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How long should VOCs linger after removal of the source?

I purchased a home n Florida built in 2005 which I discovered had a VOC problem after closing. There is a aromatic sort of piney smell in the house that attaches to anything left in the house for more than a few hours. The house is empty of any furnishings, had engineered wood floors glued to the slab over 50% of the house with tile/carpeting in the rest. The kitchen and bath have cherry wood cabinetry and there are plastic blinds on the windows. I removed one cabinetry box from the home and didn't notice the odor. The odor doesn't extend into the attached garage.

I've had two companies do odor investigations which honed in on mold/water intrusion and particle matter - both of which did not present a problem in the house. The best I could get from either about the odor was increasing the ventilation. Which I had already tried to no effect. I've also washed down everything in the house multiple times with AFM Super Clean.

Going the removal route, six months ago I had the wood floors/adhesive completely removed and replaced with tile. I replaced the carpeting with Sonoma SmartStrand carpeting. Three months ago I repainted the walls in the rooms that had the wood floors with two coats of Safecoat paint. Since then I have tried numerous stints of manual ventilation. I've checked the price of an ERV and am reluctant to throw another $4,000 at the problem if it won't fix it.

I have noticed no abatement of the odor. So, my question is, after 8 years have the VOCs just become embedded in the wallboard? Any suggestions and thank you.

Asked by Mary Loughran
Posted Feb 7, 2013 5:48 PM ET


2 Answers

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Mary, if the former residents had been using a typical household pine-scented cleaner, IMO that scent could indeed be in the walls and whatever is behind them. Or perhaps the HVAC ducts were cleaned with a scented product. Is the odor stronger in certain parts of the house, or pretty evenly distributed? If the latter, I would strongly suspect the duct work and/or any filters you may not have replaced.

Answered by Ed Siff
Posted Feb 8, 2013 3:01 AM ET


Thank you so much for your response and suggestion. The odor is throughout the home. I had the furnace coils cleaned after closing and have changed the furnace filter numerous times with carbon air filters.

Good advise about the ductwork - I'll turn off the unit this weekend, close and cover all the air grills with plastic, air out the house and see if the odor comes back after the windows are closed. I have not already had the duct work cleaned, the air quality people recommended not doing it because of the type of ductwork used in Florida. Apparently it is made from some sort of fabric type material and is easily torn.

Answered by Mary Loughran
Posted Feb 8, 2013 6:11 AM ET

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