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Question DetailsAsked on 11/15/2017

We renovated the basement and now there is a smell in the basement and thru out the house.What could be the cause?

Basement renovated after water heater broke. Professional company treated the basement for the water damage. New drywall and cabinets install. The floor was changed to tile. I don't know when the smell started because I was overseas for a year. My husband and son did not notice the smell. We had the air tested, hired a company to asses for water leakage, cleaned out the air vents, serviced the fireplace, heater, and had gas checked. Don't know what else to do. All the test are negative. But the smell is there. Its a combination of a refrigerator and misty smell.

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1 Answer


You are in luck (good or bad, depending on how ready you are to read through a bunch of previous similar questions with answers). Below are links to a significant number of similar questions about mystery odors with no apparent cause- some have checklists of a number of possible causes, so as you read through maybe make a list of possible causes you cannot rule out immediately, then use that as a guide to try to narrow down the type of smell or possible source locations.

Getting friends/neighbors to give their opinion, or push come to shove a Handyman or Home Inspector to come in with their more "experiened" nose to see if they recognize the smell may be necessary (probably about $100 range for one of them to come for 10 minutes.)

Sometimes isolating specific possible sources with cheap plastic sheeting (taking into account its flammability and the need to not restrict ventilation/combustion air when near appliances/furnaces/water heaters) by blocking off areas for a day or few and then sniffing when you initially open it up again works. You can also pull the ocver plates (carefully - live wires inside) on outlets and sniff there to see if the smell is coming from the walls.

Trying to identify the types of smell - rotting, mildewy/moldy, plasticy, woody, fungusy, cementy, painty, hot/burning, etc can help track down the source. The smell you describe sounds like dampness - possibly in the walls if they are more moisture-tight than the previous ones like if you have block or concrete foundation and they rebuilt the studwalls agains tthem with a vapor barrier under the drywall rather than vapor barrier on the wet side at the foundation. Or could be new floor type is letting more moisture in through the slab to the basement air - check that out by taping plastic sheeting over an area for a couple of days and see if you get significant free moisture / condensation on the tile. Previous flooring may have limited the moisture intrusion (which increased ventilation or dehumidification now would limit or solve), or maybe (if wood/laminate/carpet) may have had a vapor barrier under it that limited the inflow.

Could also be a construction material or construction adhesive you smell, which will gradually dissipate over time.

If furnace/water heater was replaced, smell them when firing up - could be new appliance smell or hot plasti smell.

Also check any floor drain or seldom used drains in downstairs bathroom for stagnant water, or water in trap has evaporated out so you are getting a bit of sewer gas smell into the basement.

One other possibility since the family does not notice it - if you were on a military deployment to a moon dust / desert area (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi, etc) I noticed that upon returning from desert areas that the sense of smell was much more sensitive for a few months - though of course not just in your house.

Anyway - the links here, some will not apply to your case, and of course the links within answers will have repetitions - keep track of the questionsid #'s you have read already:

Good Luck - this type of thing can be a hassle to track down.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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