Sometimes Business Stinks!
The first aromatic offering your home inspector may encounter might be as he first walks into your prospective purchase. Overpowering evidence that the present owner smoked, and smoked and smoked and... Well you get the picture.
In the excitement of your first viewing this may have been overlooked or covered up by room deodorizers in each room. Smoke can get anywhere air can get so it will have coated walls, duct work and worked its way into furniture, rugs and carpets.
The good news is that the rugs and furniture are probable on their way out with the present owners, the bad news is that walls, ceilings and duct work are pretty much here for the long haul. Carpets are optional.
A good first step is replace the carpets. If the previous owners had pets this is almost mandatory to clean up the smell. Orange or green shag is really not todays look in any case.
Moving on, wash walls and ceilings and apply a really good primer such as Kilz or Zinsser offer and then follow on with the paint of your choice.
At the same time that you are dealing with carpets, walls and ceilings consider having a professional cleaning of the forced air ducts. This can go a long way towards reducing the amount of smoke tars coating the inside of the ducts. Make that SERIOUSLY CONSIDER if you or members of your family have allergies or asthma.
When the home inspector opens the basement door the rush of air carries with it the familiar smell of damp and dark places. This is almost universally a sign of mildew and mold, different names for basically the same thing.
But wait, don't panic! The good news is that the vast majority of mildews and molds are benign, many are useful, a few are a health problem and a very few are just plain deadly. If you have any concerns, have a professional assessment done to help determine a course of action.
On hard surfaces, mold stains can be cleaned with a commercial product or a 10% bleach solution. Softer surfaces may need to be replaced, wood can often be cleaned, drywall seldom. Most basement situations will benefit from use of a dehumidifier. Mold's preferred diet is cellulose and if the humidity is sufficient and the temperature is one that you are comfortable with it will thrive. The easiest thing to control is the humidity and the tools best used are dehumidifiers, air conditioners and heat recovery ventilators.
The home inspector starts to fill the Jacuzzi and is greeted with black gunk and the smell of rotten eggs. As gross as it is the black gunk is usually a result of lack of use, evidently Jacuzzi's just aren't used as much as we'd like to think they are, and is relatively easy to clean with commercially available products. The smell, well it could be local to the tub and, in that case, the cleaning will most likely get rid of it or it could be in the water supply.
In homes that have been vacant for some time the smell can originate from the water stored in the water heater and often a return to normal use will get rid of it. Another possibility is well water. Again, lack of use may allow the growth of bacteria, that can disappear with a return to normal use or require the services of a well professional.
Into the crawl space, and what is that smell? Mold, rotten whatever or maybe a dead animal or two. For what ever reason, many people deem a crawl space as a place to leave stuff. Typically more damp than the rest of the house, old cardboard boxes, scrap wood, and just plain junk will deteriorate when left in a crawl space and offer great housing for any critter that can gain access. Get rid of anything not needed for the function of the crawl space and consider a pest control expert to clean and seal any opening that allows squatters to move back in.
There are many reasons business can stink, but your house doesn't have to.
Mid-America Inspection Services, serving Fargo and West Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Wadena and the Minnesota Lakes Region