In the world of eighty year old homes lived in by other people, there is only one sure way to get rid of a Smell. Throw out the carpet, and paint every wall you can reach. Then find a ladder and paint all the rest (including the ceilings).
I don’t care how many candles you light or how many gallons of febreeze you saturate the air with, getting rid of a capital “S” smell takes 100% commitment to banish the origin of it, even if that means peeling up stick-tiles from the basement bathroom that had a leaky toilet. (Ugh. Gag me.)
Anyway, my “big plan” going in to this whole home renovation thing was to get the kitchen done first (granted at the time The Plan was formulated… I didn’t know there were going to be bathroom issues.) I figured, as long as you have a kitchen, you can eat. As long as you can eat, you can survive. Let me just tell you… it is January 10th 2005, my kitchen is still not finished. Well under way, but not finished. Anyway, what happened to alter the course of The Plan was, well, The Smell. I couldn’t stand it; even with the carpet out of there it still smelled like… I don’t know, it just smelled off. So instead of tearing apart the kitchen, I had a priming party. Not really actually, I was content to do it all myself, but when you’re working 12 hour days at the family business, your family knows you don’t have enough time to get done what needs to be done. So one Saturday when I was painting, my grandmother showed up with her paint clothes and some buckets… and promptly called in the troops. It took me 2 days to get half my living room done by myself. In half a Saturday with Ooie, my dad, and my mom painting… I got the living room, dining room, and the bathroom primed. Not to mention after buying a dozen quarts of different shades of yellow paint trying to find just the right one, my aunt and step-mother head out to Sherwin Williams with a magazine clipping, and bingo we have a match. (Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to paint the same section of wall over and over and over again with slight variations of the color yellow trying to find the perfect mix of aged-glow and warmth without searing your retinas? Just, trust me.)
So in about a day, my house was transformed from off-white and skin-tone brown, to Bright-Freaking-White. It seriously hurt the eyeballs to walk around the house for too long, it was that bright. So of course, instead of resuming the original plan and heading back into the kitchen… and also with the addition of the perfect color of burnt-yellowish-buttercup in my greedy little paws I couldn’t help myself… I had to start painting the living room. Okay, I’ll also admit I’m a little ADD when it comes to DIY projects. I always start, like, thirty all at once, and it takes me several years to complete them all.
All of this is actually a really long winded excuse for why this…
became this (note the beautiful slate floors replacing puke-inducing carpet)…
…while I still have no doors on my cabinets, no caulk on my tub in the upstairs bath, and am sleeping on a blow-up mattress on the floor of one of the bedrooms without curtains.
Found your site while doing a search on “getting rid of smells” in an old house. You guys do go work! I am still reading but thought I would comment.
What IS that smell that old people leave in houses? It’s 30% cat pee, 30% cigarette smoke, 10% sick smell, 10% unwashed human, and 20% mystery.
Carpets, especially wall-to-wall carpets, are the key culprit, I’ve found, so they need to go. No amount of cleaning gets out the stink, and carpets are nasty anyway. But I also found it in the drapes and, yes, in the walls. I even smelled cigarette smoke in the insulation! Ew.
Cat pee actually makes the floorboards themselves stink. They needed to be taken up in my old house, and even then…
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