65% range are VERY common.

35% is unheard of without a dedicated dehumidifier in South Florida.

Also, these humidity levels are consistent throughout the whole home, and no other rooms have this odor.

Anyone?


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

35% humidity would give me nose bleeds from being so dry millworkman.

From what your query states the smells started when you powerwashed. (A very good post may I add, you hit the who, what, when and why very well, something most don't take the time or have the writing skills to do).
The power washing and the smells timeline makes it more than a coincidence. They penetrated the stuco, probably at the soffit connection or more than 1 window or door opening. Keep doing what you are doing to dry out the home. That's about all you can do without tearing out copious amounts of drywall and vapor barrier. Proper power washing is more than pointing a wand and having at it. It can cause much damage if that operator doesn't know what they are doing. A friend had to pull all of his vinyl siding off and try and dry it after he soaked the sheathing below by spraying upwards. It's better to live with a bit of dirt on the exterior of a home.

Wish you luck


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

Southern,

Thank you for the reply. I'm guessing that water from the pressure washing penetrated the stucco and has been fermenting between the block. I'm considering opening up a large panel of drywall in the other room and running a large air mover.

I'm working on sealing the stucco this weekend, as well as the wall and foundation in the event that there are small fissures leaking water into the slab (highly doubtful - as there is no wetness on the floor itself).

Thanks again. I'll keep trying to isolate the problem.


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

Could there be a roof leak or plumbing issue getting into the wall?


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

I thought there might be a roof issue - however I don't see any moisture spots on the ceiling or drywall. Just this awful smell.

I tested a few things today - first of all, I closed the door to the closet which has the bad smell. I ran a fan inside the closet, but with the door closed. Within 24 hours, the smell in that room was 20x worse than it was before. I opened the door, and placed the fan pushing air OUT of the room, and the smell immediately improved.

I have a new TRANE A/C unit in that side of the house. It's a 13 SEER 3-ton unit to cool approximately 1,000 sq ft. I have the fan speed set lower to pull more humidity out of the rooms. My humidity levels are averaging about 50% at any given time.

The crawl space does not allow me to get over top of the room that's having the majority of the problems, as the roof pitches down on an angle.

Any other advice?


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

It's hard to say without getting into the attic.

Since you have a crawl space there may be water standing under house. This will cause molding and rot of the sub-floor, something I have had to deal with.

You could look under the house and check the roof soft spots and broken shingles.


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

I already have a trench dug out in the front of the house right now, as I have sealed the lower portion of the foundation (subgrade) and am in the process of installing a french drain (6 mil plastic + corrugated pipe + rocks + drain pipe).

Before I do the french drain, I'll dig a larger section to get underneath the foundation of the house and check if there's standing water accumulating.

If I do see standing water underneath the foundation, and the source is not related to a pipe (plumbing/sprinkler/etc), what would I do? Hire a company to suck out the water and pack it with sand?

Also, how deep do you think I should go under the foundation to locate standing water? Is there any particular meter, device, or test I should use to determine the moisture content of the soil and decide if that has anything to do with the issues?


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

First, let me say my house has a crawl space. The problem I am currently dealing with was all the rain we had last year. The ground had soaked up to the point becoing oversaturated and the water was rising from the ground under the house. At one time there was about 6 inches of water that would rise like a tide everytime it rained.

I put several high cfm vent fans around the crawl space and let them run 24/7 for about 2 months. This dried out the standing water to being just mostly damp dirt. I then got some BoraCare with mold treatment and sprayed the entire subfloor, brickwork and ground to nutralize the mold. Then ran the fans one more week to dry out out the dirt. Then I laid plastic sheeting over the dirt. Afterwards, I sprayed the subfloor with a foam insulation that comes as a A/B mixture called a close cell froth pack. I applied this at 1 inch thickness and completely covered everything. Unfortunately I didn't have enough money at the time to get the second froth pack since I ran out of the first one before completly finishing. This spring once the weather gets above 70*F I'll finish that project.

The idea behind using the close cell foam is that it totally encapsulates the bottom of the house from the outside/underside. It won't matter how much water/moisture,etc is under then.

If you are on a foundation you may only need to seal it.


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

Biodole, I also live in Florida and have the exact same problem as you. Mine affects multiple rooms, but one of them is unbearable.
A few years ago the drywall and insulation was replaced along with the carpet. It seemed to be good for while but the problem is back.... I removed the drywall again, this time I am coring a few holes in the block wall from the interior to see what is going on.... I would like to get in touch with you to compare notes. This problem has stumped many professionals... It's driving me nuts...


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

Biodole, I also live in Florida and have the exact same problem as you. Mine affects multiple rooms, but one of them is unbearable.
A few years ago the drywall and insulation was replaced along with the carpet. It seemed to be good for while but the problem is back.... I removed the drywall again, this time I am coring a few holes in the block wall from the interior to see what is going on.... I would like to get in touch with you to compare notes. This problem has stumped many professionals... It's driving me nuts...


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RE: Musty Smell in ONE room of new home (after pressure washing)

Since I last posted, I've narrowed a few things down. One of the rooms that was affected (there were 2 rooms total), has been fixed.

The french drain I installed around the perimeter of the front of the house, where water was creeping under the foundation, seems to have fixed the issue in the larger room. There is now no more musty smell in there.

However, the other room, which is a "closet" that backs up directly to a bathroom, still has the odor, which has actually gotten worse.

The smell is definitely partially sweet, and partially musty. I've cut the drywall all the way around the room to see if there is any signs of water damage, dead animals, etc inside of the walls. Interestingly enough, the inside of the walls that butt up to other rooms, smell fine. The walls that have concrete on the other side, have the odor present (perimeter walls).

The only two things I haven't addressed yet are the roof (I'd have to cut the ceiling open because there is no attic access at this point for how low the roof pitches). The other thing would be the foundation (slab). I have fairly expensive laminate flooring and underlayment in that room, which would have to be removed, and the floor would have to be inspected for dampness. However, given the circumstances, it's been narrowed down quite a bit.

The room has 4 walls (2 butt up to exterior concrete and 2 others butt up to interior rooms), a standard hollow core wood door, a West-facing window, and a drywall knockdown ceiling. There is only two piece of furniture in the room, which are bookcases. One is MDF (still wrapped in plastic to hold it together before I bolt it in), and the other is pine wood, also wrapped in thin plastic to protect it.

I've just put two large shop fans, a big air purifier, an ionizer, and ozone generator all in the room with a big bucket of damprid (although humidity levels in that room are only 49% in south florida, which is fairly average). I've also sprayed half a can of lysol air spray into the room.

I'll let you guys know how that works out, and hopefully we can figure it out.

and ESMAN - let me know your notes as well.

Thanks.


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