Buying Smokers Home - Need help on odor removal

Hauda9February 25, 2013

I finally (after a wait of 7 months) found a house in the Midwest which is not only structured to my taste but also has the interiors/wall painting that I liked.

However it comes with one big drawback - strong smoke odor (courtesy the single owner who has lived in house for 17 years).

My offer is accepted and I am preparing for odor removal and I have two months time with me.

Can you please share your experience with me on how to proceed on the smoke removal and the time/cost required.

The 2700 sft house has a tiled and finished basement, partly tiled partly carpeted 1st floor and carpeted 2nd floor.

Any and every guidance is highly welcome.


This post was edited by Hauda9 on Mon, Feb 25, 13 at 15:01

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There have been some posts on this. Go down to the bottom of the page and type "smoking" into the search box and it'll bring up some with good info.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 3:31PM
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I think in the Home Disasters forum there have been some threads on this too.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 3:57PM
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The search function here doesn't work very well all the time.

Eventually, over time, the smell might disappear over time, but you probably don't want to wait years to move in.

The cheapest way is to get all carpets professionally cleaned, and to wash all the doors, walls, ceilings, hard floors and trim, as well as the kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures with something that will remove the smell. I've heard Simple Green works well, or you could try vinegar or ammonia. You don't want something that will just cover up the smell, because the smell will just come back.

Also, change all heating/AC filters.

If that doesn't work, you are going to have to remove all carpet from the house, and any curtains that the previous owner left behind. You'll need to seal and paint all the walls and ceilings.

Then see how much odor remains. At that point, you might need an ozone treatment.

I've heard that people have replaced dry wall or subfloors to get rid of odors, but I'd hope it doesn't come to that.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:25PM
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If you replace the carpet you should also seal the subfloors before putting down new carpet. I have heard of people using ozone generators to reduce the smoke odor, but you would probably do that after the other steps.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:41PM
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Here's a link to a thread in home disasters forum

Here is a link that might be useful: Cigarette smell and a new home

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:49PM
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One thing to keep in mind is that over time, YOU will become accustomed to the odor, however faint it may be. But your guests and/or anyone that gets close to the clothing you hang in your closets will notice the stale smoke smell right away. That's what happens with smoke-infused walls and floors.

Good advice already, but I really would insist on doing the following if this were my house...would have actually made the seller give me concessions on it, but it may be too late for that.

-Replace all carpeting/pads. Before laying new carpet/padding, skim-coat the floor with a sealant (depending on subfloor type).
-Paint all rooms with Killz primer, and then repaint the walls color of your choice.
-Ditto above for ceilings. If they have that popcorn/acoustic stuff sprayed on, ideally it should be sanded off first. Not an easy task, so you can skip this and just paint over if you'd like. The ceilings took the brunt of the second-hand smoke and that stuff is locked into the drywall/sheetrock material after 17 years.
-If it were me...I'd replace all my ceiling insulation above the ceiling as well. Smells get trapped in there forever.
-Replace all filters in the HVAC system.
-Replace the ENTIRE exhaust vent system in the bathrooms.
-Consider having your home AC/Heating vents professional cleaned by someone that specializes in the task. Otherwise, everytime your HVAC runs, you are breathing someone else's exhaled smoke that has coated up all your vents.

Very difficult to get second-hand smoke out of a home. I used to do apartment cleaning post-moveout back in my college days and we'd often do some or all the above to get an apartment ready for a "non-smoker" after a smoker had rented it previously. You'd be disgusted by the buildup of tar and yellow stains in the bathroom vents and in the HVAC vents in general. Just disgusting.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Gosh so sorry about the smoke. I lived in an older home years ago, and the previous owners smoked. We tore down walllpaper, painted the ceilings, replaced all the carpeting, etc. The smell was still in the closets. Makes me nauseas thinking about it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 9:13PM
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We had a smoker in our home before we bought it. We have mostly plaster walls and after painting it was fine. We tore out all carpet and replaced. We did a furnace and duct cleaning. All new window coverings. After a few years, I could still smell it in the cheap wood doors, so I put in new ones. If they had been nice doors, I'm sure painting would have been fine. It was only if I stuck my nose up to it. Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 10:17PM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I also went to the older threads. It has very useful information.

However, I was wondering if anyone could tell me the rough range of cost so that I can at least ask the seller to share the costs.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:55AM
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Watching this thread with interest -- my parents have a beautiful home but smoke 4-5 packs a day between the two of them. The smell is horrific, and I have NO idea how they'll ever sell if they want to move.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:59PM
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When the weather warms up, open all the windows and air it out.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:53PM
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As for the cost it would depend on how extreme you get with the cleaning. If you had to replace all the carpets, seal and paint all the rooms, etc. Could be 5K or more, maybe you could get estimates from those places that clean up after fires?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:31AM
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Call local fire restoration companies and ask about ozone treatment.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:56AM
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Thanks everyone for the inputs.

I just called the service master and here is the information I could get.

The entire process will encompass repainting walls, replacing carpets and cleaning up the vents. The steps are:
1. Remove carpets and padding
2. Scrub/clean the walls clear of nicotine traces
3. Paint the walls
4. Lay out new carpets and padding
5. Clean HVAC vents/ducts

The total time expected for the project execution is 3-4 weeks. But it should come with a advance planning of 30 days.

And it will cost anything between 10K-15K for a 2700 sft house with finished basement.

I will keep posted how the project comes through. Till then, please wish me all the luck:)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:34PM
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" service master" is a bit of a joke sometimes.

When a buddy had a major black water backup (collapsed main line) they did not want to even take his basement on.

The big scary machine tools scared them off.

Of course steel is not known for absorbing anything, and you can always sub a rigger to lift and move them (or know hot to use a high capacity pallet jack, the way he and I got them in there) to lift and move them.

his insurance agent new exactly who to call, and it was NOT service master.

The one you called obviously does not own an ozone generator, so it is not an option.

When all you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:50PM
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Our first home had been lived in by a smoker for 20 some years and this lady SMOKED!!! We wondered why she left the bathroom rugs on the floor when she moved--turned out it was because there were tar "outlines" of where the rugs were.....We painted the whole house, ceilings, top to bottom with Kilz paint--oil based. Sealed in the smell. We ran an ozone thing but I don't think that helped at all. Kept the windows open as much as we could. Got rid of all of the carpets and scrubbed the wood floors. Scrubbed all the woodwork with wood soap. I never got the stains out of the bathroom floor vinyl---I used everything but that stuff would not come out. To be honest it was a complete nightmare but we sold the house a few years later for a profit so the work was well worth it. Get a respirator now and start painting:)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 3:21PM
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I would get estimates, that just sounds so expensive! I guess if you got some help, even hired a couple cleaning people, you could rip out the carpet and paint the walls yourself. The Kilz primer-sealer is really good stuff. It can also be used on stained (cat urine) sub floor, besides the walls, and then put the new flooring down. Lots of work!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:36PM
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Go over to the Painting forum to ask about sealing primers. I think they like Zinnser better than Kilz.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 12:58PM
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