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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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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