Before hiring a professional: Steps to take in dealing with odour between condominium units
Now that we’ve determined the source and pathway of offending odour transfers between condominium units, here is a list of steps a condo manger or unit owner can take before hiring a professional to identify and correct the issue.
Define the odour problem
- Characterize the odour. The nature of the odour will help to later identify the source (ex. garbage, cooking, tobacco or marijuana, rot or spoiled food, perfume).
- Determine when the odour was first noticed and whether there is a pattern of occurrence (i.e. time of day or week or season) when the odour typically occurs.
- Determine how the odour is affecting the complainant.
Determine the odour source of odour between condominium units
- Determine if the complainant has an opinion on the source of the odour. Is the odour only experienced in a one room, or is it stronger in a single location?
- When the problem started, did it coincide with known changes in the building (i.e. changes in occupancy, air-balancing, building renovations etc.). Be aware that tolerance of odours varies between individuals; therefore an odour transmission issue often pre-dates the arrival of a new resident.
- Review the pattern of occurrence, and consider whether it coincides with routines in neighbouring suites or building maintenance routines. For instance: corridor pressurization might be turned-off at specific periods of the day or year; the garbage bin is likely collected at a specific time each week; the odour may be noticeable during particularly hot, cold or windy periods etc.
- Review the location within the unit where the odour is most intense. The most common areas are in the vicinity of fan coil (or heat pump) units, washrooms and kitchens.
Trial and error to isolate odour source
The process described below are meant to assist in the identification of the source and are not intended to be permanent solutions. A professional should be consulted to ensure that any proposed alterations to correct the odour migration meet building code.
In the bathroom:
- Check and apply plastic film with painter tape over plumbing chase access doors, ceiling exhaust fans, receptacle and light switches, sink plumbing penetrations in the wall or seal the doors of the entire vanity.
- Apply continuous caulking around the perimeter of the bathtub, toilet and floor-to-baseboard junctions.
- If the odour disappears, use a process of elimination by removing one of the films then waiting for the odour to return before removing the next film.
In the kitchen:
- Follow the same process as described in the bathroom without ignoring plumbing penetrations for the dishwasher or possible shared ducting such as the stove hood.
- Do not apply plastic film over or near the stove due to the risk of fire.
In the laundry room:
- Follow the same process described for the kitchen and bathroom also avoiding the creation of a fire risk near the dryer and vent.
Around heat pump and fan coil units:
- Request the contractor responsible for maintenance of the fan coil filters carefully inspect the seal at the floor penetration where the unit’s pipes and conduits pass from the floor below and the floor above.
- Consider resealing all penetrations even if they appear to be in good condition.
- Request the maintenance contractor confirm whether hidden penetrations exist that would require the removal of the unit to confirm whether the hidden pipe penetrations are sealed.
- If the odour has been identified as a garbage odour, review the architectural drawings and confirm that the garbage chute penetration through the concrete floor slab is sealed and there are no gaps or unsealed joints in the garbage chute.
- Confirm that the garbage chute chase is sealed from adjoining walls and ceilings in the complainant’s suite.
- Consider turning off or providing temporary ventilation by other means to determine if the garbage room exhaust fan ducting and discharge louver is the path of the odour transmission.
- Continuous air barriers are located behind a suite’s flooring, wall finishes, equipment, fixtures and cabinetry.
- It is impossible to inspect and repair without stripping a suite back to the bare structure (i.e. remove all flooring, ceilings, partitions, equipment and millwork).
- hiring a professional to test and locate these issues may save unnecessary expense of removing finishes where no problem exists.