Long shot, Smelly Bathroom

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Jeff Summers

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I have a problem with a smelly bathroom. The smell is very difficult to describe. It is not a sewage smell. Closer to a moldy or mildew smell, but not exactly.

Here is the setup. Master bedroom on the main level. House has a basement, main level, upper level. The bathroom is on the west side of the house between the master bedroom and a study. Above it is another bathroom(partly) and part of a roof, below it is (mostly) a drive in garage. The bathroom has dual vanities on one side, a tub/shower (insert) on the other and a toilet room. There is a vent fan over the shower and a vent in the toilet room.

The smell reoccurs every year in the fall about the time of the first cold snap when the heater starts to run. It will remain, off an on, through out the fall and winter, worse on some days, going away for a few days then coming back. In the spring when it warms up it completely goes away.

So I am thinking that because of the seasonality, that it may not have anything to do with plumbing at all, and might be related to HVAC, which is a heat pump system (the house is total electric). The smell seems more like a plumbing issue though. There are no noticeable leaks around any of the fixtures, tub, or sinks, nothing that shows up from below. I do not believe there is an issue with a roof leak, as I see no sign of it, and if were the case, I don't think it would be a seasonable issue.

We live in middle Georgia, just south of Atlanta, so winters are fairly mild. We are on city water with a septic tank for sewage. There is no sign of septic tank issues, although the tank (actually, tanks) have never been pumped.

This year there are two people living upstairs, but last year there weren't. None of the other bathrooms (or any other place in the house) seem to smell.

I am not sure what to do to diagnose this problem. I had a plumber out but he poked around and couldn't/didn't find anything. I feel like because of the seasonality of it, it may be more related to either the HVAC (although it happens even when it doesnt run that much, like in the fall) or some sort of temperature inversion layer that is causing the roof vent pipe not to be working properly, although that sounds like a long shot.

Any suggestions on where or what to look for to resolve this issue. There are no outward signs of mold or mildew. The house is 20 years old.

Thanks,

JS
 

Reach4

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Here is the setup. Master bedroom on the main level. House has a basement, main level, upper level. The bathroom is on the west side of the house between the master bedroom and a study. Above it is another bathroom(partly) and part of a roof, below it is (mostly) a drive in garage. The bathroom has dual vanities on one side, a tub/shower (insert) on the other and a toilet room. There is a vent fan over the shower and a vent in the toilet room.
Do you use each toilet, sink, shower and tub regularly? If not try running water in each every 3 weeks or so to make sure traps are filled.

You can cover things, such as toilets, with cheap thin plastic dropcloths. Smell under each to see if one has the stronger odor. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Husky-Plastic-Drop-Cloth-0-7-Mil-3-Pack/17217856

husky-drop-cloth.jpg


There is no sign of septic tank issues, although the tank (actually, tanks) have never been pumped.
You really should do that. Go with a non-chain person who has been around for a while. When you get it pumped, ask for an estimate of how full things were to judge how soon to plan your next pumping. Pumping earlier than necessary is relatively inexpensive. Pumping much later can be very expensive.
 
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Jeff H Young

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Very Good advice. could very well be dry trap . we have a shower that we need to prime trap due to non use. the plastic should help tell you where smell is coming from too IE... Bad w/c wax seal
 

Helper Dave

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Trying to isolate different possibilities is a good idea.

Just another thing to consider: is the shower on an exterior wall? I imagine Georgia needs vapor barriers for a shower. If it's missing, could be a spot that smells creep in.
 

Jeff H Young

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Trying to isolate different possibilities is a good idea.

Just another thing to consider: is the shower on an exterior wall? I imagine Georgia needs vapor barriers for a shower. If it's missing, could be a spot that smells creep in.
What do you mean by a vapor barrior on the shower? smell creeping in from where? just wondering I know they build differant in differant areas. but you lost me on this . Im always looking to learn!
 
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