Chinese Drywall?, Sewer Gas?, Other? or All of the Above?

Ok folks, I did an inspection today for a previous client on behalf of her hospitalized aunt. The family had been complaining for years of an unusual smell coming from the home. I was told it was so bad that several of the family members didn’t like going to the house because of it. I was also told that the smell had been there since the aunt purchased the home some 30 years ago.

The home was built in 1946 and the aunt has lived there the entire time she owned it so I know that there was no meth lab present. [FONT=Wingdings]J[/FONT] I ruled out the possibility of some form of electrical contact by finding old scrap pieces of copper in the attic and crawlspace that were corroded and not connected/touching anything so that tells me that it is most likely air borne.

Upon arrival I noticed there was indeed a sulfur-like smell near the front entrance of this home before we even opened the door. The first question that I asked is whether or not there had been any renovations in the last 10 years or so. Indeed, there had been. In 1997 a 14’ x 16’ room addition had been added at the rear of the home. My first instinct was to look for corroded copper. I pulled several outlets and verified that there was indeed black corroded copper. I also verified that the copper plumbing lines and fitting, wiring in the electrical panel, and coils on the AC were all corroded.

Sounds like Chinese drywall right? The room addition was done in 1997, before much of the reported issue with contaminated drywall. Still possible though. The family stated that the smell has been there for many years before the room addition. Maybe they are wrong, maybe 13 years seemed like 30? Still possible though.

I checked with the city to see if there were any known environmental issues and they told me that the owner had filed a complaint in 2005 for the same smell in which the city inspected and found nothing wrong. Surprising right? I went into the attic and found all the copper present was corroded. I crawled under the home (crawl space) and even noticed that the copper wiring and plumbing lines beneath the home were corroded as well.

Is it possible for the corrosion from Chinese drywall to reach the attic, entire inside of the home including the garage and the entire crawlspace from just a 14’ x 16’ addition? I also looked at the possibility of sewer gas. I found that the sewer line is pitched downward until it reaches the front porch area. At this point it makes a 90 degree left turn and has to flow upward to the side of the home. The iron pipe in the crawl space has deteriorated and the sewer line from the side of the home to the city connection was replaced in 2005 but is possible that the sewer line beneath the home is the main culprit here? Would that explain why even after the plumbing line from the side of the home to the street was replaced, there is still a sulfur-like smell coming from the front of the home?

I have recommended for the family to consult with a qualified, licensed plumber to verify that the upward slope and deteriorating iron pipe could be the culprit but I also warned that there could be other elements causing the smell such as the possibility of contaminated drywall. What do you guys think?
I have included several photos for your viewing pleasure.

Here are some other pics.

You could rule out the drywall by having it tested, but I would not think in 97 it would be an issue.
This is a head scratcher indeed. Even is the plumbing was pitched funny as long as the proper traps were in place there should be no sewer gas that could coume out.

WHat about the location of the home itself?? Maybe somthing in the soil. Has anyone ever tested the soil under the home to see what the sulfur levels were.

Don’t forget about the well either. Is there a well for the home??

There is no well in use nor has there been for as long as they can remember (I am sure there was at one time though). One of the reasons I called the city is to check on known environmental issues like ash sites etc. There have been no soil test done however.

Surely there is an oversight on my part and someone has come across this before. I have recommended that tests be performed on the drywall, air quality, and plumbing. I would like to see if anyone has seen these conditions before and know what they are caused by.

I see conditions similar but usually with a well and sulfur water

Did anyone check the vent stacks. If they are cracked you could have this smell. Also google cupric sufide. This could be a possibility.

I know entire towns that have sulfur water. Both public and well water. The sulfur water causes the same conditions as the Chinese drywall.