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Removal of cigarette smoke from a house: Possible, or no?

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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:40 PM
Original message
Removal of cigarette smoke from a house: Possible, or no?
I'm tentatively looking at a wonderful mid-century house. It's well maintained, has a wonderfully landscaped yard, and I really like the layout.

The BIG downside- the house is being sold by its original owners (of 50+ years) and they (or at least the husband) has smoked in the house for the duration. In fact, they're moving to a more arid climate because he has emphysema. So.... The house, though in great shape, reeks of smoke. Nothing against smokers- but it's not a smell I'm wanting to live with.

Removal of the carpet (which I'd want to do anyway) and painting every last wall/ceiling with Kilz would probably be a given, as are days and weeks (months?) of opening every window and door to let the place air out. But is it reasonable to think that the smell will ever diminish to a noticeable extent?
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jeff30997 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:44 PM
Response to Original message
1. Yes.
In 50+ years.
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Blue Diadem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:45 PM
Response to Original message
2. What kind of heating system does it have?
I would think forced air may be of concern. How would you get the odor out of the ductwork?
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:51 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. It's central air/heat....
I hadn't considered that aspect. I have a friend who had a small house fire and had to have his ductwork cleaned to remove the smell. But it wasn't easy or cheap.
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Blue Diadem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:58 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Here's an article about removing smoking odor. It took this family a year.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39849-20...

The ductwork would be my biggest concern. The rest may take work & some $$ but I think it could be done. The ductwork? I have no idea how much something like that would cost. The article does say that if the ductwork is dusty to begin with, that it's easier to clean it.



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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:01 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. The cleaning costs won't be cheap, but include them in your calculations on purchase price.
There's a good chance that either the listing price is low because the place stinks or that you can negotiate a reduction based on it. The smoke odor will be greatly reduced by painting the walls and removing the carpet. A good cleaning of all other surfaces is in order too.

I have friends who bought a small house in similar circumstances and most of the smoke odor was gone after a thorough cleaning and paint job. The house didn't have carpeting.
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:17 PM
Response to Reply #9
14. The carpet is fairly new, but it would be coming out regardless.
I hate carpet.

The price has been dropping- the house has been on the market for a while, but there are other strikes against it that would make people balk. For starters, the outside is painted Pepto-pink (easy enough to remedy, and not exactly something that you'd have to fix immediately!). Also, it only has 2 bedrooms (though one of them is HUGE and could be made into 2 very easily).

As of now, the price is more or less reasonable, but if it becomes a serious consideration I'll be pricing out the cleaning and replacement of the floors.
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PassingFair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:46 PM
Response to Original message
3. My husband and I smoked until 6 years ago.
We don't have any carpet, but
we have taken no extreme measures,
and our house (small ranch) doesn't
smell of cigarettes at all.

Even smoking friends won't light up
in my house for fear of "stinking it up",
but I don't mind if they do, it doesn't
bother me.
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cboy4 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 04:00 PM
Response to Reply #3
27. Right. Just like the person who farted in the livingroom and says
what? I don't smell anything. LOL

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texanwitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:47 PM
Response to Original message
4. Get a good air cleaner or two.
It will clean out the smokey smell.

Might take a few weeks or so.


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Moondog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 12:59 PM
Response to Original message
7. Depending on how heavily they smoked, the ventilation system
Edited on Wed Jul-08-09 01:10 PM by Moondog
and how old the current paint is, you may have to wash down the walls / ceiling first. There can actually be smoke / nicotine deposits which are kind of oily and look yellowish. If it's bad, I'm not sure that Kilz would seal it in.

I had to have this done for an old house that I bought / restored 25 or so years ago. The painters did the work, so I don't know what they used to clean the walls / ceilings before they primed them - I seem to recall they used some sort of solvent, followed by a detergent / water mixture, and then several days of drying, before they applied primer and finish coats.

Also, if there is any hardwood flooring in the house, seriously consider completely stripping it down to bare wood, and refinishing it. There may be similar issues with any built-in cabinetry as well.

Anyway, the good news is that you can get all the smell out, but the house has to be worth the effort.
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 02:25 PM
Response to Reply #7
17. I'm sure a thorough cleaning would be required...
I've heard tale of people trying to skip the cleaning, and the yellow nicotine stains bleeding right through layers of new paint.

There is no hardwood floors- I would install either hardwood, or preferably bamboo flooring throughout the house. There are a lot of built-ins and other woodworks, but they're all painted so I would assume that I could do the same cleaning, priming, painting routine as the walls.

For what it's worth, when I did a walk-through of the house- other than the smell, the place was immaculate and spotless. I think the wife is of the obsessive-compulsive sort (she was very sweet, though- gave me some clippings of a groundcover she had planted in the backyard that I was admiring).
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Kali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:00 PM
Response to Original message
8. depends on how sensitive you are
I would think you could do a reasonable job of cleaning it and it might make a good bargaining point for the price or getting them to foot for the ductwork cleaning... :shrug:
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rcrush Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:02 PM
Response to Original message
10. Its always been a given that I go outside to smoke cigarettes
And everyone that i know thats smoke cigarettes always goes outside to smoke. I dont think I've ever been able to smoke inside someones house before. Hell it gives me a reason to go outside every once in awhile.
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hvn_nbr_2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:03 PM
Response to Original message
11. I'm skeptical but it depends on how sensitive you are to smoke
I remember once looking at a house as a prospective buyer. I liked it enough that we spent a fair amount of time there looking around. The owners were smokers, but they had already moved and had done as much as possible to clean out the smoke smell--changed carpets, cleaned and painted walls, etc. At first I didn't even notice any smell but after being in the house awhile, I started to cough and wheeze and detect a slight smell of stale smoke, so I asked the realtor about it and determined that they had in fact been smokers. There's no way I could have lived there. However, I am extremely sensitive to tobacco smoke, and most people would probably not even notice anything.

I don't think Kilz would do anything for you, if I know what Kilz is. I think it's a paint that has some kind of antiseptic/bactericide/whatever to kill mold and other living things. Since smoke isn't living, I don't think Kilz would have any effect.
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:12 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Kilz is more of a stain-blocking primer...
I've seen it used in a house that had a musty odor, and it seemed to help tremendously.

I'm not overly-sensitive to cigarette smoke- I can go to a bar, and though I hate the smell I'm not debilitated in any way. That said, I don't know what a long-term exposure would do to me.
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Starbucks Anarchist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:13 PM
Response to Original message
13. Try this:
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applegrove Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:17 PM
Response to Original message
15. I think you have to scrub the walls down before you paint. That is what my brother's friend did.
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 01:21 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Yeah, I've heard that, too....
I think Trisodium Phosphate is recommended.
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msanthrope Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:06 PM
Response to Reply #16
19. I've had to do this--you MUST hit the walls with TSP
because unless you physically remove the nicotine, it will leech through any paint/wallpaper you put up. This includes the ceilings.


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Red State Rebel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 02:57 PM
Response to Original message
18. It Can Be Done Professionally in a Matter of Day or So
When we had a fire at our home they came in with some kind of air scrubber, plugged in this big machine and left it run for a day or so and the smoke smell was gone! Fabrics still had to be washed/cleaned, but it was amazing how well that worked. You could contact a disaster clean up company like Serve Pro and I would bet they could do it.
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:07 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. I know there is a local company that specializes in smoke removal (from house fires)...
but I wasn't sure if it would work for long-term cigarette smoke.

I wouldn't be keeping any of the window treatments or other fabrics.
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msanthrope Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:08 PM
Response to Reply #18
21. That will work for a fire, but not for nicotine residue. You have to
remove that from the walls and ceilings.
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:10 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. I would want to paint and take down the wallpaper anyway...
I hate the colors. Washing down the walls and ceilings before priming and re-painting is certainly do-able.

:hi:
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politicat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:12 PM
Response to Original message
23. It took us 2 weeks to clean out my grandparents' house.
Similar circumstances. That's not really too long. I'm a former smoker, so I am actually quite aware of the odor.

First things first, though -- the odor can be irritating, but it is not toxic (those who are super sensitive to it are usually mechanically sensitive (i.e. microparticulates bother them) not immunologically sensitive (i.e. they have a histamine reaction to molecular volatile compounds). This is a huge distinction.). What you're considering with is really no different than any sort of smoke remediation -- the same thing someone who has had a kitchen fire has to do.

What we did: Anything soft went -- bedding, upholstered furniture, drapery, carpets, vinyl flooring. We scheduled a full service for the furnace and a duct cleaning. (Our furnace company provides both.) That cost about $600. Duct cleaning not only got out the smoke, but the accumulated dust, dirt, skin flakes, dead mites, hair, et cetera that living breathing humans shed. (AKA... human dander. We have it, too, folks...)

Subfloors got washed with TSP (trisodium phosphate), then vinegar. (TSP, $5; vinegar $3 for a gallon)

Walls and ceilings -- same. (DON'T forget the ceilings.) Also, ceiling fans, light fixtures.

Next, get a large bottle of Ozium. It's an aerosol air cleaner based on propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is used in humidors, clean-room situations, fog machines. It's an excellent air cleaner. Close all the windows and walk around the house, using 1 second of spray per cubic meter of space. (So a room that's 3 meters by 3 meters by 3 meters will take 27 seconds of spray. Guestimate is okay here.) For 1000 sq foot house with 8 foot ceilings, figure about 225 seconds of continuous spray, or a 14 oz bottle. ($6)

Leave -- consider this a bug bomb of sorts. Go see a couple movies, whatever. One Ozium treatment should take care of 95% of what odor remains. (And since the carpets are gone and the house has been washed down, you should be down to very little odor left anyway.) When you return (at least 4 hours later or longer) let the house air out -- windows open.

Prime the walls and paper or paint. Kilz works, but so will any other primer and some are much less volatile. Paint's fine, but wallpaper will provide a barrier.

Have somebody REALLY sensitive to smoke over. If they still smell it, look for an Ozium metered dispenser or repeat the treatment, but after 25 years of 2-4 indoor smokers, even my 9 weeks' pregnant cousin couldn't detect smoke (and she could smell EVERYTHING in Sweden, it seemed.)

Install flooring.

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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:46 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. Extensive answer!
Thanks!
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Deep13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:15 PM
Response to Original message
24. Once the furniture, curtains etc. are removed....
...it ought to clear up in a short time. As you say, chucking the carpet and cleaning or repainting will do it. Once the source is removed, the stench won't hang around long.
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Strong Atheist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 03:44 PM
Response to Original message
25. .
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Taverner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 04:01 PM
Response to Original message
28. Re-carpet, Re-paint and take out any furniture that sat in the home when smokers did
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cboy4 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 04:02 PM
Response to Original message
29. Are you sure the house doens't have emphysema also?
:scared:
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SacredCow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 04:08 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. I didn't hear it wheezing or coughing or anything....
:silly:
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elehhhhna Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 04:25 PM
Response to Reply #30
32. Call your local Servpro and ask how much it costs
for them to ozone the house--after you've removed all the stinky removable stuff and had the ducts cleaned. Probably under 200.00. Can't be done if there are pets, plamts or people present. Works like a charm in less than 24 hours. Realtors do this all the time for smoky homes.
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GardeningGal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-08-09 04:23 PM
Response to Original message
31. My parents smoked (like chimneys) in their house.
When it came time to move them, we scrubbed the walls in the kitchen where they did the largest amount of their smoking and then painted all the rooms in the house. We also removed their carpet and we never had any complaints from prospective buyers of any smoke smell.

I think the key for us was first washing down the walls in the room where they did their heavy smoking before painting and the removal of the carpet. You can't imagine how carpet holds the smoke until you remove it.
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