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Question DetailsAsked on 6/17/2015

My house smells like wet dirt. How can I fix this?

It is on an internal wall. It blows "outside" air all the time - and it smells like wet dirt! It also heats up the kitchen because it is like having a window open! We don't even know how to begin to address the problem. There is no crawl space there that we are aware of. Directly behind it is a closet with a wet bar in it. Concrete foundation. We are at a loss because it is not near an outside wall, and we don't know how to much the vent stop pulling air from the outside. It is constant. House was built in 1986.

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Sounds like time to tear into the wall a bit. My guess is there is a connection to the attic or outdoors through the wall, and you have water in it - from outside through crawlspace or foundation or such (hopefully), or roof leak - and that the wet dirt smell is either exactly that coming through the wall cavities, or extreme fungal rot in the wall framing that is turning the wood to compost - literally - generally in the lower part of the wall but can occur anywhere in the wall in insulated walls. Could be from a leaking wet bar pipe, for instance, or a roof leak running down inside the wall. Could also be from muddy water running in from outside the house on top of the slab, or through the slab joints/cracks, and accumulating at a wall.
The draft could also be coming from a vent pipe through the roof that was plumbed for the wet bar but the person installing it did not connect the plumbing up to the vent stack, so your house (which commonly has negative pressure in the bottom floor) is drawing air through that open vent pipe. If that is the case, if you are in a rainy area you might have gotten enough water in the open vent pipe to start rot in the wall. I would start with a small opening in the wall low down (so you can use a flashlight and mirror to see the bottom plate inside the wall and also up to the wet bar piping in the wall), either under the wet bar or in the backing room, whichever is easier to repair - or if under wet bar, maybe jsut to put a store-bought cover plate over when done searching for the cause. For professional - you could start with a Handyman to open it up and look for obvious causes, or for a less destructive start, an insulation contractor or energy auditor with thermal infrared camera to look for indications of wetness or tempearature differences in the wall that might indicate the cause - can narrow the search area down and might be able to find the opening causing the airflow and stop that off, but it is quite likely that dsome opening of the wall will ultimately be necessary anyway.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD




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