Recently moved into an older house (1950s built) and noticed that the coat closet has a musty smell.

The coat closet is next to the front door and has one wall that is an exterior wall. It has Tavertine flooring (as does the entry way), plaster walls, and a cheap wood baseboard.

In one of the corners of the closet walls that is on the exterior wall of the house I noticed a gap about a half inch long by a quarter inch wide that went down to the subfloor (I imagine). On the same wall on exterior of the house I noticed that there was a small gap between the cement and the paneling on the outside of the house.

My thought is that when we had pretty heavy rains a few weeks ago that water may have seeped into the subfloor beneath the tile and mildew/mold started to grow. I liberally applied caulk to close the gaps - both in the interior of the coat closet and along the exterior of the house - and have been running a HEPA air filter inside the closet with the door closed for the last 36 hours. However, the musty smell remains.

What is my next step? Should I give the HEPA air filter more time? Do I need a different filter to remove the smell? I presume that if I have eliminated the water source (which remains to be seen) that the mildew/mold causing the smell will die off, will not return, and the musty smell will go with it. Is that understanding correct?

  • 2
    I don't see how the hepa filter is going to help a water problem. You probably should be using a dehumidifier to remove the moisture.
    – Steven
    Jan 30, 2012 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


A dehumidifier should remove the moisture (I've also had success with DampRid) along with some kind of scent remover like Febreeze or something similar, but I'd be more concerned with additional moisture building up. I'd check more into how the moisture is getting in to begin with. The caulk may have sealed the gap but do you know for sure that no more water is getting behind the wall or under the sub floor?

I'd be afraid of additional mold building up or water backing up somewhere and causing you additional damage.

  • I'm not at all sure that the caulk is stopping the supposed water intrusion - I'm not even positive that that was the source of the water. How do I go about better determining the source? I fear the answer is going to be, "Rip up the floor and drywall." Jan 30, 2012 at 16:53
  • 2
    depends on the circumstances. For instance I had water leaking onto the drywall on the ceiling of my bathroom ... turned out that I had a 4 foot wide, 30 foot high icicle hanging from my roof and water was coming back up under the roof and dripping onto my ceiling. Inspection is the first order of business, if there's an attic above the room, check there, if there's an outside wall, prop up a ladder and poke around there to see if there is a small hole. Once you determine WHERE it's coming from then you can patch the source (in my case it involved a ridge vent and new shingles).
    – user45
    Jan 30, 2012 at 20:23

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