Are you embarrassed by a horrible odor emanating from your pits? Does it make you self-conscious? Have others pointed out the smell? Are you tired of trying dozens of different products to mask the odor? We may have a solution! A word of caution: if you are thinking about your armpits, you may have a medical condition called bromhidrosis and we can’t help you. However, if you are referring to your elevator pit(s), that dark area at the bottom of the elevator hoistway, we can help!
The pit is where much of the crucial equipment that keeps your elevator running smoothly (click here for info on the pit) is located, and if it starts smelling down there, it may be a symptom of a larger problem. Keep in mind that only a certified elevator technician can open the elevator doors and inspect a pit.
There are three things that can cause a bad smell, and two can cause significant elevator issues. The first and most common, especially in the rainy season, is standing water. The elevator pit is often the lowest point of any building. Water can seep or leak into the pit and if the sump pump has lost power, is plugged up, is broken or not set right, it could cause stagnant water to build up. Standing water can also occur if the concrete floor of the pit is uneven and not sloped properly to the pump hole.
If water is the problem, the foul smell is hydrogen-sulfide gas (rotten eggs) caused by anerobic decomposition, and breathing this for too long can cause serious health issues. Also, the stagnant water can create an environment for mold and mildew to build up. For many people who are sensitive to molds, exposure may cause a variety of health problems, including throat irritation, coughing or wheezing and more severe reactions. The problem needs to be addressed promptly.
This damp environment is not good for the elevator, either. The moisture can cause premature rusting, electrical shorts, and if there is standing water, it can hide bigger issues with the elevator. Fortunately, the solution is relatively simple. The sump pump needs to be checked and tested regularly. If everything is in working order but there are still puddles, low spots in the pit floor may need to be raised and sloped with grout to force water into the sump pump hole.
The second smell that is a sure sign of trouble is an oily smell. Oil is crucial, especially for hydraulic elevators, as this is what makes the unit go up and down. A persistent smell of oil could mean a leak in the jack seal, which can lead to eventual inability of the elevator car to travel all the way to the top floor. This can be remedied by replacing the seals, or packings, which is a normal maintenance task. Less commonly, the piping or fittings might be leaking and need replacement.
If you have an older in-ground jack, the cylinder might have rusted out, releasing oil into the ground below. This can have an understandably negative impact on the environment and groundwater. The fix for this is pulling out the existing jack and replacing it with a new one.
The third unwanted smell is more of an annoyance and was discussed at length here. Basically, almost anything can and has fallen into a pit. Not to get too graphic, but human waste, food past its shelf life and even dead animals have found their way to the depths of the pit. Getting the pit inspected and cleaned is the best way to avoid this problem.
So, if you have an awful odor rising from your elevator pit, it maybe a bigger problem than you can cover up with a can of Febreze. Get over your pride, call your elevator technician and with forthrightness and honesty say, “I own elevators and my pits stink.” You will not be scorned or belittled; instead, you will find the help your (elevator) pits need!