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Old 10-26-2012, 08:48 PM   #1
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


We're about to close on a foreclosed home that no one has been living in for several months to a year. It definitely smells like cigarette smoke but it isn't "heavy" with the smell--like the previous owners smoked outside but not inside. We're pulling up the carpets but we were hoping to just try washing the walls and ceilings first to see if that took care of it. I've read about TSP but all we can find is the TSP "substitute" stuff at HD, etc. Is that what everyone is referring to?

If we need to resort to painting before moving in---what would be the "safest" primer to use and still do a good job of permanently taking care of the smell? We've done this before and used BIN but that was pre-kids--we now have 3 kids under 4, the youngest only 4 months old, so I don't feel comfortable with dousing the entire house in something like BIN and then moving them in, especially during the winter when we can't have windows open all the time.

For that matter, if we need to paint--can someone recommend a good indoor low VOC paint as well? Thank you!

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Old 10-26-2012, 09:35 PM   #2
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


Bin is the fail safe for smell, but I have had good luck with Zinssers Smart Prime- its a waterborne alkyd that has very low odor and good stain and odor killing abilities.
As far as a top coat- I like BM regal Select- also very low VOc/ odor.

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Old 10-27-2012, 03:26 AM   #3
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


what he ^ said
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Old 10-27-2012, 09:33 AM   #4
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


I've had good luck with the Smart Prime as well, other than it being a runny sloppy mess. But it's not much different from BIN in that regard.
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Old 10-27-2012, 10:13 AM   #5
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


You can still get real TSP at some paint stores depending on where you live. Please mix it only as directed. I find things like Purple Power from the auto store works well on smoker homes but you have to rinse it thoroughly.

BIN is the for sure primer product for this and the smell, while intense at first, dissipates by the time you put your finish coats over it from my experience.

Make sure you do prime and paint everything including closets, pantry cabinets, etc. And clean the orange gunk from screens and so forth or that horrid smoker smell will linger.

As for paint, you really are going to buy paint at a real paint sore right? Real paint stores will have many low/no VOC options and quality paint you will not find at a box store. Ask for discounts for sure. Make sure you have VOC worries in context. Dry cleaning you drag home and those nice smelling cleaners you use probably have worse VOCs than a painted room does temporarily. Especially if using latex and acrylic waterbased products.
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:42 AM   #6
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


Our investor group is involved in buying and restoring foreclosure homes; most of the properties have sat empty for a year or more. Stale air, smoking and pet odors can get pretty bad. Selling a house with odor problems takes longer and affects the resale value. Painting the interior does not remove all odors as the odors are embedded in the carpets, carpet pads and drapes. A painting contractor mentioned a product called air-renu a paint additive. If it did work, we would save money by not having to replace the carpet and carpet pads. It took several days before all the odors were removed; now we use it for very house that we have to repaint. If you are having an odor problem, you might consider.
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:31 AM   #7
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


I have used SW prep rite when I had smoke damage from fires and had really good luck with it. Just another option.
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Old 10-29-2012, 01:55 PM   #8
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


Thank you, everyone, for all the great ideas! One more week until we close on the house and can get in and start figuring out what we have to do! Maybe this is a dumb question, but if walls/ceiling can hold the smoke smell, what about cabinetry/trim?
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Old 10-29-2012, 02:15 PM   #9
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


Everything can. That's why its hard to get rid of. Give a good clean to hard surfaces, and paint the porous ones. Of course anything made of material ( carpet, drapes etc) is going to also be a big problem. But unless they were smoking like chimneys for 30 years- keeping the place cleaned should get it.
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Old 10-29-2012, 04:52 PM   #10
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


A disaster restoration contractor customer buye Zinsser BIN three pallets at a time. It is the industry leader in smoke or smoker damage.

I recommend TSP or No-Rinse TSP Substitute Cleaner for your hard surfaces. Remember: Preparation is a result - not a process; more than one cleaning may be necessary.
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Old 10-29-2012, 05:03 PM   #11
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


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Originally Posted by dandh View Post
Thank you, everyone, for all the great ideas! One more week until we close on the house and can get in and start figuring out what we have to do! Maybe this is a dumb question, but if walls/ceiling can hold the smoke smell, what about cabinetry/trim?
If possible, in an inconspicuous location, wash a small vertical area with just water, and just enough water to allow a small stream to run down the surface. Observe the color of the water stream. If it is yellow you have more work to do. Sorry.
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Old 10-29-2012, 05:20 PM   #12
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


I do not envy you. I did a quick turnaround on a house for a real estate friend. I didn't usually do such work but she specialized in buying and selling antique homes for clients and had sent me tons of work and nice clients over the years. I figured to knock the project out in a week as a favor.

It was disgusting. Five had lived in the house plus a baby. I think even the baby smoked. I soon realized I was going to spend a week just sponging orange tarlike gunk off everything so called in a smoke and fire damage company to deal with most of the prep. They brought a small army and all the cleaners and things and were a lot more efficient than I was. Even the window screens seeped orange crud when I cleaned them. I often wonder what the lungs of those people must have looked like. And it must have been fun having a work cubicle near or hanging your coat in a closet with theirs.

I then coated near everything with BIN and a couple coats of nice paint. It turned out to be quite liveable. Only the rough hewn lumber in the basement held a slight smoker smell and I sprayed it with enzymes that should have eaten the cause of it eventually. Fortunately the house had no draperies or wtw carpeting. It was a decent little house.
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Old 10-29-2012, 05:52 PM   #13
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


"It was disgusting. Five had lived in the house plus a baby. I think even the baby smoked."

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Old 10-29-2012, 07:14 PM   #14
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


BTW- don't use tsp on anything you are not painting. It can etch and dull many surfaces...That's what it does.
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Old 10-30-2012, 08:49 AM   #15
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Best prep/primer for covering smoke smell?


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Even the window screens seeped orange crud when I cleaned them.
Okay, that's disgusting. Not that the rest isn't, but the idea of having that hanging on screens....nasty! I don't think this house will be that bad (fingers crossed)---maybe it's helped just that it hasn't been lived in in awhile, but the walls and ceilings definitely aren't orange...then again, the ceilings are painted the same color as the walls...

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BTW- don't use tsp on anything you are not painting. It can etch and dull many surfaces...That's what it does.
How about that TSP substitute someone mentioned above? Will that do the same? Is that what HD carries?

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