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Question DetailsAsked on 10/20/2014

What is this bad sausage like smell coming from one area of the home, only in colder weather and most often in AM?

Single family home. Smell started last fall. Ground zero seems to be a guest room bathroom upstairs, but it permeates in the walls below this bedroom and can be smelled in the adjacent bedroom where there seems to be a large black vent pipe. The smell comes and goes... most often first thing in the morning, before everyone is getting up and showering, etc.
The smell is unique, it's not really a sewer literally smells like bad savory sausage (I'm trying to be specific) in a gaseous way! It haunts me.... help!
I should note that the guest bath had a bath fitter and new toilet installed a couple years ago...and there was a bathroom remodel in the adjacent bathroom. I've had a plumber come and check out the bathroom...and of course it didn't smell at the time...and there was no smell after flushing or running shower, etc. at that time.

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5 Answers


Appreciate the attempt to define the smell, because sewer pipe leaks and air blowing down over the house and getting into the house from the sewer vent pipe on the roof always, in my experience, smell either like hydrogen sulfide gas (rotten egg/egg yolk odor), acidy like acetic acid or apple cider vinegar, or like raw sewage, though not necessarily quite as strong. Sometimes, especially in dead calm colder weather, comes out the pipe, cools, and flows down over the roof and into windows or attic. Can also happen in very hot calm humid weather where the sewer gas is a lot colder and denser than the hot outside air so it flow down off the roof in a fairly narrow stream.

You could confirm or rule that out pretty much next time you smell it by getting on the roof and smelling the air coming out the vent pipe (usually 1-1/2 or 2" vertical pipe sticking up 1-2 feet above roof, without any cap or hood on it), and also smelling in the attic to see if any smell there that might be coming from a broken vent pipe.

The sausagey smell sound to me like the somewhat rotten meat pungent odor some funguses turn out, growing in floors or walls where water is constantly keeping it wet so it grows a fungus farm. Might be it smells in the morning because once people are up and moving around and maybe heat or A/C turned on or up, there is enough air circulation to diminish the smell.

What I would do - put a note on the bathroom doors to keep them blocked off and keep the doors closed and a towel across the bottom to block air flow overnight (or while away at work in day if house is vacant in daytime) to see if the smell gets much stronger that way - could isolate which room is the culprit.

Second thing if found to be sourced or isolated to bathroom(s) - pull out every thing under sink and check there are no leaks, and no uncapped stubbed-out sewer pipes. Also check in bathroom waste basket - sometimes wet stuff is thrown in there and goes slimy and stinky in the bottom and does not get dumped out when it is emptied if you do not use plastic liner bags in it. Also carefully work your foot around the toilet and tub/shower near its base, feeling (and looking at joint with toilet and tub) for movement of the flooring which could indicate a leak causing rotting of the subfloor - ditto with respect to rocking of the toilet on its base indicating a loose connection with the toilet flange. Also check inside toilet tank for possible mold growth, especially if on unclorinated water supply - though unless gone fungusy, would be a moldy wet towel smell, not meaty.

Third thing I would try is put lemon scented dishwashing soap or baking soda solution (1 cup per 1/2 gallon water) down every drain in the house, let sit 30 minutes, then flush with a half gallon or more of water. Don't forget to do it on all floor/laundry tub/washing machine drains too - they can get quite stinky if the water goes stagnant or the trap goes dry, and sometimes sink or tub/shower drains can get quite stinky from the accumulation of hair and soap and shampoo - especially the tropical scented and cocoa butter shampoos and body conditioners and such, which tend to be oily and coat the pipes, then start to decompose in the drain - amazing the odors you can get that way. If doing that treatment helps but does not solve it, then I would use a commercial drain cleaner or use a borax (borax laundry powder, NOT Boraxo soap) and baking soda solution and let it sit in the drains for several hours, then pour a baking soda/vinegar solution into the drain, let sit 15 minutes, then flush out.

Fourth thing I would do if the above does not tie it down is get a fiber optic inspection camera - COLOR (rentable at Home Depot, tool rental places, some auto parts stores), and put a hole or two in the underlying ceiling (takes about 1/2" hole), preferably near the poilet and shower/tub drain areas, to see if you can see staining, wetness, or a fungus farm forming in the subfloor.

Fifth possibility (actually check this near the first) - check attic for rot, possible dead animal or animal nest - some insect nests can also smell rotten meaty. Smell might accumulate in attic during the cooler night andfilter down into the underlying rooms, but during day when sun heats the attic and starts up the convection cycle the smell would dissipate, especially if you have eave and ridge vents that allow a good airflow through the attic.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


It is definitely in the guest bathroom that is rarely used....the smell then radiates into the closets directly below this bathroom. Sometimes it smells in the closets very strongly, but then not in the bathroom above...and vice versa. The smell is very is present most mornings, early, and gone by 10am. Sometimes you can smell it late at night...rarely during the day, if ever.

I tried putting soapy water down the drain a couple days ago, as there were tropical scented shampoos in this shower, but the smell returned late that night and the following morning.

This morning... no smell.

Thanks for your thorough reply!

Answered 6 years ago by tesla66


I suggest you read all the below before trying any:

Because strongest early in day, sounds like the fumes are settling down with cool air in the evening, then get activated in the AM - probably from people using sink and toilet and such, so venting from a cracked sewer pipe is a possible cause - though if the furnace or AC kicks in atthat time it couldbe causing the odor to spread at that time of day too.

A suggestion - at separate times several days apart, pour a very strong smelling solution (a few cups worth) down the sink drain first, then a day or two later if that smell does not come through in the bedroom or closet ditto down the toilet WITHOUT FLUSHING - to see if that smell pops up in the closet. In each case, after putting in the odorant immediately use saran wrap or a taped-on garbage bag to cover the basin / toilet so the smell does not come up into the air in the bathroom and bleed between rooms that way. If the smell does pop up in the closet in only one test case (either sink or toilet but not both), you almost certainly have a cracked sewer pipe or pipe fitting leading to that fixture only, or in the case of the toilet maybe a bad wax seal. If shows up in both cases then likely the main sewer pipe connecting them together has a fault or your sewer vent pipe is releasing gases into the house.

Now - for the odorant to put in - You can't use something like vinegar or oil-based perfume because it could corrode piping - you could use vanilla concentrate though that might stain the toilet bowl outlet brown - lemon flavoring concentrate would probably work, even a cup or two of full-strength lemon-scented dish soap or similar would work - you need something strong smelling that will not damage the fixture, so no strong acid or base like lemon juice or garlic or perfume. A strong-smelling scented laundry detergent or hair product might also work. A strong-smelling cleaner safe for basins and toilets like lysol or (for toilet) a pine scented toilet bowl cleaner might also work.

If neither of those tests causes smells come through to the closet/bedroom, then could be cracked vent pipe or it does not penetrate to the roof and is releasing gases in the attic, or could be rotten wood due to a water pipe or minor sewer pipe leak and you are smelling the rot, not the actual leak from the pipe.

If you are not able to tie it down, then two alternatives (assuming that drains/sewer are the source) - one is to rent a fiber optic camera (about $45 half day, $70 give or take for a day at Home Depot (some stores), tool rental places, some auto parts stores) and start searching under the tub/shower and toilet and basin and in the bathroom walls with the camera (takes about 1/2" holes in underlying ceiling or adjacent walls) for wet spots or stains indicating a leak. I would do this before camera run/smoke tests described below because the problem with the camera and smoke test is uyou do not know for certain if you missed a minor crack or joint leak, or if there is no visible leak there because the issue is a leak atthe toilet wax seal or at the tub/shower drain that is causing smells and rotting the wood, which can cause a fungusy small like old mushrooms or toadstools or log fungus, or a somewhat greasy meaty smell. If there is enough leakage to be creating a mold or fungus farm in the floors, the camera should pick it up OK. If not up to this yourself, then a plumber / sewer and drain contractor with a fiber optic camera, or some energy auditors also have them. Latter and the rare plumber also have thermal infrared (thermal IR) scanners that can detect wet spots in floors, ceilings, and walls - similar cost for a visit to scan - $125-250 range.

Other alternative is having a color (shows small cracks way better than B&W) sewer camera run in the sewer pipes AND the vent pipe to look for cracks or disconnected piping might find it - though if a small crack, especially at a joint, may not be noticeable. Normally run about $150-300 for interior check, depending on whether his camera can go through the toilet or not, or if the toilets have to be dismounted or basin drain pipes taken apart to start the run.

Other alternative - and it might come to this anyway, is have a plumber or sewer and drain contractor come who does smoke tests - uses a smoke generating device or smoke stick tht fills the piping with smoke (can be done on both sewer and, with some difficulty, on water piping) , then you look everywhere (commonly with fiberoptic camera in floors and walls as well as by eye in each room) for where the smoke comes out, then tear into ceiling or walls there to track to the crack in the pipe. Typical cost about $250 but can vary a lot, depending on whether the leak shows up quickly or not or if he has to go around plugging off vent pipes and such to get the smoke to build up enough to push out of the leak point. The newer odorized colored smoke also is a lot easier to track down.

Ideally, if going this route, get a contractor with both smoke test and sewer camera capability to attack the issue with them together in one visit.

In this sort of case, it sometimes comes down to the frustration level you can tolerate - some homeowners go through the progression of inspection fiberoptic camera, then sewer camera, then smoke test - some say enough money down the drain at some point (or even right at the start) and just remove the toilet to inspect for wax ring leakage or rot and tear into the closet wall and underlying ceiling to look, realizing that there will be plumber and drywall and painting cost from that whether they find the problem source or not - but figuring they are likely to find it (assuming it is a significant leak or rotting wood rather than just a gas smell). You never know up front which is going to work best, and while the remote inspection tools work very well especially in very fancy houses and in businesses where tearing into drywall is a major disturbance, in homes sometimes taking a hammer or utility knife to the drywall in a couple of spots to open up inspection holes finds the source quickly and cheaper - you never know.

Where it gets ultra frustrating is trying to trace this kind of issue thinking it is a bathroom piping issue (and could be sewer or water pipe source), only to find it is a fungus farm of rotting framing from a roof or window leak or a leak from an attic-mounted water heater or boiler or air conditioner. I did mention to check those possible sources first, didn't I ?

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


LCD not sure if you follow these threads still...but 2 years later I finally had the smoke test done. Nada. The plumber told me before he even did the smoke test that the smell didn't smell like sewer gas; he did the test and everything is good there. He advised to check the boiler?

Answered 3 years ago by tesla66


Here are some previous similar questions with answers/thoughts which might help - sometimes it comes down to going room to room taping plastic sheeting over doors and windows to limit airflow (overnight works well - obviously with any person sleeping in another room when testing that room), to see if the smell concentrates in that room. Ditto to sink / vanity and tub and toilet - wrap in plastic to let odors accumulate some hours (being careful of infant access to plastic sheeting - suffocation hazard) and see if the smell builds up in one of those areas.

One possibility I may not have mentioned in other responses - the partly burned gases early in the firing cycle, and the burnt odorant in the gas, can cause natural gas fired appliance (water heater, boiler, etc) exhaust gas to smell somewhat like a sewer leak - so a rusted out or separated exhaust flue can cause that sort of odor too.

Who else to call, is the below don't tie down a source - handyman to sniff around and open small holes in walls/ceilings to smell and look with fiber optic scope, or a Home Inspector - some of them enjoy doing that sort of investigation.

Most expensive but they have chemical sniffers to track that sort of thing down - a Hazardous Waste investigation engineering or science firm - but thousands for that sort of bui8lding health survey.

If I had to hazard a guess out of the blue, I would guess fungal growth in walls from a leaking water pipe or toilet wax ring or tub/shower (which can smell like sausage) - or a leaking sewer vent pipe. Or maybe a guest hid a 4' italian sausage or pepperoni in the guest room somewhere.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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