LESLIE: Donna in Tennessee has got a funky guest house. Let’s just call it that.
What’s going on, Donna?
DONNA: We have been in this property – on this property – for two-and-a-half years. And when we purchased the property, the guest house had tenants. And they moved out a little over a year-and-a-half ago. However, there’s a very funky odor in the house that instead of fading over time is becoming more and more prevalent. The odor is best described, perhaps, as a stale cologne, so it’s not very pleasant.
LESLIE: Stale cologne. That’s interesting because, generally, when you get a funky odor in a space that’s not used that often, it usually has something to do with a sink not getting water down it and the trap drying out and sewer gases coming back up. So you could get a funky sewer smell but cologne? Are you sure the house isn’t haunted?
DONNA: We did pull up any carpeting that was in the house. And there wasn’t that much; it was just in the bedroom and the bathroom. The rest of the floors are wood and tile.
TOM: Have you done any painting yet?
DONNA: No. It had been – it was fairly recently painted, you know, prior to our purchasing the house and so I didn’t. However, after the tenants moved out, I really thoroughly cleaned the house. Actually, we moved all the appliances, everything like that. But I haven’t repainted.
TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you that sometimes when a house is empty, it tends to get a little dank sometimes. Are you running the heating system the way you would if somebody was living there?
TOM: Yeah. So you get more moisture and sometimes there can be odors associated with that. So unless it’s really pervasive, I don’t think I would worry too much about it. You’re doing the right things. You pulled up the carpet. If you haven’t painted and you’re going to paint, I would suggest one additional step and that is to make sure you prime the walls. Because if there’s anything in the walls, that will block it.
DONNA: Mm-hmm. What type of primer?
TOM: Well, you could use an alkyd primer, which is a water-based primer, or you could use an oil-based primer: something like KILZ or B-I-N or one of the Behr products. But the primer is kind of the glue that makes the paint stick and will also seal in any stains that have absorbed into the walls themselves.
DONNA: OK. So if it is the paint, then the primer could actually …
TOM: Right, exactly. In fact, sometimes we tell people that when they have carpets that are very odorous, to also prime the plywood floor before they put new carpet back down again.
DONNA: Hmm. OK.
TOM: Because if anything kind of soaked through the carpet and got into the floor, that’s a way to kind of seal it off.
DONNA: OK. Very good.
TOM: Good luck with that project, Donna. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.