Old hardwoods and animal smells: Help! (xpost w floor)

navi_jenSeptember 29, 2010


I recently purchased a 1920 house in New England. Previous owners, who lived in the house 70+ years, had a variety of animals. None of which, it seems, were properly trained.

By removing the kitchen linoleum, vigorously scrubbing the HW floors with kennel cleaners, and removing all of the basement plaster/lathe, I have eliminated 90% of the ammonia smell. Because of the pets & missing downspouts, there is still significant mold (confirmed by lab tests) on the joists supporting the first floor. I plan to have this mold professionally removed (the mold, not the joists!).

However, along with the mold, I'm pretty sure that most of the first floor subfloor is coated with animal by-products. What's worse is, I'm pretty sure a good portion of the beautiful 90 year old hardwood floors on the first floor are saturated with animal leftovers.

What's a girl on a budget to do? I could not tear up the HW and replace with carpet. It would kill the 'charm' of the house.

Before spending $5k to $8k to replace 500sq ft of what I believe to be quartersawn white oak, wondered if a stopgap would be to:

a) Have the floors professionally stripped. Aggressively. Get as much 'goo' off as possible.

b) Gently take up the HW floors, so that the subfloor could be treated for mold. (assuming a slow and labor intensive task, with 20/30% loss of HW due to demo)

c) Have the floors professionally re-installed upside down and install new where old pieces can't be reused.

d) Re-strip that side of the wood stripped agressively (to get any remaining 'goo' off).

e) Refinish and pray like h$ck that it don't smell.

f) If the smell is still strong, rip it out the floor and replace. And forget any vacations for the next 5 years...

Any help/advice is appreciated!

Am going to ask my mold and floor guys too, but I figured 1000 heads are better than 3!

Smelly Jen

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Are you sure there's a subfloor? We don't have a subfloor...the hardwood is laid right over the joists (on the first floor).

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 5:15PM
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My advice is to post this on the forums at oldhouseweb dot com. It's much more active than here and many folks there have faced a similar situation.

Here is a link that might be useful: ohw

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 8:24PM
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Rip it out and replace with "new old wood". I think anything else will just hide the smell for a few months and then it will come back. The current floor is saturated.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 2:28PM
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It's my understanding that if you strip the wood down by sanding it, then stain it and then seal you will get rid of the smell. The most important part is to use multiple coats of sealer.
I've never had to do it so I'll be looking to see what others that have done it have to say.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 8:03PM
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I do not have personal experience but have it on good authority that shellac is the only thing that will effectively seal animal smells. And for non-floor apps, Kilz makes a shellac based primer.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 9:21PM
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In the past I've solved animal urine odor problems in rental properties by removing the carpet and sealing the wood underneath with 2 coats of oil-based floor enamel. (Do they even make that stuff any more?)

I think the key is that the finish must cure by chemical reaction, not by solvent evaporation.

In this case of course you don't want enamel, but rather a clear finish. I'm not an expert on floor finishing, but maybe something like a good traditional spar varnish would work.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 1:20PM
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In houses with that problem caused by pet-owning tenants, sanding down the hardwood and refinishing the floors has cured the odour problem for me. But 70 years of saturation...I'd scrap the hardwood and start over.

Removing the mould by dry ice blasting?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 10:08PM
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