House-Hunting: Sniffing Out Potential Problems

If you are in the process of looking for a home, you likely have a list of wants and needs. In addition to looking at the closet space and the age of the kitchen appliances, it's important to use your nose to detect potential issues before you fall head over heels with a particular home. Check out this list of serious problems that you may be able to sniff out before putting in an offer.

Chinese Drywall

During the first part of this century, some housing contractors were using drywall imported from China in both new construction and in reconstruction. This type of drywall has been implicated in the corrosion of electrical wiring, as well as in the emission of sulfide gases. Most homes that contain Chinese drywall were built between 2001 and 2009, explains the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Upon entering a home containing Chinese drywall, you might notice a smell that reminds you of rotten eggs. This is the sulfide gas that you're detecting. Another giveaway might be a smell like burning matches, which indicates problems with the electrical wiring. Some problems that can be caused by this type of corrosion include house fires, headaches, fatigue and exacerbation of asthma or other respiratory conditions.

In order to confirm or rule out Chinese drywall in a home, you can check the back of the drywall in the home, but you won't be able to access all of it. Even a few panels can cause issues. Laboratory testing can detect whether there are increased sulfide gases in the air. If your home does have this issue, a Chinese drywall remediation company like Mustang Builders Inc can remove the panels and clean up the resulting corrosion and damage.


You probably already know what mold smells like: It's a damp, unpleasant odor that might remind you of dirt or decaying leaves in the fall. If you walk into a home and smell mold, that's a pretty good sign that there is a mildew problem somewhere in the home. The main goal here should be to identify where the problem is, what type of mold is present, and whether it can be easily rectified.

There are many different kinds of mold. Many are harmless, some will cause allergic-type reactions (such as runny nose, burning eyes, headaches and a tickly throat) and others can endanger your life. When you are looking at a home that might have a mold problem, it's important to have laboratory testing done to find out what type of mold is present.

Remember that a mold problem indicates a moisture problem. A mold remediation company can remove existing mildew and advise you on how to proceed to fix the problem that allowed the mold to grow in the first place.


In some areas, there is a growing trend to use single-family homes as methamphetamine, or "meth" labs. Even after the people processing the meth have moved out and taken their supplies with them (or had them confiscated), there is still inherent danger in these homes. Because the fumes can settle in the drywall and studs of the home, symptoms like headaches, neurological problems, respiratory problems and eye irritation can result from living in a former meth lab.

If the lab was active in the not-too-distant future and the home has not been sufficiently aired out, you might notice odors that remind you of ammonia, which smells like cat urine, or vinegar. You might also smell a sweet odor that leaves a sweet taste in your mouth. In some cases, particularly if the home was left open to air, you might not notice any odor at all. If you have suspicions that the home might have been a meth lab at one time, laboratory testing can confirm or rule out your concerns.

Meth homes need to be completely gutted and rebuilt, in most cases.

While house-hunting is an exciting activity, it's important to be aware of problems that can crop up. Using your nose as a tool in the home evaluation process can help you save money and heartache later. Be sure to rely on lab testing for any issues that you suspect, as smelling or not smelling certain odors is not a surefire way of diagnosing a home with problems.