A musty smell in a home is a result of inadequate cleaning, poor or stagnant air circulation, high humidity and possible moisture problems.
If you've ever noticed an odd smell coming from old furniture, clothing or books, or in a poorly ventilated area such as the attic or basement, you have a problem with mold, mildew or fungi.
If the mold and mildew growth is heavy it might look like an area of pink, orange, blue, black or green discoloration- on the other hand, if the fungi growth is light you might not be able to see where it is, though you can definitely smell it.
Old furniture is often musty and puts off a smell that I can only describe as a combination of mold and rotten eggs. The odor may start out as a minor annoyance but will eventually get to the point where the air in your home is bad for your health. So once you start smelling a musty, moldy odor, it’s time to take care of it. The poor air quality and odor problem won't stop on it's own and will only get worse.
Molds and fungi are not healthy for your lungs. Mold spores and noxious gases they put off are aggravating to your health. If you have breathing problems or the smell is particularly bothersome you may want to wear a mask while cleaning it up.
Possible Locations and Causes of Musty Odors:
First you need to figure out exactly where the problem is and what is causing the odor:
The smell is not caused by the water leaking into your house itself, it’s caused by molds and fungi that are growing where the water is pooling.
As they grow in number, mold and mildew put off a sulfur containing gas we all can easily identify. Once established, fungi can easily spread to other areas of a home so it's important to get rid of any water leaks as soon as they’re discovered. Wet basements, leaky faucets and pipes are a common culprit.
If wood remains damp it will start to rot and give off an earthy musty smell. Once again, molds and fungi will grow just like it will on any other organic material.
If you should see dark stains on wooden items, chances are that they’re becoming wet from a leak somewhere and molds and fungi are growing.
This can happen to an item left in a storage shed that water happens to drip on, or it can happen to the baseboard in your home that might have a water pipe leaking behind it.
Leaking roofs allow rain inside which often follows gravity right up to a beam or other supporting structure in a home. Wet wood will continue to rot and allow mold and mildew growth until the source of moisture is stopped.
If walls in your home are starting to look very rundown, take the time to look behind them. Most walls are made of drywall which is gypsum or plaster in between 2 sheets of paper.
Mold and mildew will grow on the paper backing and it will darken in color, start to flake, blister or peel off.
Start by looking in the area with the heaviest discoloration for moisture leaks. Chances are pretty good that either molds or fungi or both are growing behind the walls and will have to be removed.
Mold and mildew that covers more than a very small section of the wall will likely indicate a serious problem and the section of wall might need to be removed and replaced by a professional.
High Humidity Locations -Bathroom/Laundry Room
Molds and fungi love bathrooms and laundry rooms. Both are warm, moist and often leak. Basements, attics, crawl spaces and air-conditioner vents are great homes for molds and fungi.
If you start to see stains on the floors, ceilings or walls, molds and fungi may be growing. Clean the area right away to keep it from spreading further. If it's in a moist area where standing water is common, a good scrubbing along with a spray of 50/50 water and bleach will remove mold and mildew almost instantly.
Damp Furniture/Drapery Fabric:
Fabric that is moist or in area of high humidity can be a breeding ground for molds and fungi.
Damp or Moist Carpet and Rugs:
Carpets and area rugs trap dirt, hold moisture and can become wet or saturated in the case of plumbing leaks or a cracked foundation. Dust and dirt will settle in the fibers and give off a bad odor if not cleaned occasionally.
Removing Musty Odors from Hard Surfaces:
Deodorizing and Cleaning Mildewy Carpets:
Look under the carpet to see if the carpet pad is mildewed. If it is, remove that part of the pad and replace.
Clean with Vinegar:
Clean the moldy part of the carpet with a solution of one cup of white vinegar to half a cup of warm water. Then scrub the mildewed area to remove mold. Turn a fan on the wet spot to dry it quickly.
Sprinkle with Borax:
Spread borax on the entire dry carpet. Borax will treat mold, mildew and fungi and keep it from reappearing. Let the borax sit for half an hour or so and then vacuum it up completely.
Vacuum upholstered furniture or drapes thoroughly with a vacuum. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove mold spores from the circulating air.
Steam clean or dry clean the item, dry with a clean towel to remove additional traces of moisture. Move the piece to an area with good air circulation to dry completely.
Preventing Musty Smells From Returning:
Once the musty odors are gone, it’s best to try to prevent molds and mildews from regrowing.
A dehumidifier or air conditioner will keep the air in your home drier which will help prevent new growth of molds and fungi. It will also help to remove musty odors by replacing old air with new, fresh air. Follow manufacturers recommendations on cleaning your dehumidifier and air conditioner filters to reduce mold, mildew, and odors from being recycled back into the air.
Increase Air Circulation
Increased air circulation reduces overall moisture in affected areas. A fan or cracked window will help to keep the air fresh.
All molds and mildew prefer low light conditions. Turning the lights up helps to retard their growth.
From: The Plumbing Handbook
In designing the plumbing system for a new house, a plumbing contractor will endeavor to make it as noiseless as possible.
Manufacturers of plumbing fixings are making every effort to reduce the noise connected with the operation of their equipment, and contractors have been very successful in eliminating much of the noise formerly associated with plumbing systems.
Because so much of the noise is due to water traveling at a high velocity, it follows that whatever can be done to reduce the velocity of the water will correspondingly reduce the noise in the system. It is for this reason that it is so important not to skimp on the size of the water supply piping. Larger pipe will not only provide a more adequate supply of water but will reduce noise.
There are three general types of noises found in some of the older plumbing systems. These are water hammer, whistling and chattering.
1. Water hammer is the thump in the piping heard when faucets or valves are turned off abruptly. There is no excuse for water hammer. It can usually be eliminated by the installation of an air chamber or short length of pipe in the wall where each supply pipe enters a plumbing fixture.
In some cases, however, the ordinary type of air chamber will not prevent water hammer. In such cases, special devices known as shock arrestors should be installed on the main line near the meter or as close as possible to the cause of the noise.
Sometimes water hammer is due not to the plumbing in the house in which it is heard but to a condition outside of the house, either along the water main or in a neighboring house. In such cases, skillful detective work by an experienced master plumber is necessary to ferret out the source of the trouble and to plan corrective methods.
Water hammer should not be permitted to go on indefinitely. The noise is only an audible symptom of what is going on in the piping. The piping is being subjected to the wear and tear of a multitude of shock waves. The result will be leaks in piping, tanks or fixtures unless the condition is corrected.
2. Chattering in the piping may be caused by loose pipes, by pipes rubbing against a metal projection, by worn faucet washers or looseness of other inside parts.
3. Whistling is caused by the speed of water flowing through piping which is usually too small. A pressure reducing valve will help as will a general straightening out of the plumbing system. Whistling is most common at bends and tees in the pipe.
If you're facing a plumbing problem that you're unequipped to handle on your own, then the benefits of hiring a licensed plumber may or may not be obvious to you. Maybe you know of a local handyman who says he can fix it for a very reasonable price. Perhaps some plumbers who advertise in your area are unlicensed, but assure you that a license is no real indication of talent or skill.
As temping as it can be to cut prices by hiring somebody without license, you should resist. Unless you're dealing with a trusted family member or friend whose work you've seen first-hand, an unlicensed plumber can, in the long run, cost you much more money than you'll save in the beginning.
Why Plumbers Become Licensed
Like any other industry, the plumbing industry requires (in many areas) that a plumber complete a test, have a certain number of hours working as an apprentice, or display some other similar test of knowledge before they can become licensed. This license may be certified by the state, municipality, or country in which the plumber will be working.
Obtaining such a license shows the industry, and potential clients, several things. It displays a willingness to comply with all current laws, regulations and safety measures recommended, instead of relying on outdated and potentially harmful methods. It also shows that the plumber wants his clients to know that he's a professional. This shows dedication to his field, distinguishing him from somebody who may look at plumbing as a way to simply make extra money on the side.
There are several professional organizations that provide ongoing education, and licensing often means that a plumber is taking advantage of this education. This is once of the many benefits of hiring a licensed plumber, since classes that demonstrate the newest products and methods ensure knowledge and dependability.
What's the Harm in Hiring a Plumber Without a License?
Anybody looking for work can be very convincing, if they are unlicensed, that they will do just as good of a job as somebody with a license. While this may be true, you're still better off to hire a licensed plumber.
The training that a licensed plumber goes through ensures that they are up-to-date and current. Somebody unlicensed may be using outdated methods, which can lead to costly mistakes.
Licensed plumbers are usually required to carry insurance. This can save you thousands. If the plumber is injured while working on your property, their insurance will cover their medical care. If there is no insurance, you could be stuck paying those high bills. Insurance, in many cases, can also ensure that the work the plumber does comes with assurance of quality. This might mean the difference between the plumber coming quickly to repair a small resulting leak for free, and waiting for another plumber to come and fix the first plumber's mistakes...at full price.
As you can see, there are many benefits of hiring a licensed plumber, and really no disadvantages. You will pay a little more in most cases, but when you think about the hassle and potential cost of hiring somebody unlicensed, you'll see that you truly get what you pay for.