Smoke and nicotine stains

13 Replies

Hi all,
Okay, so I just took position of a property and the previous owners smoked inside for years. Everything is yellow. I’ve gutted the house and painted two coats of kilz, the house still smells really bad. It’s been airing out for two weeks and I can’t seem to get the smell out. Any thoughts, suggestions or ideas? A friend recommended an ozone machine but I don’t know anything about them. There is literally nothing left in the house that can be taken out, except all the Sheetrock. Anyone have any thoughts?

Inherited a similar property myself last month, I'll be following this thread. Sadly, I don't have sheetrock, but "Lathe?"

Hey Chris, perhaps I can assist here.  Disclosure- Am a field representative for Sherwin Williams.

I have worked in coatings for the past decade.  In my experience, the only thing that truly works over nicotine staining and smoke smell is a true Shellac primer.   Be prepared to shell out some $$$ when compared to the budget "primer/sealers".  The Kilz type products help, but don't ever seem to completely eliminate the odor.  

There are also latex topcoats that have active enzymes that will "absorb" ambient odor such as Harmony from Sherwin Williams.  This will assist for 6 months to a year but is not a permanent fix for the root cause of the odor.  

The ozone machine is also a solid recommendation.  Good luck!

I bought a similar home recently and found that the Kilz as well as ripping out the carpet and flooring eliminated 95% of the problem. My guess is your property is far worse than mine. The next thing I would do is get the ducts cleaned out. They are probably coated in ash.

@Andrew Korver Thank you for the recommendations. I knew this was going to be a problem, but honestly I did not expect this strong of a smell after weeks of airing out and 2 coats of kilz. I have spoken to a few painters and they seem to think that another coat of sealer and then painting the house will work, but im skeptic. The problem is that I think the smoke has permeated the HVAC duct work as well. About the ozone machine, if i decide to go that route, do i run it before or after the painting? Can you recommend a Sherwin Williams product? 

@Christen G. I'll keep you posted.

@Anthony Gayden , there is no carpet or anything left. After I took position of the property I had a roll off dumpster dropped of and literately removed everything in the house except the Sheetrock. When i turned on the HVAC fan to let it air out, i thought i was going to throw up!

Use oil base kilz, that worked for me, stronger then latex kilz.

Chris, run the ozone generator while the HVAC is on.  The buildup in your HVAC system will definitely be a contributor to the remaining odor.   The oxidation process via the ozone generator will help neutralize the residue and odor built up in your vent system.  

I doubt it matters whether you do this before or after the painting process although it will likely assist in reducing that “new paint job smell”.  

I just bought a house that had a pretty bad rat infestation in the garage. The place smells absolutely terrible. Iv been in some raunchy houses and Rat piss is by far the worse. I talked with by HVAC company and they said cleaning the ducts and new filters in furnace will have a ton. Also, the Oil based Shallac primer is the only way to go. If you are only priming your drywall, you might want to think about priming your subfloor as well. thats the first thing we do after we get old carpets and flooring out, i feel like the osb really sucks up nasty smells. Good luck

On heavily smoked properties, or pet odors.  I wash the whole house down with White Vinegar.  I sometimes do it twice.  Then I usually use the Behr paint.  I have had great luck with it.  Sherwin Williams does have a great products also.  A good true Shellac primer works well also.

I just wanted to update everyone on my progress to remediate the nicotine smell and stains. Well I applied a sealer product from PPG at the advise of one of my painters. After 3 coats of sealer this weekend it seems to have done the trick. We left nothing unpainted, and if it was permeable it got removed. My only fear is the new paint smell is masking the nicotine smell. A few more days and we shall see, but I’m optimistic!

A rental we had was so bad we ripped all the drywall out and the HVAC.  The tenants had smoked for nearly 40 years in there, plus horrible roach problem.  Found a lot of old, inactive termite damage that had to be fixed, so maybe good that we gutted it.  Moved the HVAC to attic to free up room to move the linen closet from the bathroom to the hall.  Made a beautiful, bigger bathroom.  Went from $650/month rent to $1335/month, after over a year of rehabbing.

I would have scrubbed the walls and ceilings with detergent and water and rinsed well with cloths before priming/painting.

Originally posted by @Andrew Korver :

Chris, run the ozone generator while the HVAC is on.  The buildup in your HVAC system will definitely be a contributor to the remaining odor.   The oxidation process via the ozone generator will help neutralize the residue and odor built up in your vent system.  

I doubt it matters whether you do this before or after the painting process although it will likely assist in reducing that “new paint job smell”.  

 Andrew, we have also found that running the ozone generator kills roaches and other insects. We put it in front of the HVAC intake, turn on the fan and ozone generator and let it run for a day or two. Of course, we air the place out well before entering after the ozone generator has been running. I usually take a few deep breaths, hold it, go in, open a window and put a fan in the window blowing outside air in. I go back outside, take some more deep breaths, then go in the opposite side of the dwelling and open more windows. Then we sit and wait for about 45 minutes. 

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