The Mystery of the Stinky House

By
Home Inspector with H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)

Well, it may not actually stink, but sometimes there are odors in our homes that are difficult to track down the source. Let's explore some possible causes:

1. Sink and tub/shower drains all usually have a "p trap" or "s trap" that is there to prevent sewer gas smells from entering the house. However, sometimes there is a drain in our homes that may not get used all that frequently. In this case, sometimes the trap can have all the water evaporate from the drain, and the result will be sewer gas smells entering the house. The simple cure for this is usually to just run some water in those drains that do not get used so the trap gets replenished with water, thus stopping the gas smell.

2. Sometimes, a toilet may be slightly loose from the floor, which will cause the wax ring seal around the drain hole under the toilet to become unsealed, which will also allow those sewer gasses to escape into the house from around the base of the toilet. The solution here is not quite as simple; the toilet must be removed from the floor, and reset with a new wax ring, and then securely tightened to the floor.

3. Bath fans sometimes do not get vented to outside as they are supposed to. Many times they are terminated in an attic space, which can lead to stale air being recycled back into the house living space. All bath fans, (and dryer vents) should be vented directly to an outside location.

4. Sump pumps that are unsealed can sometimes bring stagnant or otherwise smelly air into the house from the piping from around the footer drains. (You never know if there is stagnant water somewhere in the line, or sometimes just the earth around the pipe will have a bad odor that can be transmitted into the house through the lines). If this condition occurs, it is probably best to have a sealabe crock lid installed on the sump pump.

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Rainmaker
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Christopher Ohlsen
Plattsburgh Mortgage Company - Plattsburgh, NY

This is good to know! I used to have an old sink in the basement that absolutely stank. We never really used it so we took it out to avoid the nasty smell which worked... I wonder if just running some water down the old drain would've saved the expense of having the old sink removed...LOL, oh well. Good to know for future reference!Thanks for sharing the info.

Jun 06, 2008 01:15 PM #1
Rainer
3,160
Stu Magid
First Centennial Mortgage - Naperville, IL

My wife has complained for years about the "basement" smell in the basement.  It's a finished partial basement that I've said smells like a basement because it is a basement.  Now I'm going to check the two sump pumps to make sure they're sealed.

Thanks!!!!!

  

Jun 06, 2008 01:23 PM #2
Rainmaker
66,806
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

Glad to share info that helps. Sometimes, simple things can be the solution.

Jun 06, 2008 03:18 PM #3
Anonymous
Anonymous
A E O

We have a sump pump that has begun emitting sulfur odors in the past year, but I am sure it's not because the sump pump lacks water -- it is attached to our laundry tub (basement laundry), so every time I run a load of laundry, the sump pump runs.  And with 3 kids, I do a lot of laundry.  Also, I have read that it could be from the water source itself if you have a well, but we have city water.  So I am really puzzled as to why it now stinks so badly, and I wonder if it's even dangerous.   Our home is built in sandy, well-drained soil and we never have any water from outside entering the house, so the only water that runs through it is laundry water (soap, bleach, fabric softener).

Thanks!

Amy

Sep 07, 2008 12:46 PM #4
Rainmaker
66,806
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

If the sump pump is also tied in to the footer drains, it is possible that some vegetation has begun to decay in the surrounding soil, and may emit some new smells.

Sep 09, 2008 05:20 AM #5
Anonymous
Anonymous
A E Osborn

Well, I just discovered something really interesting that others might want to know as well!  I went to Home Depot to buy some Rid-X and discovered that Whirlpool has a known problem with their High Efficiency washers causing an odor such as the one I described previously!   The odor, come to think of it, did begin about 18 months after we bought our new washer. It has to do with the detergent residue building up in the machine and then it gets transferred through to the sump pump if it's tied in, as ours is.  So, they have made these tablets that you pop into the washer and run through a normal, hot cycle.  I was highly sceptical, but it worked! The tablets come 3 to a package for $7.99 and they recommend that you use them once a month. 

Sep 09, 2008 03:02 PM #6
Anonymous
Anonymous
A E Osborn

As a follow up to my previous post (see 9/07/08), I wanted to pass along something very interesting that I learned from the folks at Home Depot.  We went to buy some Rid-X to try and get rid of the smell coming from the sump pump, but the guy at H.D. told us that it wasn't the sump pump -- it was the washer!  He said Whirlpool has a known problem with their new high efficiency washers creating a sulfur smell because of the residue from the detergent building up.  They make these tablets that you throw into the washer tub, then you run a normal, hot cycle.  I couldn't believe it, but it instantly fixed our problem!  We had purchased a new Duet washer about 2 years ago, and I never made the connection.  Also, we had been using small amounts of regular, not "h.e." detergent for most of that time until we developed a leak and the repairman scolded me for this.  He said that the detergents are completely different, and regular detergents will cause a build up of residue.  He did not seem to notice the sulfur smell, or didn't comment on it, and I didn't think to ask him.  The tablets cost $7.99 for a pack of 3 -- they recommend you use one a month to keep the residue from building up.  Also, bleach doesn't quite clear the machine of residue, as I use bleach often.

Amy

Sep 09, 2008 03:06 PM #7
Anonymous
Anonymous
Heather

I would like to know the name of the tablets that you bought at Home Depot.

Dec 18, 2008 10:11 AM #8
Anonymous
Anonymous
Affresh Tablets

The tablets are called "Affresh" and I've found them at Home Depot, Lowe's,  and Best Buy.  (Probably anywhere that sells Whirlpool appliances since it's a Whirlpool problem... Sears, for example.)  Lowe's is the best price -- $6.99 for a package of 3 tablets.   When I use the tablets, the smell disappears for a while, but it always comes back.  I'm not very happy about that!  Sometimes I can smell it from the top of the stairs leading to the basement.  Also, my dad talked with a technician at Whirlpool's laundry lab who contracted a lung fungus from working with these machines on a daily basis.

Jan 01, 2009 02:27 PM #9
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Howdy and evening Kevin
Kevin,
I sure do hope that you and your family are doing fine and hanging in there.
Also that you'll return one of these here days.

Sep 07, 2011 10:53 PM #10
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Anonymous

Howdy and evening Kevin
Kevin,
I sure do hope that you and your family are doing fine and hanging in there.
Also that you'll return one of these here days.

Sep 07, 2011 10:55 PM #11
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Howdy and evening Kevin
Kevin,
I sure do hope that you and your family are doing fine and hanging in there.
Also that you'll return one of these here days.

Sep 07, 2011 10:56 PM #12
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Howdy and evening Kevin
Kevin,
I sure do hope that you and your family are doing fine and hanging in there.
Also that you'll return one of these here days.

Sep 07, 2011 11:01 PM #13
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Howdy and evening Kevin
Kevin,
I sure do hope that you and your family are doing fine and hanging in there.
Also that you'll return one of these here days.

Sep 07, 2011 11:02 PM #14
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Kevin Corsa

H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector
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