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Question DetailsAsked on 1/27/2018

What product should i use to block "smelly feet" odor on subfloor before i have new carpet installed

Have a 14 year old house I just purchased and moved into. I think the previous owner had very stinky feet. His master bedroom closet and master bedroom carpet smells the worst, but can smell the stinky feet odor in his old office too. He was a semi professional bicyclist and I think he would come home from cycling and walk around in his stinky socks or stinky bare feet or throw his stinky cycling clothes on the floor. I am getting new carpet in a couple weeks and want to know what to paint on the subfloor to ensure the odor doesn't come up thru the new carpet and pad. P.S. I already had the carpets professional cleaned and it didn't help at all also the carpet is original builder grade from 2003. thank you

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1 Answer


Hmmmm - sounds like a nasty situation that you quite litereally bought into - pity it was not detected during the initial walkthrough before you bought the house, to either give the house a pass, or to require the problem be corrected before closing.

I would remove the carpet and pad now (maybe arrange with the contractor to do the job in two parts - removal now, new carpet install after the subfloor is cleaned and treated) - and he may well have some advice on this too.

I do wonder if this is stinky feet smell, or maybe a stinky foam rubber pad or foam rubber or latex backing on the carpet - some of them REALLY stink up if they are allowed to go mildewy due to inadequate drying after wet cleaning. Either way, I suspect removing the carpet and padding will greatly diminish if not pretty much totally remove the source of the odor.

Anyway, I would immediately remove and dispose of the carpets and padding, then if the subfloor stinks after a day of airing out, I would use an odor removing product like Woolite Pet cleanup spray - with good household ventilation of course. Don't know how long that smell would last though - you might end up, by using a lot of chemical to kill the odor, just replacing one strong smell with another. Ditto to chlorine bleach treatment and other deodorizers - for that large an area you would probably end up your house smelling like a bleached laundry load for years, not to mention possibly bleaching items in the home. Ditto with a dry ozone treatment.

I do know that stain blocking paints like Kilz will reduce such odors - works on smoke-impregnated walls for instance, but does not TOTALLY block the smell - just cuts back on it, even if the surface is well cleaned first. The oil-based Kilz works MUCH, MUCH better than the latex, though messier to work with of course - and on a subfloor like that in winter might take a week or even two to totally cure. You need to be sure it is totally cured before putting the new carpet over it or the odor may impregnate into the carpet and pad and give you a long-lived paint odor. I have seen that happen and have the odor last years as the paint very, very slowly outgassed. So I would be sure the new carpet date install date is flexible - not firmed up till the stain and mold blocking paint is totally dry. That would also eliminate the problem of putting padding over fairly fresh paint and then sticking to it, making it a real pain to pull up come reflooring time.

One other possibility, in addition to what you can do about eliminating the odor, is (being careful not to end up with double vapor barriers like if over a subfloor which has vapor barrier on the underside, or a situation where you would be putting vapor barrier on the "back side" of a damp floor - like over a damp basement or crawlspace) to use the combination vapor barrier/padding - basically a bubblewrap which comes in carpet-sized rolls (and can also be seamed with vapor barrier tape). Works with normal to heavy weight carpets - in thinner carpets sometimes walking on a heel in hard shoes will pop a bubble or two, and high heels can pop quite a few (and spook the person) with thinner or weakly backed carpeting. But it does, when properly sealed at the perimeter, pretty much eliminate airflow through the carpet from the subfloor, so would pretty much eliminate odor transmission. Plain vapor barrier poly sheeting under the carpet padding would serve the same purpose. But I would not count on that type of barrier alone.

Another barrier method would be levelling sheathing - typically 1/4" thick particle board sheathing put down to provide a smooth surface for flooring installation, and to reduce the elevation difference between different types of flooring - but of course costs a lot more than vapor barrier to put down.

So I guess I am not too much help - talk to carpet companies I guess, maybe eMail a couple of carpet manufacturers for their recommendations, after first peeling back some carpet and padding to smell just how strong the odor is in the subflooring. Another possibility would be to talk to a Water and Smoke Damage restoration contractor - they may have run into this, plus the treatments they use on moldy surfaces is certainly going to at least reduce the odor.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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