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Question DetailsAsked on 5/17/2016

I have a bitter smell in my daughters room. Seems to be coming from the attic. Do you know what it could be?

We moved into our house just over a year ago. We did smell this bitter smell only in one room. I opened the air conditioner ceiling register and she smells it coming from it. We have a boiler that we use for our main heating.

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Bitter, weird sour smell, sauerkraut, sausage smell- those are common descriptions of wood fungus (wet rot, as opposed to "dry rot") growing in a wall or subfloor due to a continuing leak - generally requires that the leak (or tub/shower spillage) be continuous enough to keep the fungus damp to wet. Looks like the fungus/mushrooms/toadstools etc which grow outsideon the ground or on trees.


First, though sounds like you have done this already, look for odors causes by bathtowels consistently being thrown wet in a corner, stinky shoes, clothes touching an outside wall or attic-above ceiling causing mildew/moldon the clothing as household air moisture condenses on the outside wall and causes mold growth on the clothing touching that surface.


Otherwise, a bathroom leak (commonly wax seal on toilet espeically if it wobbles at all when you sit on it) but can be leaking pipes, leaking tub or shower, consistent splashing/dripping,/climbing out of shower/tub totally wet (not hand squeegeed off) causing chronic wetting of subfloor or wood flooring.


Below are a BUNCH of previous similar questions with answers - several have a list of links to similar questions (many of which will be duplicagtes between the different questions) so I suggest keeping a jotted down list of the question numbers you have already looked at (the "q" number toward or at the end of the url for the webpage).


Generally, it takes a fiber optic scope (which takes about 1/2-3/4" holes in the wall or floor to run it in through) or thermal IR scanner to detect the wet area - some plumbers have them (or you can rent), some Home Inspectors, probably most Mold remediation contractors. Attic wetness would normally be checked for directly int he attic, looking for roof underside staining and/or wetness or rot, wet insulation, wet or discolored areas on the top surface of the underlying ceiling. Generally, unless a urine smell (from leaking pipe or more commonly leaking toilet base wax seal), you would find a currently damp/wet surface for that smell.


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In your case, with smell coming from air conditioner ceiling register, if only coming from one room register, wet attic or dead animal up there would be my initial guess - could be the register just discharges into the attic instead of leading to a return duct back to the air handler. So an attic inspection would be the logical first step - Roofer or Handyman could do that - second cheaper but firstmore qualified to repair a roof leak if that is the cause.


Depending on the extent of rot or such, a Mold Remediation contractor might also be needed - or a Gaeneral Contractor if framing needs some replacement due to rot.


Dead Animal, if you cannot remove it, Animal Removal would be the solution. Pest Control if an active insect nest - some varieties of insects like carpenter ants put out a strong acidic or bitter pheromone which can get pretty strong in the house if their nest is in an unventilated location.

Answered 10 months ago by LCD




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