Odd odor in room

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  #1  
Old 12-11-15, 12:35 PM
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Odd odor in room

Hey guys,

We recently refinished the master bedroom of our house. It was in decent shape but just needed some updating. We haven't been able to move in because whenever the room is heated, there is this sort of chemical smell. Not sure how to describe it. It has been a month since the last project in the room and we were hoping it would air out but problem still exists. When the room is cold, the smell is not really noticeable. When heated, then the smell becomes noticeable. When we close the door, then smell gets pretty strong after a little bit of time.

Hoping someone can offer some insight if they have previously experienced this as well. Here is some additional info.

Here are the things we did to the room.

1) Removed popcorn ceiling. We used the water method. We let it air out for about 1-2 weeks since we were away. Then skim coated, primed, and painted. There was a musty wet drywall smell but that went away once we put the prime and then later painted.

2) We painted all the walls. Primed and painted.

3) We removed the old carpet and carpet pad. Subfloor looked to be in good condition. We put down the underlayment and vapor barrier and put in new laminate flooring. At first, we thought it was the flooring but we took a box of the left over flooring and heated it in a different room but there was no smell. Plus the smell of the mdf when up close is different from the smell in the air. Lastly, the laminate we got was slightly higher grade and supposedly has very little formadelhyde emission. The floor company has offered to do some additional testing to help us rule out the floor.

4) We replace the electric baseboard heater with a in wall heater unit with fan. We also potentially ruled out this by heating the room with a different heat source, an oil based space heater, and the odor would still become noticeable.

A friend had suggested maybe the subfloor had pet pee. But our smell doesn't really smell like pee. And could subfloor odor permeate through the vapor barrier, underlayment, and laminate floor?
 
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  #2  
Old 12-11-15, 01:26 PM
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My first thought are that the in wall heater is conditioning the unit. There is usually a smell when you first fire up a unit that has some form of paint on it. Happens with kerosene heaters, space heaters and such. I would think that continued heating would burn off the smell in due time. If it was a used unit, then there may have been dust and debris inside the unit that is also burning off.

If the smell is ammonia like, then is could be pet urine. Sometimes they spray the walls during heat and it may have bled through the paint. You can usually crawl around the room and use your nose to sniff it out. If that is the case, you will need to use an oil based primer like kilz or Zinnsar Coverall. Don't bother with the water based stuff as it is not as effective at stain and odor elimination.
 
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Old 12-11-15, 01:35 PM
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We initially thought it might be the heater unit. But we have been running it for for a couple of weeks now since we originally thought it was the new laminate floor offgasing.

We also heated the room instead with a space heater with the wall heater turned off. Same smell.

I think I smelled closely everything in that room and nothing seems to give off that odor.
 
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Old 12-11-15, 02:26 PM
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I'd run some fans to speed air movement through the room to see if you can get the source of the odor to run out of particulates faster. If not, the source must be creating new ones - like by combustion.
 
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Old 12-11-15, 02:49 PM
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We have tried that. In fact, we air out the room with two window fans regularly. Would leave the windows open all the time but its rainy and cold in seattle this time of year.

Once the temperature drops and the room gets aired out, the smell goes away, only to come back when heat is applied.

No combustion in the room. The in wall heat is electric.
 
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Old 12-11-15, 04:12 PM
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The only thing I can think of (if it's not paint related) is that when the carpet and pad was removed, you introduced a fresh source of odors coming from somewhere that was "weatherproof" before.

This actually happened to me. Was remodeling a kitchen and opened up the wall to work on plumbing. Closed up wall and installed kitchen. Customer swore from the day I opened that wall, there was a smell he couldn't live with. Not the cabinets. It got bad, we tore kitchen out and had specialist come in. Reinstalled kitchen. I couldn't detect any smell, but the customer could.
 
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Old 12-15-15, 11:55 AM
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Could whatever smell released from removal of the carpet pad and carpet seep through vapor barrier, foam underlayment, and the laminate floor?

We also suspect the ceiling. Some time ago, we removed the popcorn ceiling, skim coated, primed, and painted. The contractors did it fairly quickly and I'm wondering if maybe not everything was completely dry before the next step was taken. If the case, will I be able to just seal it with another coat of primer? Maybe the odor blocking variety?
 
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Old 12-15-15, 02:13 PM
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Just a couple of points.
If the ceiling was wet when they painted it, it should have dried to the attic (?) or cavity above.

When the carpet and pad was removed, were there any holes to a basement that might have been plugged, but open now. Is there a basement below and what is in that area?

When the heat is on it increases the air flow through leaks into and out of that space. What is outside the room? Any exhaust vents from a direct vented furnace, your house or a neighbors?

Bud
 
  #9  
Old 12-15-15, 02:53 PM
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Hey Bud,

This is a room on the second floor. Above is the attic. No holes that I remember being plugged when carpet was removed. Subfloor was in fairly good condition. Room is right above the living room.

Nothing outside. Faces the road. Not near any exhaust.
 
  #10  
Old 12-15-15, 03:37 PM
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Smells fine from here....JK But seriously, you have to use your nose and find the source. It is either in the walls or in the floor. If the previous owner had pets, then there is a good chance that is the issue. You may have to peel back some of the laminate to get a good whiff underneath. Let us know what the nose tells you.
 
  #11  
Old 12-15-15, 04:08 PM
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Okay. I'll give the sniff test another try.

Last time I tried this after the first post, I wasn't able to find the source.

Its tricky. When the heat is off, I can't smell anything.

When the heat is on, I can't tell if I'm smelling the source or just smelling the now smelly air.
 
  #12  
Old 12-15-15, 05:42 PM
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You might try a heat lamp on selected spots to see if wall or floor produces the smell.
Just be careful not to overheat that flooring, just warm it up.
Bud
 
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Old 12-15-15, 06:00 PM
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Czizzi and Bud:

I was thinking, could it be that the old carpet pad adhesive is now venting out?
 
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Old 12-15-15, 06:33 PM
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The vapor barrier probably wan not sealed around the perimeter, so yes, whatever was covered up could leak out. But seems like it would have been doing that before.

Bud
 
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Old 12-16-15, 01:27 PM
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Another smell test didn't remove the source. Will try the heated lamp idea.

We did rule out two of the things in the room though. During our last smell test, found the new baseboards and old blinds to emit a light odor.

I had a bit of left over baseboards so brought that into a small room and heated up the room. There was a faint smell but not the one we cannot identify.

Removed blinds didn't help the original room with smell.

Really do appreciate all the help and tips. Hopefully, we will get to the bottom of this soon!
 
  #16  
Old 12-16-15, 01:43 PM
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I once re-built a pantry that had wooden shelves in it. The wood smelled so off that I replaced with all new wood. Is your wood trim painted or stained? Is is caulked to the walls or not?
 
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Old 12-16-15, 01:54 PM
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Wood trim is painted. They are relatively old. We recently painted them. I'll have to check on the caulking but I believed there is caulking to seal the gap between trim and wall.

I'll check on that tonight. We sort of ruled those out because the same trim and wood in the closet is also used in other rooms that don't have this smell problem.
 
  #18  
Old 12-16-15, 01:59 PM
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If pet urine that was sprayed onto the walls and dripped down to saturate the wood trim from behind, that is still there and could be the source. Heat with a hair dryer while moving around. Your nose will eventually find it.
 
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Old 12-18-15, 02:56 PM
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After lots of smelling with a hair dryer, we think its actually coming from the ceiling. There were many smells and the one coming from the ceiling is not quite the same, but the closest. Hard to be sure cause its a very faint smell but most similar to the one that fills the room when heated.

Will 1-2 coats of sealing primer do the trick? Maybe some mold growth when we were skim coating and painting the ceiling.

We will also check the attic to see if there are any leaks of moisture.

Will update more to see if that does the trick.

Thanks for helping with this journey! Hopefully, this will do the trick.
 
  #20  
Old 12-19-15, 04:19 AM
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IF the odor is in the drywall/plaster coating it with a solvent based primer should stop the odor BUT if the odor is in the attic and finding it's way thru the ceiling via plumbing, electrical or HVAC 'holes' the primer isn't apt to be effective.
 
  #21  
Old 12-19-15, 08:59 AM
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Wife is particular sensitive to smell and odor.

Oil or shellac based primer recommended? How long should it take to off gas or air out?
 
  #22  
Old 12-19-15, 10:20 AM
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I'm not positive but I believe the odor from pigmented shellac dissipates quicker than oil base does BUT the pigmented shellac has a stronger odor.
 
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Old 12-22-15, 09:34 AM
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Sometimes you pull out the big gun just to make sure, even though it's likely the smaller gun would solve the problem. In your case, as long as you've been battling this, I would use BIN (shellac) and be done with it. Yes, BIN itself is stinky but it will fade in a few days.
 
  #24  
Old 12-22-15, 10:00 AM
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I hate to ask this question, but what brand of paint did you use in the room?
 
  #25  
Old 01-28-16, 09:46 AM
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We used Behr low voc ceiling paint and the zero voc wall paint.

So doing a primer seal. The room smelled like primer. After 1.5 weeks once the smell has died down but not entirely, we painted the ceiling again.

Unfortunately, I don't think it was the ceiling since the odor appears to be back now that the paint smell has gone away.

At this point, we probably just want to get a "professional" to come in and take a look. Who does one call in situations like this since it can be anything?

Once thing we haven't really tested is whether there is moisture in the south facing wall. It gets quite a bit of rain and moitsure. Wondering if the water might be leaking into wall through the windows. And when the room gets heated up, the wet wood smell comes out. I'm not sure it is this because the smell still smells a little "chemically".
 
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Old 01-28-16, 09:53 AM
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If moisture has been getting into the exterior wall I would think that there would be evidence of mold/mildew and water stains. Have you been able to pin point the odor to any specific part of the room?
 
  #27  
Old 01-28-16, 10:33 AM
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I have recently noticed some light water stains on the baseboard trim under the window. But its not bad. Only a small section and I'm not sure if that is from the wall or me leaving the window open while it rained. I plan on investigating this further.

In terms of localizing smell, the best we could before was the ceiling. That was where the smell was strongest. We had some new ducting put in for our bathroom exhaust a few weeks ago and the contractor checked to see if the attic above the bedroom had water issues and none were seen.
 
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Old 01-28-16, 10:36 AM
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Is there anything on the exterior side of that wall that would lead you to believe moisture could enter?
 
  #29  
Old 01-28-16, 10:46 AM
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Mainly an older window.

I have older aluminum frame windows. Not sure how old exactly. House was built in 1975. Most of the windows were changed to double pane at some point so I would think that they are not original.

Sometimes, I do see a little water in the window track where the window pane slides.
 
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