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Who would someone call to investigate odd smells. I've been going crazy trying to find the source of this odd,musty smell in our stairwell.

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A home inspector might be a good option, as home inspectors have very broad knowledge and have seen many, many houses with all kinds of problems. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Aug 26 '12 at 11:42
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2 Answers

Who you gonna call? Ok, I'll admit that Ghostbusters is low on my list of choices.

One possibility is to look for water damage somewhere. This will manifest itself in the form of mildew, mold. Perhaps water is getting in through your roof, or a problem with a window, etc. You might even have leak in the plumbing. (For example, we had a contractor redo a bathroom, but they knew nothing about plumbing, leaving behind 6 leaks in the walls.) To track that down, a pinless moisture meter is a relatively inexpensive idea here to locate wet places in the walls coming in. As a woodturner I have one, so it was a useful tool that i already had. Another key is to look for soft spots. Are there black spots appearing on interior walls?

There are specialists who can look for mold problems, but another good possibility is to look for something dead and decomposing in the walls or the ceiling. I'd bet on something large enough to smell, perhaps a raccoon. Second choice might be a family of squirrels or other small animals. Had you heard noises in the walls or ceilings? Those things that go bump in the night are animals.

In any event, there are animal removal specialists. Find a GOOD one. They can figure out where it is and how it got in, and if they know what they are doing, can even arrange to prevent such an event from recurring.

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About who to call, I would ask around for a general handyman. He should be able to open some holes in the drywall if necessary. Hopefully he has a snake camera. About the smell - is the stairwell going down to a basement? If so and you have a floor drain, check if the water has evaportated from it. If its dry, pour some water in water in the trap will stop fumes from the drains.

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