We read a few suggestions on order of operations before starting our home renovations. I liked the one that started with painting the ceilings, then walls and finally addressing the floors. Part of the appeal was never needing to worry too much about where paint fell. I’m a messy painter. That didn’t turn out to be our method though. The floors were an ever blooming cacophony of pet smells, so we were required to start there, and stay there for a while.

Here’s what we did to the floors. First, we found a recycler and took the carpet and padding in. I say “we”, but that mostly means Russ, ’cause he’s the one man wrecking crew with the muscle. I was in charge of getting out the tack strip and all the staples because that was slower more detailed work. I took the tack strip out with a carpenter’s crow bar (Wonderbar, wrecking bar) and started on the staples that held the padding down (it’s okay to laugh) with an office style staple remover. I lasted a surprising amount of time with that little technique, but the remaining chunks of padding jammed it every time and eventually I got over my dislike for wrecking my wrecking bar with little dings and started shoving it at the staples till they came out. It roughed up my tool, but at minimum wage I could have bought several with the money I saved in time.

Russ ripped the floor out of the laundry/mud room. Even though it was vinyl, the room smelled and it had cement board sub-flooring as for tile. It was a real jewel to get it out. I came along after and pulled out the ring shank nails or hammered in the ones that lost their heads. There is a knack to it. As I went along, I figured out that if you are careful to make sure the nail goes all the way in the claw of the hammer as far as it can before yanking, the heads stay on better, and over time more nails were pulled and fewer were hammered in.

With now bare sub-floors, cleaning started. I don’t know if you know this, but, unless you hang around ready with the vacuum, those guys that lay carpet go straight from ripping out to putting the new stuff in with no regard to what’s on the floor. Ever since I learned that, I’ve made sure anyone who lays carpet for me knows that they will need to take a short break ’cause I’ll be there with the vacuum to make a speedy round in the middle. So, it wasn’t a complete surprise, knowing that the previous owner had 3 cats, to find kitty litter clay ground into the sub-flooring. I took a big stiff bristled scrub broom and scrubbed it out. I was a bit surprised to find kitty litter in places like the dining room though. It was everywhere. I can only guess that the kitty litter changed homes from room to room over time.

Russ wasn’t happy to find dozens of razor blades left under the carpet, primarily along the edge where they could cause more problems. Sandy dirt tracks from the dogs had worked through carpet and the padding making their favorite paths obvious. The combination of skin piercing implements with habitat wasn’t the greatest. I had updated my overdue tetanus when I got some deep splinters salvaging floors in Avondale Estates, so new scrapes and piercings were lower risk, but still, quantities of razorblades are a hazard to leave behind for the person who rips the carpet.

After a good scrub and a bunch of research we used some stuff called Odorzyne that we ordered straight from the manufacturer in concentrated form. It was supposed to convert uric acid to something not uric acid. Maybe it does. It was almost miraculous. I applied it with a back pack sprayer like those that landscapers use. It had a perfume that smelled a lot like Odoban and when the perfume faded the pet smells were mostly gone and the big spots on the sub-floor were gone or faded. Before Odorzyme, there were places like the coat closet that seemed to be odor free. But after the application, it became apparent that the “odor free” places were really just lower odor than the places that had been knocking us over. The instructions said to use two applications in tough places and the whole house got two coats. Some painters had suggested going up the walls with primer because of some pet habits. With 3 cats and two dogs it seemed likely that one of them might have had a wall habit, so I made sure to go up several inches. Russ pulled the molding because we’re going to install hardwood floors anyway, so we were able to get that area really well. Afterward we were so happy with the results that it was tempting not to prime. But, knowing that things like that could eek out over time, we were afraid not to. Once the hardwoods were down there would only be regret if we hadn’t taken care of the problem properly.

We pulled out the big guns to be really sure. After more research it turned out to be Zinnser BIN that seemed to be what most remediation professionals use to seal in odors from disasters like flood or fire. It’s some pretty heavy duty stuff. Russ read all the warnings, from comments like “Be sure to use a respirator.” To “A could just feel my brain cells dying with every breath.” The BIN deserves its own article though…

On some levels, I’m a little bit glad that the heavy perfume and overpowering pet smells didn’t signal the red flags they should have for me. I mean I saw the flags, but I just didn’t realize they filled the sky completely. I think I never would have bought the house if I had known how hard it was going to be just to get past the smell of it, and that once we did, there would still be so much work. I do think we’ll be happy with it when all the work is done though, and the pace of repairs will slow sometime… I hope so anyway.