Unidentifiable House Odor

Updated on April 19, 2010
A.C. asks from Sterling Heights, MI
13 answers

I have lived in many houses (military family) and never had stinky house issues until now. We bought our house a year ago and last summer and now this Spring we get an odd odor in only part of the house. It kind of smells like mildew or dirty diapers or an old spice cabinet.

It is at the bottom of the stairs near the front door/closet/laundry room/garage area. It only happens when it is warm and humid. We have a dehumidifier in the basement (the basement does not smell) and we installed new carpeting and pads when we moved in. The area that smells is actually all wood floors. The previous (and only other) owners did not have pets. I keep the garbage outside.

It is an unpleasant odor and I would really like to get rid of it. Does anyone have any ideas as to what the source could be?

Later edit: It's not something dead. I taught at a highschool and smelled dead mice all the time. I think the poster who mentioned the builders urinating in the corner of the house is correct- the smell IS coming from a corner area and it does kind of smell like old urine soaked wood. Oh how gross.

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D.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

If you can find, rent, borrow an ozone machine, that will take care of the smell. Also, when my dog was skunked & then came into the house, I was advised to put plates or small bowls of coffee around the stinky areas and it worked! Is there a small shelf nearby where you can stash a small dish of coffee?

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M.B.

answers from New York on

I hope this is not the case, and I don't even know how you would go about finding out...but maybe something died in your walls? We had mice last winter, we didn't clean out the trap for only couple of days...the smell was NASTY!!!!

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M.H.

answers from Atlanta on

Hi A.,

I'm going to tell you something gross that I was told when I had the same issue.....hardwood floors in the corner of the house....

I don't even want to say it outloud....I was told by a contractor that sometimes workers will urinate in the corner of the framed house (on the ground) because there are no bathrooms built yet. It's usually an outside corner but GROSS! It doesn't alway get to the ground EXACTLY and the smell gets absorbed in the wood. The humidity brings it out

We put charcoal in the crawl space under the floor and I rarely smelled it again.

Regards,

M.

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A.A.

answers from Grand Rapids on

We've had an unpleasant odor in the first house we bought, so we can relate! Ours actually stemmed from the previous owner having dogs that urinated in the house, soaking through the carpet, padding, and into the hardwood floors. Our animals were being drawn to this area (naturally) so we knew we needed to do something pretty quick. We were told to rip out the carpet and padding and paint on some Kilz before replacing new. We did that about 2 years ago and it semmed to work! Good luck - I know how irritating and gross it can be!

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S.O.

answers from San Antonio on

WOW! I have the same thing in one kitchen cabinet. There is a bad smell coming from that one area. Sometimes it is really strong, sometimes not.

I wish I had a good answer. Here's what we are trying: my husband went above the ceiling in the kitchen and looked around at the duct work (thinking some small animal died in there...), I have taken everything out of the cabinet and wiped it all down with ammonia and let it air out. Have looked around everywhere possible without taking the cabinet off the wall, but that is next. We might have to take the cabinet off and see what's there.

You could also try one of the remodeling / restoration type of businesses. Those guys that do home repair after water, mold or fire damage. They probably have smelled it all before and can tell you what it is....hopefully.
We thought of doing that, too, but our smell comes and goes unpredictably.

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T.H.

answers from Portland on

It sounds to me like there is rotting wood or subfloor under the wood floor or in that wall. You should have it checked out before it gives...

Good luck!

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D.P.

answers from Saginaw on

I don't know if this will be helpful for your urine-soaked wood b/c it's been there so long, but my 3-year old son went through a phase where he would wake up in the middle of the night and, in a sleepy daze, urinate in a corner of his floor. There was carpet on his floor but hardwood underneath, and after awhile, my nose detected what was going on. We pulled up the carpet and used peroxide on the wood--it got the stain and smell out. We were amazed. I know there is also a pet urine spray that we use on our carpet when the cats spray--it has natural enzymes that neutralize those in urine--you can find it in the pet aisle. Hopefully, you won't have to replace the hardwood if you're not ready to do that! Good luck.

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K.F.

answers from Salinas on

Hi- Sorry I cannot help but I'm just wondering about the urine thing. Could that really be true? We just built a house and by law the contractor has to get a porta-potty for that very reason. It sat virtually unused for 8 months and I know it wasn't cheap but you can't have a longer term construction site in our county without one. Hearing this I'm glad that's the case!

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L.L.

answers from Hartford on

You are not alone. Our master bedroom has a funny odor. It almost smells like a mixture of cooking and feet, yuk! We have replaced carpets, moved hampers in an other room, washed the new carpet many times, I even checked the attic, noting. Some days It is fine other days I open the window even if it is cold. I will be following this question to see what kind of suggestions you get.

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K.M.

answers from Boston on

Is there a rarely used drain nearby? It may have lost the water in the trap...

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M.P.

answers from Detroit on

so it could be mold. If you don't know it already, that is dangerous to all of your family's health.

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A.H.

answers from Washington DC on

We had a smell in our apartment for years, actually what you discribed fit the smell we had. I did everything I could to get the smell out. Then it got really bad one year in the winter. It seemed to come from my closet and only when the heat was blowing hot air. Then the new building owner replaced a pipe ( I am guessing a sewer line) and the smell was gone. I looked at the pipe they pulled out and it was disgusting. All corroded and a big build up around it on the outside. Seemed like it was leaking for a good while. The smell is gone now thank goodness. Have someone look at your sewer lines and see if that might be the problem.

C.M.

answers from St. Louis on

It is possible that there is rotting wood or subfloor under the wood floor...or like other posters said maybe something died. I would have it looked at - even for just piece of mind (or nose!)

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