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Strange Odor - Remodel

daisydako's picture


My husband is just finishing a remodel on our home. We expanded our family room by 200 sq feet and we are detecting a strange odor in our new family room. The floors are still cement, we have primed and painted our walls and cabinets arrive in four days. However -- there is a distinct odor in this brand new room (the previous family room was totally removed and everything in this new room is just that, brand new). The odor smells like cat urine -- but we have no cat, no cats have been in the house and we cant figure out where this smell is coming from. One day is seems to be on the wall, the next day it doesnt. It gets worse when its warm.  We have wood beams running across the top of the room made from douglas fir that have been stained and sealed -- but the beams dont  smell like cat pee.

My husband is a general contractor and he did most of the work himself and supervised what he didnt do so I know things were done correctly.. and we've gone over every material in the room and we cant figure out what on earth is causing this smell.

Any ideas!? Its driving me nuts.

Thanks in advance.

(post #61377, reply #1 of 20)


  You gotta believe that I'm not trying to be a wise-guy here.  Is it possible that what you are smelling is in fact from a human?  I know from experience that many of the trades working on a remodel outside (framers, roofers, side-wallers etc) will just "go" outside rather than track mud inside or out of just plain laziness.  It would make even more sense if these trades did their work this past winter.  It can take a while for things to thaw out and get wet again (spring) for the smell to really kick in.  Are you sure that it's coming from inside?

Just a thought...

(post #61377, reply #2 of 20)

when we bought our house as you walked in the front door,i'd think wow what stinks,smells like the last  people had a cat that always p'd here. turns out after 2 yrs it is a bush by our front door. i don't know what it's called but it's a bushy type plant. larry

the older i get ,

the more people tick me off

(post #61377, reply #3 of 20)

Thanks for the responses. We have lived in the house for the past 2 years and have never experienced the smell before so I dont believe it any outside plants or bushes. Secondly, I dont think any of the workers really did their business in the house b/c my husband was home w/ everyone at all times, we had a portable toilet in the driveway -- plus, the smell doesnt really smell like people urine -- it has that cat piss smell to it and it sort of comes and goes.

Could it be the paint?  I cant see it being the drywall or insulation - we used the same materials in our master bathroom bump out and there is no odor there. The flooring is down to the cement so it cant be that and like I said, we lived in the house before this remodel and never experienced the odor.

This is really getting annoying and scary... no way can this smell stay!


(post #61377, reply #4 of 20)

I believe what makes cat urine smell so distinctive is the ammonia smell.  If you're that convinced that it smells like a cat, then you are probably getting an ammonia smell.  Many of the stronger/better primers have this smell, but it usually only lasts a day or so. 

I wasn't implying that your workers were urinating inside your house, but that they were going close to and outside of your house and the smell was now leaching out.  Just trying to help.

Wish I could be of more help to you....good luck.  I'll bet someone here will figure it out for's a pretty resourceful bunch.

(post #61377, reply #5 of 20)


Thanks for the reply.. ha, maybe the workers did pee on the house!

Ammonia is a good way to describe the smell -- gosh, I hope someone has some suggestions. I have been searching the message boards for other "odor problems" -- someone mentioned insulation -- maybe thats it?!


(post #61377, reply #8 of 20)

I remember a Q&A letter publ;ished in FWW several years ago, questioning how to get dog pee smell out of a piece of wood that was used to build a piece of furniture.  Of course I have forgotten all the details.  But I do remember that the answer was...too bad, the smell won't leave the wood.  Maybe it had to do with the species of wood.  Anyway, maybe a dog, or cat, wet the exposed beam before it was installed in the house...?


Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell'em "Certainly, I can!"  Then get busy and find out how to do it.  T. Roosevelt

Edited 5/29/2004 12:04 am ET by Ed Hilton

I'm sorry, I thought you wanted it done the right way.

(post #61377, reply #9 of 20)

Could it be coming from the old part  of the house?  Maybe in the addition/ remodel you covered something that is causing the smell.  I seem to remember some insulation having/ giving off a funny smell.  Workers would have had to be peeing a lot to build up that much a an ammonia smell ( in my opinion).  You could try hosing everything down outside with a good bit of water to see if that gets rid of the smell.

There is what I think is called an ozone machine.  YOu run this machine ( about the size of a small canister vacumn) in your room/house for a few hours.  I guess this machine creates ozone, which then removes the smell.  Something along those lines, but I dont remember exactly how it works.  Have a friend that has one, and he swears by it for getting smells out of rooms/ houses ( think he has used it on a couple fire damage repair jobs). 

Maybe something like that might take care of the problem.  Could try a rental yard to see if they would have something or even heard of something like it.  If you want more info, let me know, and I will try and get more specifics from my friend ( what exactly type of machine it is, where it is available, etc.)



Live by the sword, die by the sword....choose your sword wisely.

(post #61377, reply #10 of 20)

juniper bushes, yew bushes, insulation, construction pee, stray cat...all possible

Bushes? no cure..insulation (covered up)  time and airwick ,construction pee..go round the whole place with builders's good for the vegitation..stray cat..get a dog.

Do not waste a penny on an IONIC BREEZE me, it's crap.


Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

Repairs, Remodeling, Restorations.   

(post #61377, reply #6 of 20)


Have you been watching us when we've been going for a 'walk' behind those bushes??  Honest, I was just taking a walk to stretch my legs!!!  And what are you doing up so late?  Wheren't you up early this morning buying a stapler???



Live by the sword, die by the sword....choose your sword wisely.

(post #61377, reply #7 of 20)

Literally two minutes before reading your post I thought to myself," What the heck am doing still awake!"  Been up since 5 and will probably get up the same time tomorrow.  Still debating on how much I want to work this weekend.  Think I'll help the old man open his pool tomorrow, take Sunday off and work on Monday.

For now, I'll just go to bed though.

(post #61377, reply #11 of 20)

I've been painting the inside of my garage.  Because I've been doing it in the evenings I had to keep the door shut to keep the bugs from flying in and landing on the wet paint.  There are no windows in the garage, so the fumes have remained a long time.  It has had an ammonia-like smell for most of a week.

(post #61377, reply #12 of 20)

Cat urine is certainly distinctive.  Boxwood has that same, distinctive smell.

Cat urine is also hydrophilic, which means it absorbs dampness and gives off more odor on humid days.  It also glows under blacklight, but so do many synthetic fabrics and such.  Are you letting the new family room air out, admitting moisture?

You can try to trace it with a blacklight, maybe even check the "sealed" beams with the light.  If it is cat urine, there are products with enzymes that break down the urine, and others that do a great job of odor sealing drywall and concrete.  Check with a good, multiline paint store or a cleaning supply house.

But some insulation gives off an ammonia smell, too.  And, although I haven't encountered it, I suppose some primers and paints could, as well.

(post #61377, reply #13 of 20)


I found that can of urine odor sealer I'd used before, Neutra-P-Seal.  It's a "solvent-based acrylic sealer for wood and concrete surfaces."  Distributed by Professional Chemical Associates, Incorporated.   Label says Boston.  Here are the 3 closest Yellow Pages matches I found.  Not sure if any of them is the same company.



Professional Chemical
5 Park Drive, Westford, MA 01886

(978) 392-2267

Professional Chemical
521 Great Road, Littleton, MA 01460

(978) 952-6868

Professional Chemical & Dye Inc - Fall River, Somerset
994 Jefferson Street, Fall River, MA 02721

(508) 676-3838

(post #61377, reply #14 of 20)

I demoed a hopuse once that had that smell, but the owner had never owned a cat. it was in the foam insulation. None of the more modern foam insulations I have had installed smelled this way though, Still, it is possible that a bad mix might be causiong this if you used foam.

more likely - if latex paint freezes, it is possible for components to separate and change chemically. when paint has frozen and thawed, it should not be used if it hads an amonnia smell, because it will never go away. It has to be re-painted with a sealer to cover it in.

Another thought - did you recently use any sealer - say on the concrete. We used one once and also some shellac on a job that smelled like a cat had peed on a wino, pretty rank!


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Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

same experience in brand new house (post #61377, reply #15 of 20)

I just closed Escrow a couple of months ago on a brand new building. I am experiencing the same cat-pee-like smell in all three bathrooms. The builder thinks I am nuts. When I open the cabinet doors, it is simply aweful! Friends of mine came to visit a couple of weeks ago. They thought I had pee-pee diapers from my little girl sitting around the house...

Could be some (Chinese?) (post #61377, reply #16 of 20)

Could be some (Chinese?) building material utilizing urea formaldehyde resin in hardboard or insulation.

Of course, it could also be that a herd of cats got into the building.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

In my free time, I'm the 'cat (post #61377, reply #17 of 20)

In my free time, I'm the 'cat guy' for the local shelter. I almost never smell cat pee. Now, that said .... Cat pee / litter has to be really saturated, then sit for awhile before there's enough bacterial action happening to make it reek. BUT ... a cat can spray, or 'mark' an area. This scent is almost like 'skunk lite.' Look for a pattern of small yellow/ brown spots on doors and such. The smell typically lasts a few days. Still, I almost never find that a 'cat pee' smell has anything to do with a cat. Sure, there are various products that can create a nasty odor, the actual cause usually turns out to be something mundane. Most common causes? Guys dumping pee (you really think that's coffee in the cup they toss out the window?), guys peeing in the paint bucket or drywall mud, and ... the big one these days ... METH use and preparation. (Google "Shake and bake" for some real education).

The smell typically lasts a (post #61377, reply #18 of 20)

The smell typically lasts a few days.

Ha! Methinks you have a milder breed of cats in your neighborhood. We've had a couple of cats that marked/peed around the house, and it sure lasts longer than a few days here.

  Anyway, I was also of the opinion that it might be some kind of formalyn ingredient in glue or other products used. We lived in a "sick house" for four years before building our own; the sick house was virtually new, and the wall paper (cloth) had been affixed with a glue that had a high formalyn component. The first day we visited the place was in July, and the instant I opened the front door we were assailed with teargas-like fumes; I made the wife and kids stay outside until I could run through the house (with breath held) and open up doors and windows to let it air out. 



". . . and only the stump, or fishy part of him remained."

(Maybe the reason you never (post #61377, reply #19 of 20)

(Maybe the reason you never smell cat pee is that you've smelled too much of it over the years.)

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

@daisydako did you ever find a solution to this problem? (post #61377, reply #20 of 20)

I am having the same exact problem unfortunately.


Thanks in advance!