Nicotine Tobacco Smoke Stains

Old 12-05-05, 09:07 AM
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Nicotine Tobacco Smoke Stains

Got a 2BR condo that needs to be repainted before being put on the market. Previous owner was a heavy smoker, especially in one of the 12X12 bedrooms, used as a study. There are tobacco stains on walls and ceiling of most of the rooms, but in that one study in particular, they're not just yellow, they're not just orange, they are medium brown. It's extremely heavy staining. I called in ServPro, which does interior restoration after fires. They said they could clean it, but it would cost more than they thought was worth spending, and recommended a particular painter. I called him, he came out and looked at it, and said, Don't worry about cleaning, we'll just spray over it. It may take several coats of sealer-primer plus finish, but it will cover it.

That didn't feel right to me. I've had problems before with painters who think they're doing you a favor by spraying paint on poorly prepared surfaces, and it may look fine for a few months but then look lousy and be more time-consuming to fix than it would have been if it had just been done right in the first place, because now there's additional paint between you and the problem.

So I searched here and found two good pages with advice on this problem:
These pages suggest strongly that the surfaces should be cleaned before painting. I can do what they suggest.

But there's an additional twist to this condo. The ceilings are swirled, textured plaster-- not popcorn-- but pretty aggressively swirled. (The walls are wallboard.) To clean the ceilings with a sponge would be really difficult-- it would shred sponges in no time. Cloths wouldn't get into the grooves. I could get a garden, manual pump aerosol sprayer, and use a new corn straw broom as a brush, spray it on, brush it, but how do I rinse the loosened nicotine staining off the swirled plaster ceiling? Fortunately, the condo is vacant-- no furniture, and no finished flooring that needs to be preserved. Any better ideas on how to about cleaning this?
Old 12-05-05, 09:21 AM
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the painter can cover with a quality sealer/primer. i still clean the walls with a product like greased lightning or simple green first. followed by clear water and two coats of kilz oil based primer. the ceilings will get by with the primer and ceiling white. any ceiling vents or intakes should be removed, cleaned, primed and painted.
Old 12-05-05, 09:57 AM
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It probably wouldn't be worth the time/effort to clean the ceiling. Prime it with either Zinsser's BIN or Kilz original oil, and it should stop the bleed through before it starts. Top coat with any latex paint.
Old 12-05-05, 10:10 AM
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I don't blame you at all for asking about that, the proper way is to clean it
You seem to have an extreme case though
Looks like two pros who saw it (cleaning/painting) already thought it was not worth the effort
I'm not for skipping steps but in this case I'd agree with the responses you've recieved here

In other words:
Me Three
Skip the cleaning of the ceiling
It's probably not worth the effort
Prime it with a top quality primer/sealer
Old 12-06-05, 11:16 AM
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All right, good, I'll ease up on worrying about getting the ceiling clean, which really would be difficult for me to do myself, or expensive to contract out. I'll just be sure the contract specifies oil BIN or KILZ and figure it may take two primer coats to seal it. I'm still going to dust everything and wash the walls, where there are 20 years of grease spots, too, but that's relatively easy for me to do.

Thank you all for your advice! I do appreciate it.
Old 12-06-05, 12:24 PM
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There are many different stain hiding primers available. Your painter may prefer a particular one. If he is a reputable contractor he already knows which one works best for the money. If he suggests using a latex primer I would consider hiring someone else. Most any solvent based primer should work.

Usually 1 coat of primer should be sufficent. Your painter should be able to determine what the needs are to get a good job.
Old 12-06-05, 12:48 PM
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Thanks, Mark. He did say he would make a decision on whether a second coat of primer was needed particularly in the most heavily stained areas after he saw how the first one looked, which I thought was reasonable too.

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