Thursday, March 7, 2013

What's that smell?

Sometime back in November or December we noticed a funky smell in our house.  The smell went away after a couple of days, so we didn't think anything of it.

Well, a couple weeks ago the smell was back.  Big time.  I decided it was time do a little investigating.  I emptied out the yuki-shita (the below floor storage in our kitchen), pulled the plastic tub up, prayed that the chick from The Grudge wasn't down there, and climbed in.

The empty yuki-shita

And discovered at least 2" of standing, skanky water. (Thankfully there's a little wooden platform I could crouch on and I didn't get wet.)  Looking around I spotted a little drain in the wall that was clogged.  Apparently the drain molded over, trapping water in the crawl space and creating a swamp below our feet.  Wonderful.

Foundation vent and drain

See that tiny drain in the picture above?  Yeah, who knew you had to check on that.

At first, I thought the foundation vents had let rainwater in.  Which probably makes you wonder, why would homes have such vents in the first place?  Traditional homes need air flow to keep the house safe and comfortable.  Back in the day, families would build a fire to cook and warm the living space.  A fire means smoke, definitely not something you want building up in your house.  So the vents are designed to draw air up from the crawlspace to keep smoke from accumulating.  Now people use kerosene heaters that can also create fumes.  Plus, Japanese homes usually don't have any insulation or central heating. The vent's second purpose is to help keep the temperature comfortable.  Instead of relying on a/c in the summer, cold air from the crawl space helps to cool the rest of the house.

Later the work crew discovered our bathroom sink had a leak.  The leak must have been slow enough to let mold grow (not a difficult task around here).  Then maybe a combination of rain from the typhoons and water from the sink backed up.

Our foundation/crawl space

The crawlspace is maybe 3 feet at the tallest.  Definitely felt bad for the crew who had to fix the leak and clean the swamp up.  But now our house doesn't smell like an old aquarium, so I'm happy.  And I'm definitely checking that drain from now on!

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