If you recently bought an older home, you probably love all the character that comes with it. The handmade doors, antique light fixtures, and original wood floors all speak to you. The only part you don’t like is the stubborn, musty “old house” smell. If you’re faced with stale, musty air in your beautiful older home, learn where the smell might be coming from and how to get rid of it.
Why Do Old Houses Smell Musty?
So, just what is that offensive odor? The old musty smell could be coming from a combination of sources:
- Mold and mildew: Leaky pipes, a damaged roof, high humidity, and exposed dirt in the crawlspace all contribute to moisture buildup over the years. This moisture, combined with the stagnant air and dark corners of an older house, leads to rampant mold growth, often behind the walls where you can’t see it. Long after the mold dies, its odor lingers, having permeated the carpet, curtains, and upholstery, making the whole house smell like mildew.
- Musty odors trapped in the HVAC system: You can almost always count on old ductwork to be grimy, dusty, and smelly. The heating and cooling equipment itself may be decades old, introducing musty odors into the home every time they turn on.
- Cigarette and cigar smoke: Drywall tends to soak up any smells it’s subjected to on a regular basis. If the previous homeowner smoked, the walls will emit that odor for decades.
- Spills and messes: Long-ago pet accidents and drink spills may resurface years later if they were never cleaned up properly. Stagnant air from boarding up an old house between owners can bring these scents to the forefront.
How to Get Rid of Musty House Smell
It can be difficult to eliminate an unpleasant musty odor in your home, even with deep cleaning. To get at the root of the problem, you need to go even deeper and make some home upgrades. Here are the top ways to combat musty house smell:
- Air out the house: Opening windows and doors can have a tremendous effect. Sometimes, all an older home needs is some fresh air.
- Change the air filter: A clean air filter can do wonders for trapping airborne contaminants that contribute to old house smell.
- Clean the air ducts: It’s possible the ductwork in your older home has never been cleaned. Professional air duct cleaning is an effective way to eliminate odors that manifest when you turn on the furnace or air conditioner.
- Update the HVAC system: Air duct cleaning isn’t always enough. Musty house odors may be embedded in the HVAC equipment itself. For better efficiency and odor control, consider replacing the heating and AC system.
- Repair leaks: A little home improvement—including fixing the roof, sealing windows and doors, and replacing damaged pipes—can help prevent water intrusion that leads to mold growth.
- Paint the walls: Strip off old wallpaper and paint with mold-resistant paint to seal the walls.
- Replace the carpet: A quick sniff will tell you if the carpet is compromised. Unless it was replaced recently, it probably smells musty and needs to go.
- Seal exposed dirt floor with concrete: If you have an unpaved area in the crawlspace, it could make the house smell musty after rain or earthy during hot, humid weather. Hire a contractor to pour concrete over the dirt floor and seal the area for good.
- Test the air quality: After all your efforts, an air quality test tells you if there’s any work left to do.
More for information about tackling musty house smells, please contact Aire Serv® today.
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