General Question

DrewJ's avatar

What do I do about this smell in my house?

Asked by DrewJ (368 points ) May 21st, 2012

I’ll try to make this short…

One day about a month ago my girlfriend and I noticed that our living room, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, had this weird smell. We didn’t do anything about it at first because, well – we can be lazy like that sometimes…

When it didn’t go away for a week I got frustrated and spent an entire Saturday cleaning EVERYTHING, floors, walls, windows, you name it… The smell of Pine Sol held for an hour or two but the smell didn’t go away…

I was stumped and frustrated but I have a busy life with work and had to forget it for a little while.

Then I started noticing we had a lot of flies. Small little flies, I’m not sure what you call them – that’s when I was like WHAT THE HECK!!?!?!?

All of a sudden, I got the hunch that the problem might not be inside the house, it might be under the house, so I went outside where there is a little- Not sure what to call it- a hole? A crawlspace? – it is outside and its a hole that leads underneath the house. It is usually boarded up but the board fell off a little bit. Anyway, I kicked the board and a SWARM of these flies started sputtering all around going crazy.

Now I REALLY think the problem is UNDER the house.

I’m not sure what to do from here. There is NO WAY I can go under the house, you need a haz-mat suit to go under there!

For the longest time I thought that something probably died, like a squirrel or something. But this has been an issue for a few weeks… like a month even! Could it be something else? Who do I call for this kind of thing?

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44 Answers

Judi's avatar

I would call a pest control company to start.

DrewJ's avatar

@judi Well… My point wasn’t so much about the flies. I think the flies are only here because of the cause of the smell. – Who do you hire to crawl under your house and take a look around? haha

Also—- could this be a mold issue? Does mold attract flies?

jrpowell's avatar

Sounds like a dead critter. They will feast on the caracas for a long time. Any type of extermination/pest control company will happily take your money to fish out the nasty.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I agree with @Judi & @johnpowell. I’d call a pest company to inspect the crawl space. They’ll remove any dead critters and help you keep live critters at bay.

DrewJ's avatar

So you all think its a critter over mold?

SpatzieLover's avatar

Does it smell like mold to you? Flies equal maggots. A swarm of flies usually signifies dead things or a pile of rotting garbage.

Judi's avatar

A pest control company will help you with the dead “pest” too. They do rodents and birds as well as bugs.

Trillian's avatar

So, something larger than a squirrel, taking a longer time to decompose. You could be a CSI episode!

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s definitely an animal. But if you don’t get the carcass out, then you’ll have more animals in there… if you don’t already. And when they fight over the remains, then you might have more dead animals.

Then if it’s perceived as a good source of food (prey), you’ll have more animals starting to nest in and around there.

You have to remove the carcass and then you have to seal up the opening. In that order.

DrewJ's avatar

I see, I guess its a dead animal. I was more worried for the mold because I know mold as neurological side effects.

@SpatzieLover I know this might sounds stupid but I don’t really know what mold smells like. never had a major mold issue.

bkcunningham's avatar

Do you own or rent the house? If you rent, tell the landlord. If you own you have two choices. Wait until the decomposition is complete and the smell will go away on its own. Or pay someone to go under and retrieve the decomposing animal and treat the area where it was with lime or Lysol, otherwise it will still stink even when the dead body is removed.

JLeslie's avatar

I think something is dead also.

WestRiverrat's avatar

If you don’t like @bkcunningham‘s solutions, you could always burn the house down.

But you need to get the dead animal out of the crawl space and close up access to the crawl space, remember that you may need to get in to work on the plumbing or sub floor so don’t make it too difficult to open up again if you need to access the crawlspace again.

jrpowell's avatar

And it could just be cats using your crawlspace as a litterbox. In high school I helped a friends parents go under the house remove the layers of shit and piss soaked dirt. We removed about six inches of dirt and covered the dirt in plastic. It was a nightmare.

Consider yourself lucky if it is only a dead thing.

DrewJ's avatar

@bkcunningham I rent. – contacted the landlord.

The big question is whether to call for Mold Inspection or for Pest Control. Most here think Pest Control so I guess its best to start with that.

jrpowell's avatar

Mold would be unlikely.

DrewJ's avatar

@johnpowell – Oh man…. I think its cats. We have this family of cats tat have been coming around a lot lately – there’s like 5 of them. They’re probably going under there. Damn, do you think if I just close up the crawlspace they’ll stop going in there and the smell will go away once the poop and piss disolve (or whatever it does) ? Or do I really have to have someone go under there for that?

JLeslie's avatar

The insects indicate dead animal more than mold in my opinion. Does it smell like mold or mildew?

DrewJ's avatar

@JLeslie I want to say yes but I honestly don’t know what mold smells like. I know thats silly bu I never had a real mold problem.

Trillian's avatar

Awwww. Kitty poops and scoops.

jrpowell's avatar

It will not just go away if it is a cat problem. What you describe is pretty much what happened to my friends parents. A pregnant cat gave birth in the crawlspace and they lived down there for a while. A weird smell turned into a live in a hotel for a week smell.

DrewJ's avatar

@johnpowell great….. so I guess it can be 3 things – mold, dead thing, cat poop.

Would cat poop fall under pest control? If so, odds are Pest Control is my best bet 2 to 1.

jrpowell's avatar

Yeah, It sounds like you really just need a person to go down and take a look. Personally, I would tie a tee-shirt around my mouth and nose and do it myself. But if you don’t want to do that give someone a call.

Or wait for the landlord to take a look since they probably won’t mind doing it themselves to save 100 bucks.

DrewJ's avatar

@johnpowell She is not the type to even come over to look at it – let alone crawl under there and dig it all out. She’ll definitely tell me to just call someone and send her the bill. I’ll start with pest control – Thanks, you’ve been a huge help.

JLeslie's avatar

@DrewJ Never had a towel that smelled badly when it’s wet? Some people describe th smell as “damp.” But, damp doesn’t smell, that expression is actually describing how mold smells.

I still think it is something dead.

DrewJ's avatar

Well , you know, you could describe it as a damp smell I guess. But I’s on the fence – I think its cat poop because of the cats that are always around and the length of time the smell has been there. I’m calling pest control though so if its a dead thing they’ll take care of it.

jrpowell's avatar

I have never seen flies gravitate towards mold unless they were going after what the mold was growing on. So dead or poop.

Not wet wood that gets moldy.

JLeslie's avatar

I hope you update us after the pest person comes.

WestRiverrat's avatar

If the flies are as bad as you suggest, I doubt there are any live mammals in the crawl space.

bewailknot's avatar

Somebody needs to look. Could be a plumbing leak which could also result in flies – you said they were little. I worked in an old house converted into office space. The bathroom plumbing was leaking and we were getting strange smells. We found out what it was when someone went down there to install new network cables.

lillycoyote's avatar

I’m with the something, some creature has died, and is decomposing in, under or somewhere around your house crowd. You really should get someone in there to look around, find whatever it is and get rid of it. Or… you could just wait it out. The skeletal remains of animals are not nearly as stinky, as attractive to flies or as bothersome as decomposing animal bodies are, with their decomposing fleshiness and all.

pieceofapuzzle's avatar

Have you ever smelled moldy bread? If so and it resembles that smell I’d say it’s mold but I doubt it would come on so suddenly and it doesn’t really explain the swarm of flies.

I would call pest control. Your description of “a SWARM of these flies” and the presence of a “family of cats” leads me to believe that something is decomposing. Often times when an animal is injured they will hide. It could be possible that an injured animal (cat, raccoon, opossum, etc.- something large enough that would take a good amount of time to decompose) crawled under your house and died.

cazzie's avatar

Pest control people have the gear to get under houses and remove stuff. They can remove the stinky corpse, or cat poo or tell you if it is a bad sewage pipe.

robmandu's avatar

As a homeowner who has found long-dead animals, I’d be willing to be you money that it’s an animal carcass under your house. Flies lay their eggs on dead animals. The eggs hatch into maggots which eat the rotting, stinking meat. And then maggots grow into flies.

As a landlord who owns rental property, you (the renter) shouldn’t have to resolve the problem directly. Call you landlord (or property mgmt), tell them something stinks under the house with a swarm of flies, and have them get someone out there so you don’t have to pay out of pocket nor waste your money on the wrong service.

P.S. Also, as someone who has done a formal mold remediation on his home in the past, I can affirm that 1) mold does not attract flies and 2) mold smells way different than dead beast.

bkcunningham's avatar

Take a large flashlight and look under the house at the crawl space opening.

gondwanalon's avatar

You could spend a lot of money for professional help. But this is not that hard of a problem that you can’t do yourself.

I’ve become an expert at removing dead rats from under our sun-room floor. I don’t know why they like to die there. But they have done it three times now. When I start to smell a rat I gather up my tools and just do what I gave to do and don’t think about how gross it is. I use a respirator, knee pads, head-light, gloves and a plastic bag and just get it done.

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chyna's avatar

I just saw on another question that you are leaving for vacation in a couple days. Don’t leave that dead thing while you are gone. Your house will be all shut up and that smell will be saturated in your furniture, curtains, carpet, clothes. I’d just bite the bullet and go under the house and find it now.
Good luck and let us know what it was.

Kayak8's avatar

Any-sized injured creature that would fit through the opening could have crawled in there and died. Give yourself 12–14 days for the fly eggs to become adults and you will have a boatload of flies. You didn’t indicate where you live or what the weather has been like, but in some regions there is something called cluster flies that hibernate through the winter and show up in droves when the weather warms up. You indicate that the problem was apparent to you about a month ago—when did the spring weather start in your area?

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Adagio's avatar

A similar thing happened to me years ago, first a bad smell and then I noticed flies hanging around one particular place at the front door, it definitely smelt like something had died under the floorboards. To cut a long story short, a neighbour/friend offered to go under the house, it was the lowest point between floor and ground level, requiring him to move along on his stomach, the ground slopes down from there and it becomes high enough to walk upright. He found a decomposing rat which he removed, he even thanked me for giving him the opportunity to help me, I was flabbergasted by the comment but it was very sweet of him and maybe for him a good way to handle an otherwise revolting job.

Kayak8's avatar

So, what the heck was it?

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