Question

There is a heavy smell of either sewer gases or mold in my apartment, how do I get that tested?

Asked by Danita Soqui
San Jose, CA

I live in an apt above a garage that does not ever have cars in it, there is also no natural gas lines in the garage. PG&E has already been out to check for gas or carbon monoxide, tested free of those two things. Since I have moved in 6 weeks ago in the last 3 weeks I have been lightheaded daily, I am a cancer patient, my friend came over for 4 hours and complained of a headache and burny eyes. For two days the apt was closed up because it was so hot and I was running a portable ac, the smells became very strong after having the apt closed up. Who can I have test this, I feel like it is either sewer gases, since I have smelt smells from the bathroom since I got there, or possible mold that I cannot see. Can you help guide me who to call to have this checked? thank you, Danita

Answer

David Willson

Answered by David Willson

Sebastopol, CA

Advanced Home Performance

October 28, 2013

Sounds terrible, Danita. I've run across similar situations before, where there's an annoying sewer type smell, and they're often in second dwellings on a property, or 'grannys'. Since PG&E has already tested for gas and CO, it likely IS sewer gasses you are smelling. There are a number of places these gasses can be entering. Use your nose (or somebody elses) and an incense stick or lighted candle to check for a draft or moving air. The places to check are: around the base of the toilet (if the problem is there, get a plumber to reset the toilet), the pipe coming out of the wall where your washing machine drain hose goes into (if there's air coming out of there, a plumber will have to open the drywall and put a 'P trap' in the wall), under the kitchen sink (if the smell is worse there, a plumber will have see if there's a 'Studor' vent that's stuck open), or outside, especially if you have a septic pump. If the smell is mostly outdoors and random, call the city and have them check your plumbing vents on the roof. Strange city plumbing configurations under the street have occasionally sent sewer gasses up and out rooftop plumbing vents. It will take some sleuthing but you should be able to find the source. I wish I could direct you to a dedicated 'sewer gas smell fixer' but a sympathetic and handy friend will likely help locate the problem, and it will probably take a plumber to fix whatever problem you find. Good Luck!

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.