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Something died

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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We can smell the bad smell of death and decay in our house, but can't find where it is! It's driving me crazy because I know the situation is not going to improve. I can smell it in the kitchen and on the stairway, two separate locations. There is a flow of air from the kitchen to the stairway, I know, because when dinner is cooking you can smell it on the stairs. Thus bad smell is more on the stairs though.

We have mice sometimes although the current indoor population is very small or not much. One of our two cats went missing a couple of weeks ago but there are coyotes and bobcats out there which would be happy to eat a plump housecat.

I am sniffing all around and not finding any location where the smell is strong, it just seems to waft around.

The house is timber framed, post and beam. Not many spaces between walls.and floor/ceiling. Could it be in the chimney and we could smell it in the house? If so, how could we get it out?!

Any experiences to share? Any advise for pinpointing the location?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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If it was in the chimney, the smell would be cooked or burnt flesh, which you would recognize as such. but you could sweep your chimney to check; it's always good practice to sweep the chimney part way through the winter anyway. What you are describing is probably more noxious and nauseous than than cooked or burnt flesh, though. Death and decay is pretty acrid and unpleasant and I do not envy you. Yuck.

My guess is it is a dead mouse. Mice are able to squeeze into super small gaps and sometimes they misjudge this and get stuck.
I found a dead mouse that climbed up the spout of my watering can and dead ended itself and died. The smell was just simply nasty.

If I was you I would crawl around and inspect your stairs, looking at how they are constructed.
I would consider what the infill structure is between your timberframe structural members question myself if there is a possibility that a mouse can be stuck in it somewhere.

Under the house

Duct work

In the cieling

Good luck.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hey, you gave me pie. I have been meaning to thank you for that.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Decay generally needs moisture to remain really stinky. Decaying animal will produce moisture in it's early process, but will eventually dry up. It will improve over time, unless it is sitting in a damp spot, and even then, it will eventually go away. Not that this is much of a consolation at the moment. Consider looking for moisture when looking for the source.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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You're welcome for the pie, you made some excellent points. giving out pie is fun.

I should have mentioned about the chimney, it is divided into two parts, one for the furnace and one for the fireplace. We have a dual fuel furnace which can burn either wood or heating oil, and this is what we use. The fireplace is a lovely idea but the way it is constructed is.both inefficient and less than ideal for when three young boys are running around. So if something was in the fireplace side it might not be cooked.

Thank you for the hope that whatever it is will dry out! I have been worrying about the smell getting worse and worse and not being able to figure it out. I once had a mouse dieunder the fridge and it took a while to pinpoint the location. The fridge is in a little alcove with just a small amount of space around it and so the warm airflow made it seem like the awful stench was in the middle of the air in the kitchen. I have sniffed under the fridge, is not there this time.

Our seaside climate is rather moist and right now it is.unseasonably warm-in the seventies for Christmas in New England!

Our house was built around 1979 by my very cool and versatile father-in-law. It has a couple of places where moisture gets in, but not too badly. It's lucky to know that I can ask the builder questions if I need to!

Ductwork is a possibility. I will do some more sniffing around.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I really really hope it's not the cat in the fireplace chimney
 
R Scott
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Something I have dealt with way too often this year. House and cars.

Roberto is right, you shouldn't smell it if it is DRY. One advantage of living in the Midwest any winter but this one.

Btw, nothing is worse than a mouse that dies in the A.C. of your car in the middle of the summer. I had three do that last summer, I got really good at dismantling the dash to get to them.

Nose, good flashlight, and phone or digital camera or mirror to see around corners.

It is probably not a cat, that would be so strong of a smell you wouldn't be able to stay in the house without finding it. Unless it is outside/under the house and you are smelling the two small air leaks coming up from the crawlspace.

 
Craig Dobbelyu
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When I clean my chimney out, I start by attaching my camera to a pole or line and slowly lower it into the top of the chimney while recording video. Once I pull it back up, I playback the video to see what's going on in there. Fortunately nothing has died in there, but I have been able to ID some pretty gunky spots where stuff gathers. If there's a way to access the chimney from the bottom (clean out port in a basement) then take a couple pictures straight up the chimney on a sunny day. You should be able to see clear daylight without obstruction.

I've had a few mice die in the walls here. Not fun. I end up closing off the offending room, opening the window and running an exhaust fan until it's done decaying. It also helps to dry the room out really well to hasten the wet stage of decomposition. That's just an awful smell. Mice take about 2 weeks in winter to fully go through the stink process. Cats... much longer I would guess. I hope it's not the cat.

This is gonna sound crazy but you could try to locate the dead thing by releasing some insects that eat that sort of thing near the area and see where they go. I realize that's kind of a crazy idea but it's so permie that I couldn't let it go. "Release the maggots!". Perhaps a carcass beetle of some sort would do the job.
Best of luck

 
allen lumley
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R Scott : YES ! More and more the Cell phone is becoming a primary tool of All Good Mechanics, Recently while dropping off my 8 year old car for warranted work

I noticed a Cluster of Mechanics using their Cell-phone's Cameras and Flashlights features to light up a problem area, and take pictures of the problem and then

magnify the screen image to get part numbers !

Doing brake jobs is much easier when you take pictures of the entire teardown and reassembly !


Obviously your camera has been used to allow you to look into places out of direct line of sight of your eyeballs ! This is just a common sense application that needs

sharing ! Heres an apple ! Big AL
 
Eric Thomas
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Location: Northeast Oklahoma, Formerly Zone 6b, Now Officially Zone 7
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Did you check for bats? We're fighting that right now, piece of flashing came off in the wind, didn't notice it until it was too late. We have a faux cathedral ceiling with a space formed by the trusses, perfect bat condo. Same phantom "funk" smell. We waited until one unseasonably warm night (a lot of them this year) and stapled hardware fabric over the gap in the soffit and fascia until we can do a proper repair on the flashing. Don't know if we caught them out or not but the smell diminished a good bit.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Well the smell hasn't gotten worse but it hasn't gotten better either.

It's driving me crazy! ::

The weird thing is, I smell it in many places in the house, but when I sniff around, no spot is smelly. I have sniffed all the heating vents, all the cupboards and closets, behind the stove and fridge. I don't know how to pinpoint it.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I have a really sharp sense of smell. The other people in the house can smell it a little but it's not bothering them very much. I feel oppressed. There is no safe place! Everywhere this stench wafts!

I don't think it is bats. I don't think it's in the fireplace flue. It's not in the firebox in the furnace. I am thinking about how to take the ductwork apart. It seems like if it was in a duct I would smell it at the vents though and I don't.
 
Bill Erickson
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Matu, have you tried sniffing up high? Since you can't find it down low, maybe it is up high, like in a cupboard or shelf and it is wafting by you when you are upright.

Your kids and husband don't smell it like you do, I sympathize, I smell everything and everyone else goes, "What are you talking about?" It can make a body grumpy.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Good point, Bill! I am petite.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Things have taken an icky turn. There is a horrible smelling oil dripping out of my kitchen ceiling. Has something been rendering? It's under a cabinet in my bathroom which is above the kitchen. We have examined the house from every angle and can't figure out how to get to the spot!
 
R Scott
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Well, if oil is coming through the drywall in the ceiling, you will probably have to cut it out to patch it anyway....

Murder plastic the whole floor and hazmat suit on the person doing the cutting. 100% coverage of face and eyes!!!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Matu Collins wrote:Things have taken an icky turn. There is a horrible smelling oil dripping out of my kitchen ceiling. Has something been rendering? It's under a cabinet in my bathroom which is above the kitchen. We have examined the house from every angle and can't figure out how to get to the spot!


I think you have identified where the dead thing is. It might be easiest to pull that cabinet to get at what is under there, it's dead anyway.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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R Scott wrote:Well, if oil is coming through the drywall in the ceiling, you will probably have to cut it out to patch it anyway....

Murder plastic the whole floor and hazmat suit on the person doing the cutting. 100% coverage of face and eyes!!!


There's no drywall, the floorboards are the ceiling! The oil is dripping through a knot.

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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The space beneath the cabinet is pretty short, 3 or 4 inches. I can't imagine, if something could get into it, that it could be very big. What on earth is this oil?

The ceiling/floorboards do seem more important than the cabinet, thank you all for helping me understand and clarify this. I am not eager to rip out the cabinets either. We are in a vague in-between situation where we rent our home from my father in law, who built it. We do the maintenance and try not to bother him with issues. I don't want to rip out the cabinets without telling him, but I don't want to worry and bother him and get him involved. Hmmm.

I feel like if whatever-it-is was under that cabinet it would smell worse in the bathroom. I can't really even smell it. I wonder if the oil is dripping from somewhere else somehow? I can't imagine where.

20160106_194128.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20160106_194128.jpg]
you can see the dark knot and dark stripe of yuckiness.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Well... a turn for the icky, but at least you have pin pointed something! Dripping though?-yuck.

Sorry to say, but: You are going to have to bite the bullet and get Dad-In-Law involved.

The sooner you deal with it, the faster your sanity/peace-of-mind returns. Yes damage will be done, but repairs will also be done, (no?-yes!) and then it will be over {YES!!!}.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Matu, that oil is from the liquification of the fleshy parts of an animal ( mice and rats will develop this way if they are in heated spaces ). Once the cabinet is removed (not ripped out but rather carefully removed so it can be re-installed) you will want to clean the wood with borax and then bleach to get as much of that oil out of the wood. I've delt with this once or twice and the first time I never did figure out how a rodent got to where I found it.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I did move that teapot, by the way! Ew.

I think I'm going to need someone more expert than I.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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My father in law has given the ok for us to do what we need to do but my able and wise handyperson has advised that the worst is probably over and that we are best off figuring out how critters can get in and focusing on excluding them. I think I see the way whatever-it-was got in.

None of us wants to remove the ceiling/floorboard, yet I am eager to soak up the horrible oil and get rid of it. Any advice on soaking up rendered varmint grease out of structural wood?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi Matu

You will want to expose the wood as much as possible, and as Bryant said

you will want to clean the wood with borax and then bleach to get as much of that oil out of the wood.
 
Jay Angler
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Hi Matu,

When I had a rat die in a drawer in an outbuilding, I soaked the wood in a product my friend gave me called "Nature's Miracle" which she used on animal pee and worse from accidents in the house. I've since read something that suggests it contains mostly Hydrogen peroxide, so that might also work. It did seem to work fairly well at getting rid of the smell after giving it several doses and keeping it moist (the stuff doesn't work if it's dry) with a wet rag over it.

Good luck!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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It was the cat.

 
Ann Torrence
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Bummer, I'm sorry.
 
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