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Unidentifiable Odor in Bedroom

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Hope you can give us some advice.  We're getting desperate.  We bought this house in 2002.   It has several 'cathedral' ceilings throughout with skylights in some areas.  The problem we're having is resticted to the master bedroom.  It's a master suite configuration with the bedroom and master bath together and a cathedral ceiling without an attic above it and no skylights.

For the first two years we owned the house, we had no problems at all.  In the third  year, we had a typical Colorado hail storm and had to have our roof replaced.  Since that time there has been an awful smell in the bedroom that we can't locate and can't seem to cure.  To me, it smells like mold or mildew.  My husband says 'wet dog'.   It's a very musty order.  My husband and I both wake up in the morning with itchy eyes and stuffed heads.  We've also noticed a large discoloration on the ceiling midway between the peak and the outside wall that looks like what you'd expect to see if someone smoked in bed for a long period.  It's yellowish/brown and about three feet in diameter, but doesn't appear/feel damp.

We've had an inspector look in the visable attic.  No mold or leaks that he could see. We've had all of the windows replaced and the surrounding walls looked at with no leaks or mold there.  We had the area's treated, just in case.  The contractor pulled up the carpet.  No joy there.  We had someone come out and do a meter reading (??) for mold and other airborne goodies.  Also no joy.

We run a room air purifier and two fans continuously just to be able to stay in the room.  It seems to get worse when the wind blows (I know that sounds weird) and the smell will also intensify if the windows are open on a breezy day.

If we have our typical cold Colorado winter with consistant temps that stay at freezing or below, the smell disappears.  If we get above 40, it's back and is getting worse with each passing year.

We're about ready to have someone come out an rip the darned roof off!  Any suggestions you may have would be deeply appreciated.  Thanks so much!

Gwen M.
asked in Environmental by gwenm (120 points)
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1 Answer

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Hi Gwen,
There are a few things I would suggest;
  1. Get an inspector equipped with a thermal camera and have him check cathedral ceiling surfaces. Some home inspectors do that kind of work and people performing energy audits as well.
  2. If that doesn’t produce any answers you can try to remove drywall section in that stained corner, there is probably something going on in there since this is the only area stains are appearing. 
  3. Roof shingles (I don’t know what was used on the roof) or more likely materials used underneath the shingles – ice and water shield and underlayment can produce unpleasant odors when they get warmer – read the following forum page - http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/community/forum/general-questions/17746/having-new-30yr-architectural-shingles-multi-level-roofs-my- 
  4. I’m not sure what you mean by “meter reading”… if it wasn’t moisture reader this would be another thing to try. Also, I would use a surface moisture meter that has a few inches penetration depth to actually measure the moisture behind the drywall surface, not a device with short needles that only penetrate wall material and not the cavity of your wall.
  5. For mold spores particle measurement they usually use air pumps that sample air in a particular area. I don’t know what kind of a device they used in your house.
  6. That odor might be drywall related but the sheets would have to manufactured around 2005-2006 in China - http://consumerist.com/2010/05/this-is-where-stinky-drywall-comes-from.html so, unless you did some remodeling and installed new drywall around that time this isn’t probably an issue.
  7. Your heating system; if you have a forced air furnace there might be something inside the air ducts that is responsible for that smell.
  8. Fireplace in the bedroom / unused chimney; decomposing animal inside the flue.
  9. This next possibility is not something that would cure the problem but assuming that the smell is coming from exterior, it would maybe lower the amount of that smelly air. If you have a master bathroom at the same level, there might be an exhaust vent with a broken, missing, or improperly installed damper on its discharge port… maybe stack in open position. If the smell is related to roofing materials it would enter the bathroom through the vent pipe. 
Not much else I can think of… maybe you should start from #3. Please give me an update on your “investigation”. Just click “comment” below.
answered by darekrudy (21,730 points)