I was called by a couple to evaluate what might be causing a problem with their condo. Over the phone I heard, "You know there's an odor, but you don't know why."
Everyone notices it. There is no mold in the house. There are no stains. It is persistent. We notice it as soon as we walk inside.
I heard this over and over during the conversation.
It had rained just a bit over night.
Getting there is the morning the first thing I did was look at the outside.
I noticed three things.
First, a lot of square footage of roof came down one downspout. You can see this downspout on the right center of the photo.
Second, it drains onto a small metal roof (good quality) but that the gutter is inclined improperly.
Notice how the gutter angles down and away from the downspout into which it drains?
Third, the brick work is wet, stained and mossy above and to the left of their living room window. This has been happening for a while! Is water getting into the unit?
It was then that I rang the doorbell!
Yes, I noticed upon entering, there is an odor! And mostly in the living room near the door. It disappears when I went up and into the second level of the condo.
But I was pretty sure I knew why.
It was time for Mighty Mo!
When I break out the camera, I always demonstrate its power a bit for the client. I show them the wall, on which they see nothing in the camera view screen. Then, with a full hand, I touch the wall for less than 1/2 second and show them a very clear hand print at where I touched!
The thermal camera sees in tenths of a degree. Even though my hand print is only slightly warmer than the surrounding wall, the hand print is exceptionally clear and will linger for about a minute.
Clients love to look over my shoulder. They were VERY IMPRESSED to see what was going on with their wall. And to see my moisture meter register nearly 30% moisture. That is after a small rain.
When it rains a lot, imagine how much water comes down that one lonely downspout onto that small metal shed roof! And how much of that, therefore, is encouraged into the brick wall and the condo!
I think that's what is smelling!
Looking around the neighborhood, how many similar small gutters did you think I saw!!
The condo association people are going to LOVE to get my report!
My recommendation: odors are among the most challenging things home inspectors are called on to investigate. There have been times where I was unable to determine the source. But in this case, it seems pretty obvious to me. So, call a home inspector to at least try to find out! And remember, thermographers are all really cute.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560