Hot Topics: Cigarette Smell in the Walls

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Just moved into a home that has a funny smell? The problem might be in the walls. When painting over a wall to cover up problems, not everything is so well hidden. If you don’t do it right, offending smells like cigarette smoke can still get through. Our forum helps out a new homeowner get to the root of the problem and how they can fix it.

Original Post: Cure for walls reeking of cigarette smoke

Mijclarke Member

I bought a foreclosure in 2012 and the bank freshly painted the whole house. When the fresh paint smell subsided we started smelling cigarette smoke. It's very apparent when coming in from fresh air outside. Once inside the smell is less noticeable because the nose gets desensitized. I've heard you're supposed to clean the walls first with ammonia or vinegar. Using cheap paint without cleaning tends to trap the nicotine/smoke and allow it to bleed through as nicotine is water and oil soluble I believe.

Should I try to paint with a 'filtering' additive (ionic might be the brand) which should last 8-12 years or should I buy Zinnser Bin 2 Shellac based paint to seal the smoke smell? Or is there something else you recommend? Thanks

Highlights from the Thread

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

An oil base primer or pigmented shellac [BIN] will effectively seal odors and nicotine stains in the drywall/woodwork. That should help with odor but doesn't address any odor that may be in other parts of the house [carpet, duct work, etc]

Stickshift Group Moderator

Oil based primer should be sufficient. As Mark said, carpet, drapes, trim/woodwork and other such materials can trap the smell as well.

Were the ceilings painted?

Mijclarke Member

I think they were because they are the same color as the walls and the walls were definitely painted. I believe it was sprayed on too

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

It takes a solvent based coating to seal in the odor. I'm not a chemist but it's something like the molecules are closer together in solvent based coatings than with latex and that allows the coating to seal odor/stain better than latex.

While it is ok to spray the walls they will look better and touch up better if the sprayed on paint is back rolled. While I've done a lot of spraying with new construction it usually involves too much prep and clean up to be a viable option for repaints.

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