Is there something special one can do to remove the smoke smell in a home?
11 February 2006
A. A heavy odor in a house can certainly impact the quality of the indoor environment whether that odor be tobacco or animal, such as cat or dog. Some people are more sensitive to odors than others. I've been told that there is a significant percentage of the population, upwards of ten percent, who either cannot smell or mis-identify what they do smell. While an even greater portion of the population have genuine physical reactions to specific odors and their reactions get called allergies.
I've had the misfortune to enter homes that were for sale where the pet odor was so heavy that even with my strong stomach I had to back out after only a few minutes. I know that a heavily smoked-up house can affect market value-- all other factors bein g equal-- and smart sellers will take steps to make the house more presentable by painting and deodorizing the house in preparation for sales showings.
How such a strong odor was missed by you or not mentioned by anyone else entering the house during the sales process is beyond me. It happened. I'm not an attorney. If you feel that you have been somehow defrauded or deceived by the sellers-- who were temporarily able to mask a condition that you now can't get rid of no matter how hard you try-- long enough to buy the house with the problem undetected, then you need to speak with a lawyer. However, my experience in these matters leads me to believe that you might not have much luck with the sellers. The sellers were smokers and smokers can't smell smoke like non-smokers can. It might be hard to prove fraud. But you can try.
You say that you have replaced the carpets, repainted the walls and ceilings, cleaned the ductwork and tossed the window treatments. All good steps but one may have been missed. When I did fire restoration work-- and a task like this falls into that ca tegory-- getting rid of the smoke smell was paramount along with repairing the damaged structure.
What we used to do after all the burned stuff was stripped from the house was to completely air out the house with fans and then encapsulate the odor with a strong primer like Kilz, Zinsser Bullseye or white shellac prior to topcoat. We even sealed the subfloor under the carpets and joists in attics and floors if they were smoke stained and smelled. That always seemed to work. You may have skipped that step. Just painting drywall with latex wall paint won't do the trick if the problem is bad.
What I recommend doing now would be to air the house completely as often as you can. Heat pump systems are a closed loop system so for all intents and purposes the same stale smelly air is being circulated over and over.
There is a product called ODOBAN which can be found at Sam's Club or at www.cleancontrol.com. It's a concentrate you mix with water and sprinkle about. Itís been used with success.
Should the smell continue, I will go against some strong instincts and recommend the use of an electronic ozone generator. Fire restoration companies have them and they may be rentable from one. I know that these things can control many odors and tobac co smell is one of them. They've been used successfully in such smelly places as morgues and fish packing houses. But ozone is an irritant and an oxidizer and can present some unanticipated consequences by its presence. Rubber products deteriorate and metal objects take to rusting when exposed to elevated ozone levels. If you use one then I recommend that people and pets be out of the house during its use.