Our basement smells like something died in there - who do we call?
April 14, 2014 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Short version: Our basement smells like there is something dead and rotting in there. We think the 'something' might be in the wall dividing out house and the neighbors (duplex) but aren't sure. We've cleaned and moved things, so now we need to call a professional in. The question is - what is the name / type of professional we need? I dont know what to look for in the yellow pages.... Details if you're interested inside

A couple of months ago we noticed a distinct odor in our basement - it would come and go. We tidied, moved things around, cleaned... the smell only got stronger and more continuous. It is now so bad that we have to keep the door to the basement closed as otherwise the stink permeates the whole house. Our neighbors cant smell anything, but it's strongest when we are near the wall that divides the 2 houses. On our side, that wall has a series of built in shelving which will be expensive to replace, so I've been reluctant to have the wall torn down, but the smell is now so bad that we'll do what we have to.

If anyone has ideas on what it could be , or other things we can check, definitely open to ideas. Just need help in tracking down and getting rid of the source of this smell
posted by darsh to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by Etrigan at 7:10 AM on April 14, 2014

Best answer: If it's between the walls, it's most likely a rodent. You really can't do anything but wait for it to dissipate if it's that, unless you want to tear apart the walls.
posted by xingcat at 7:11 AM on April 14, 2014

"Pest control" should be the keyword that covers it. But yeah, they'll have to break into the wall to remove it, or else you just have to febreeze + wait it out.
posted by Mchelly at 7:27 AM on April 14, 2014

you can accelerate the process by raising the temperature in your basement, and perhaps drilling tiny holes in the wall where you think the animal is. this will make the problem worse in the short term, but it will go away faster.
posted by bruce at 7:47 AM on April 14, 2014

Best answer: If you can tolerate the smell and can wait it out, eventually the smell will go away. This happened to me when I was in college and the landlord refused to break into the space between the roof and the ceiling to remove a dead squirrel. It was entirely unpleasant for a few weeks, but we just kept the windows open and tried not to think about the poor dead squirrel in the ceiling.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2014

Could it be sewage? If you have a drain that almost never gets used, i.e. a basement shower or floor drain, the water in the trap can evaporate and leave a clear path for sewer gasses to come into the room.

Edited to add that the solution is to simply pour some water into the offending drain.
posted by jon1270 at 8:07 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Locating the critter is the problem. You could tear out the whole wall and not find it. So I agree with the wait it out suggestion, I've done that myself. But do call an exterminator. They might have an idea for locating it but more importantly you want their input on how to exclude the critters and prevent a repeat.
posted by beagle at 8:10 AM on April 14, 2014

I too was thinking broken pipe and/or sewage gas, not a dead rodent.

That, or your neighbor is lying and he has someone decomposing in his basement.
posted by jbenben at 8:11 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

if you have a floor drain, pour some water down it to refill the trap. If the smell is consistent for a long time, it's likely sewer gas and not a dead rodent.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:26 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

In reference to other's suggestions about sewer gasses, decomposing rodents give off a peculiar sickly, sweetish smell, different from sewage or rotting foodstuffs.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:12 PM on April 14, 2014

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