Weird Attic Smell


Lately I have noticed a weird smell coming from my attic. I think it's a dead animal as it really stinks! My friend has said it may be my insulation getting old. (My house was built in 1978) Does anyone know if this is possible? Can insulation get old and smell?
Am I able to go up there and check around? I mean, I've never been up there myself. There's a little "doorway" in the hall that I can gain access to the attic from. Is it safe for me to go up there? or will I fall through the roof? Should I get someone else to go check? (I have a membership at Angie's List www.angies-lists.com )
If it is a dead rat or mouse, could a decaying animal make us all sick (I have 2 kids). Sorry, I am kind of panicking now. Maybe I should just call someone.
Can anyone answer these questions please? If there is a chance it's my insulation I should really get that stuff replaced.
Sorry about the babbling, thanks for hearing me out. I appreciate any help you can give.
Sincerely,
Lisa
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On Feb 28, 5:40 am, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

The smell is not "aging insulation". It is probably a dead animal. I doubt it will make you sick. I suggest you ask an "animal removal service" for help. They may be able to tell you how the animal gained entrance. Then you will need to have the entrance closed. T
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It would be a dead animal, especially if you use poison baits for mice or rats. You should have an exterminator check to be sure it's not something larger such as a squirrel, and have someone do whatever is possible to close up whatever hole allowed them to enter

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<snip>
Lisa, please stay out of the attic. You are not familiar with the technique of walking on the 1.5" edges of the joists you could indeed fall through the 'roof' - which is actually the ceiling of your living space. Usually folks only put one leg through but the damage is done. Call someone to help you find the animal and the access point. If you were my neighbor I'd do it for you and tell you to call a pro if I couldn't find the entry way.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

It is NOT the insulation. No way. However it is likely to be a dead animal. I suggest that based on your questions it would be best to call in an animal control professional. They can not only find and likely remove the source of the smell, but more important they may be able to advice you how to avoid future problems and may alert you to current problems you do not know about. Prevention is better than trying to fix the problem.
--
Joseph Meehan

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Along with all the good advice you've gotten so far, call a roofer ***AFTER*** the smelly thing has been removed. You need to find out why animals are getting in to begin with. In my previous home, we had a contractor do blown-in insulation, and some roof vents. A month later, we had a squirrel carnival in the attic. I was able to trap them, but that's beside the point. I found absolutely NO screens on the vents. I called the contractor, who said "That's weird. I've never heard of squirrels getting into attics, at least not around here". Idiot.
Anyway, have your vents checked out.
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JoeSpareBedroom wrote:

damp or wet and mildew growing. Possessed houses are supposed to also smell bad. I think there are spooks in my basement. Dead animal or damp insulation is probably the cause.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

<SNIP>
Everyone has focused exclusively on a dead animal as the cause.
I would not for a minute rule out mold growth as the cause. Notice I did *not* say you have mold. I'm saying that it is a possibility that should be looked into.
There are hundreds of different mold/fungus types and each can emit its own specific odor, some of them quite nasty.
Mold growth in an attic during winter is fairly common if there is a lot of condensation due to poor air circulation. It can grow on roofing members or even in some kinds of insulation.
As suggested, don't go up there yourself; it's far too dangerous.
Jim
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

If your attic was insulated with dried lupins and they got wet...
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote: www.angies-lists.com )

If it is a dead rodent it usually starts with a faint odor and you aren't sure what it is then after a couple of days you realize it's a dead animal. It will be strong for several days then begin to fade. 10-14 days on average, cooler weather it can take longer but not as strong, warmer weather comes and goes quicker but more extreme. Removal of the carcass is the best other wise you might try cinnamon candles to help mask the odor. If the carcass was unable to be removed and you are having warm weather you will be swarmed by flies in another week or two. There will be no chance of illness from the odor permeating into the home from the attic.
Lar
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On 28 Feb 2007 02:40:39 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Getting old? That's funny.
My insulation got wet when there was a hole in the roof, but didn't smell. Not saying it can't. Although I wouldn't think fiberglass could smell. IIUC, there needs to be something for the mold to "eat", like cellulose insulation would be. It can't eat glass.

Sure, why not? You can be as careful as anyone else can be. And if you are female, you probably weigh less. I had a friend, who must have weighed 300 pounds fwiw, who put a hole through his 2nd floor ceiling. But if you are not fat, you are probably more nimble than he was, or even than I am. But, like with anything, if you screw up, it will cost you money to fix.
If you take a piece of plywood or something 18" or more long, that you can place on top of two joists, with most of your weight on the joists itself, it will make it easier not to lose your balance.
You can move around also, but obviously that increases the chance of making a mistake. Don't put your head too close to the roof because there will be nails sticking in from when the shingles were nailed on. I can stand up in the middle of my attic, and there are still 2 feet above my head, but the more comfortable I got up there, the more I made mistakes. I hurt myself some poking myself with nails a few times, but never actually cut my scalp. Now, I've been up there so much, I don't think I'm totaly capable of being cautious, so I put a hard hat up there to wear if I go to where the roof is low. I also put up several pieces of plywood so that I can kneel on piece B then C, and move A to the other side of C, so that I can work my way to far corners of the attic. Then work my way back. I was putting in phone lines, and bedroom ceiling lights, and TV cable, and burglar alarm wires. If you're just going to go up there once, it wouldn't be worth all this.
But come to think of it, you can first stick half or more of your body up through the hole or door and remain standing on the ladder. You and your nose can probably learn a lot from that. The brighter the flashlight the better, and better than that might be a gooseneck desk lamp or anything portable that runs on house current. 75 to 100 watts really light up a space. Careful on the ladder when you turn halfway around. That's when I start to fall off.
So it would be easy to just stand on the ladder. Is there one built in? If not, a 6 foot ladder is about right if you have 8 foot ceilings. Bigger is awkward.
Wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves if you have fiberglass, the pink or yellow stuff. Well, apparently the new stuff doesnt' stick to your skin, but the stuff made in 1978 does, and it's like the teeniest of pin pricks. Doesn't actually hurt, but it's annoying. When I forget and wear short sleeves or pants, I take a shower afterwards and that seems to make it go away.
If I don't just stand in the hole, but I go up and do something to move the fiberglass around i wear asimple paper face mask, so as to not inhale the fiberglass that I might cause to float around. No one else mentioned that, and I don't know for sure that it is a risk, and I've never even examined the air in bright sunlight to see if there is fiberglass floating. I know there is a lot of dust floating in my own home some time, but I think the nose catches most of that. Not sure about fibeglass, and some people don't always breath through there nose. A package of 3 was about 2 or 3 dollars.

Maybe if Scotty zooms you up.

I don't think so. My mother always felt that certain smells carried disease, so I've kept my eyes open, but never found anything to support that.

Almost everywhere, there are flies or insects or microbes which will eat the carcass, and it will stop smelling.

No.
When I first went up in my attic, I found two birds looking at me through the pink fiberglas insulation, on the floor of the attic. If they had been looking the other way, it would have been different, but it was eerie, almost scary. Two black birds.
Anyhow, the birds didn't smell at all. Perhaps they did when they first died, but I didn't own the house then.
By this time they were dry and I'm sure weighed less than they had, but their head and feathers looked pretty much like new. Well, at first I could only see their faces, but I put on gloves, and to not get the gloves dirty**, I used a sheet of newspaper to pick them up and put them in a bag, and I through that away. Just for neatness. Eventually I suppose they would have fallen apart and left feathers and bones whereever they broke off.
**I don't think the gloves would have gotten dirty, but these things were totally dessicated. If your animal still smells, it's not dry yet.
Later, when I was outside, I found out where they got in. It was at the very end of the soffitt, where the screening was detached from the small piece of wood, 1x2x5inches long, that was the end of the frame of the screening that filled the soffitt, that was the soffitt. A quarter inch of wood was missing, like it had rotted away, or been pecked away by birds. So the screen was no longer stapled to the wood (because the part that held the staple was gone). I thought it was some kind of rot and thought it would continue so that my repair would not last long. But I stapled or nailed the screeing back on, and it's been 20 years. So now I think it wasn't rot but bird pecking. For some reason, one or both of them wanted in, but then couldn't find there way out, and starved to death.
I think this pecking their way in must be pretty unusual, especially since the prior owner kept absolutely nothing in the attic.
I'm sure the other poster is right and it might be mold. The specific smell might be a big clue, and what you see when you look and sniff might also be.

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Don't forget the breather mask.

Wanna bet?

All clothing should be washed in cold water immediately afterward.
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On Wed, 28 Feb 2007 17:17:34 GMT, "JoeSpareBedroom"

No bet. I've never used the new stuff, only seen it in the store. It doesnt' feel bad to the touch, but then again, I have calluses on my fingers. I should have taken off my shirt and rubbed up against it. :) Didn't think of that. And it was labeled as not being something. But it DIDN'T SAY it doesn't stick to your skin. I shouldn't have said that.

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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Just use some steps, open the trapdoor and stick your head inside with the most powerful flashlight you have. You may get some clues right away. If you feel comfortable climbing up inside the attic, proceed carefully. If not, you'll need to get some help.
Be sure to get reputable help -- there are tons of scam artists waiting to rip you off. If you have a friend or relative that's willing to rescue a damsel in distress, so much the better.
Chances are it is a dead bird, rodent or other animal. Removal of the corpse should resolve the problem quickly. Also look for signs of wetness -- leaking roof or even water pipe since mold, rot etc. could be causing the smell (although I think that's less likely).
Replacing the insulation should not be necessary unless you have a leak and rampant mold. But even if that was the case, your first priority will be fixing the leak.
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