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Question DetailsAsked on 2/15/2017

Sausage Factory Smell Going Strong, Smoke Test Negative for Sewer Gas. Help!

I asked a question about this strange, sweet and earthy sausage smell a couple years ago. We recently had a company out here perform a smoke test and it was negative. The guy performing the test confirmed that it did indeed smell like a summer sausage and not sewer gas. He told us to check our boiler... which we will. My question is that the smells are inside a certain row of closets.... wouldn't it smell in all the rooms? We have zoned heating; the rooms in question where the closets are, have the doors shut and the temp is set at around 56 degrees. When we are in these rooms, we just get the fireplaces cranking and turn on the blower. My point is, there isn't a lot of traffic in these areas when not in use, so one would expect that when you open the door it would blast you away with jimmy dean sausage...right!? It appears to be most pungent in the closet space. And if this was a fungus farm; wouldn't it smell constantly? Why only in the morning or most recently, in the late evening?!

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3 Answers



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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services


Well - if has been 2 years and still smells, guess that rules out dead animal in the walls or floor unless that wall is commonly quite cool - which with the rooms being kept at 56 degrees I guess might be a possibility if a larger animal in attic/wall/floor. I don't remember if you said you sniffed around in attic, basement, crawlspace to see if the smell is strong there - it might be coming up into the closets (if over such a space) because there might be gaps in the subflooring (commonly done with scraps or even planks with gaps) and it is coming right up through the closet floor or carpet - especially if they did not put padding under that carpet, so it might let the smell in far easier.

Fungus farm - my prime suspect - will commonly smell strongly only when heated up, or when airflow is passing through the wall or floor it is in, into the room - so perhaps the times of day it is doing that it is getting heated up for the first time that day by heater ducts nearby, or by furnace kicking on (maybe running or a longer time as it heats up from lower overnight setback temperature ?) pulling air through the area where the smell appears to be originating.

Since was in morning but now late evening - could be airflow is in different direction due to outside air temp or air pressure (affecting which way air flows to/from furnace, especially if house is "tight" so it is having to get makeup air from perhaps far away from the furnace. Or perhaps the general wind direction varies seasonally in your area, so smell blows into house during one (even very gentle) airflow direction, outward when wind is from another direction - and this could just be very minor airflow from downsloping/upsloping during the evening/morning as the ground cools and heats.

Or has furnace/boiler settings/thermostat been changed, causing change in time of day that area is getting heated. Especially with hydronic/steam systems, if in an area where the zone usually is not used, if there is a drip point it might only stink when the zone turns on, heating the decaying area. may be it previously did that only at coldest time of day (early to mid morning) but if it has been colder outdoors might now be kicking that one on (to maintain 56 degrees) in the evening now.

You could turn that zone thermostat up as a test, to see if that causes the smell to intensify over a period of an hour or two.

One other thing on hydronic (including in-floor heating loops if you have that) and to a lesser extent steam systems, is if they are not drained every few years or so, they go anaerobic and can get quite stinky - I have come across some very interesting smells draining systems where the water hasnot been changed in decades in some cases - from old soft plastic toy smell to skunk to rotting garbage to acrid metallic to swamp mud to septic, depending on water composition, minerals and algae and bacteria gorwing in the pipes, and type of piping.

Another possibility - if there are attic entrances in the closet(s), could be when the attic heats up in the sun and airflow starts moving up there, it is pulling air in through the attic access hatch from the closet - with the airflow into the closet (especially if doors are relatively airtight) coming from the subfloor or base of walls or such.

Could also be buildup of smell from some clothing item or such - plastic smell.

I would take out all the contents of the closets, smell each item to see if coming from one item (though all may smell like that to a certain extent) and get those items away from the closet rooms for a couple of days, and open the rooms up and air out the closets for a day or so. Then see if the closets still smell strongly after the rooms are closed back up - and sniff all around the closet and especially at floor and the base of the walls to see if the smell is strongest there.

If closets smell strongly, I would then check flooring for wetness - even pulling it up if fairly easy to do like carpet. And look all around for mold on the walls or ceiling that might indicate a water leak in the walls.

If that does not identify it, I would start using a fiber optic scope/camera (takes about 1/2" holes to view inside walls/floors, though pretty useless in insulated outside walls) or possibly a thermal infrared camera to view walls and floor (from both faces if possible) for possible warm spots indicating fungal growth. (Both devices can be rented at tool rental places and most Home Depot stores.) Many modern cell phones and tablet and laptop cameras (especially iPhones and iPads which come with capabilitiy installed)) can be returned with an App or the built-in camera settings to register stronger in the near-infrared zone, giving a false-color image of the heat in a wall or floor (especially in outear walls when cold outside) - can sometimes pick this sort of thing up,sometimes you need true infrared camera.

Sticking a basting syringe into the holes as far as possible and pulling in a full load of air and then squirting it under your nose to see if a certain area smells stronger than another works too sometimes, unless the smell is so overpowering it overwhelms you (comparing stud bays or walls and floor against each other).

You could also try spraying something strong smelling (perfume say, or lysol) in crawlspace or basement or attic and see if the odor first shows up in those closets - though presumably if coming from those areas would smell strongest there too.

On the sewer gas test - his test and opinion on the smell would lead me to agree that sewer gas is not likely - but that did NOT rule out sewage leaking from a cracked pipe or leaking joint causing a stinky fungal farm - it LOVES that condition, with a slow drip of sewage to keep things moist and fed, and normally the most viable and odiferous fungus farms I have found have been under tubs/showers and at sewer pipe leaks where it is warm, damp, and not as cold as at leaks in crawlspaces and such. Hot water pipe leaks are also prime places - again, under vanities/cupboards or under tubs/showers most common places in my experience, but can be anywhere the fungus can stay at about 50-60 degrees or so or warmer - above about 65 is where they really flourish.

I would check out (with pipe finder, infrared camera, or fiber optic camera) if there are pipes running through that area - as the first guess as to the cause.

Also - check attic overhead - could be rotting in the attic from a minor but persistent roof leak.

You could also buy or rent (or have contractor with one) use a smoke pencil in those rooms to trace WHERE the airflow is from/to - might help track it

Also - you said zoned heating. If furnace, smell at the incoming furnace vents - that should tell you pretty quick if coming from there, or from smelly intake air to the furnace. If hydronic (hot water) or steam heating, then one of those pipes leaking could do it too.

Couple of other remote possibilities but I have run into them a couple of times -

1) furnace air intake (through outside wall, usually only with high-efficiency units) is too close to an exhaust of some type (water heater, furnace, etc) so it is bringing in combustion gases to the furnace, then circulating them through the ducts. Smell would pop up from the ducts (but could stagnate in the closets) - and usually only in the first 30 seconds or so during initial fire-up before the units starts burning cleanly. Could be described as stinky meat or sausage smell at times - though would usually have a residual gas odorant smell, which if natural gas fired would normally be the classic mercaptin smell. But some LNG and propane products use different odorants which have a "meatier" smell.

2) air conditioner evaporator coil (in the furnace ducting) with "stinky sock syndrome" - but that smell also would be from the ducts

3) leaking septic tank gas getting into the house - but more definitely sewer or slimy boggy swamp smell

4) wet coal piles in basement, in coal-fired houses - including in coal bins that have not been used for ages but are now getting wet. Might be called a suasage type smell, but rarely - more of a wet mineral or wet dirt smell.

5) ditto to water wetting and causing stink in ash pit under the fireplace - commonly (especially in older houses with true brick chimneys) there is an ash pit at the base of the fireplace - in the basement or outside, accessible through a metal door to remove the ash buildup - the ashes are dumped down a metal hatch in the base of the fireplace. Can develop a number of smells if it gets wet - and ditto if animals get in and take up residence.

6) you mentioned those rooms have the doors shut and kept at about 56, and apparently do not heat those rooms except with the fireplace - could be your dampers are not kept closed when fireplace is not in use, or are not tight-fitting, so you are getting wet creosote smell (which can smell like sweetish earthy dampish trashy smell) coming into the room and concentrating in the closets because that is where the airflow is towards - due to attic hatch or incomplete closet drywall seams or airflow through the floor or whatever, per discussion further up in this response.

7) ditto to 5) except dead animal in fireplace chimney - with the smell occurrence depending on airflow from furnace in house (perhaps pulling air from the chimney), etc.

8) accumulation of debris, wet leaves, logpile, etc outside or against the house causing odor and/or maybe rotting wall

9) foam rubber or oganic fiber or other carpet/padding going bad. You probsbly know how old foam rubber starts stinking when it gets old and starts crumbling - sniff at carpet and pad after pulling a corner up so you are smelling it, not it and anything from the floor or base of wall.

10) this sort of smell is commonly attributed to insect nests - termites, post beetles, carpenter ants, bees, etc - which when large put out that sort of odor at times

11) meat-eating animal nest, with a larder that is running to the ripe side

Professionally - some Home Inspectors and Insulation contractors and many Energy Efficiency Auditors have smoke pencils (not expensive - only about $10-30 to buy) and thermal infrared cameras to check for wetness/fungal growth heat in walls/ceilings/floors. Otherwise, to track such an odor - other category would be Biohazard Remediation/Indoor Environmental Health companies.

For animal infestation Pest Control would be the normal one - find a company who checks for insects and vermin/rodents as well - many pest control companies will handleany type of critter infestation other than removal of live animals, which falls under the Animal Removal category.

Good Luck - and please post here what it turns out to be (if you are not haunted by this mystery odor for life).

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


This sounds like the same thing we're experiencing in our master bathroom. We renovated the house prior to moving in including all 3 bathrooms, but for some reason just our master bath produces this odd/food-y smell late at night and in the mornings, but like you've noted inconsistently. It's maddening!

I read the comment about a possible fungus farm, but I can't imagine that's the issue since all of the walls and floors were opened during the renovation and the smell started right when we moved in (going on 2 years this summer).

Have you found the culprit? We're getting access to our attic space next week which I'm hoping will help shed some light--perhaps a vent pipe not working properly (fingers crossed!).

Any updates/suggestions you have are welcome.


Answered 2 years ago by greenannie531

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