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Case study #4
A Major Rehab Effort

Click on the pictures for a larger version of the picture.

The Story:

  • A very old, very solid apartment building with major cat urine and spray contamination on floor and 3 walls of a small bedroom (a real eye burner)
  • Tenant had 10 to 15 cats from time to time that stayed mostly in the pictured room.
  • Period of contamination was more than 5 years.
  • Entire apartment was wall to wall carpet and padding which was still wet in many places when removed.
  • The letters in the pictures always refer to the same area of the room to help you orient what your are looking at.

This picture shows the contaminated bedroom after the carpeting and padding had been removed. The smell was so powerful, one of the options considered was to seal off the room. Notice the stains starting a few inches above the 8 inch tall shoe strip (A). That is many many applications of cat spray! Normally you have to look very hard to see spray on walls, but not in this case. Remember, the odor in this room was so strong, it actually burned your eyes. Notice the brightly colored black and green asbestos floor tile.

This is the same corner as above after several courses of tile have been removed. These tiles came rather easily with the shingle shovel standing in the corner. The fact that the area under these tiles were still somewhat damp with urine made them much easier to remove. The glue actually released from the wood which is why there is wood showing around the edge of the room. The tile in the middle of the room were nearly impossible to remove. Notice the stain to the floor below A and the long strip of discoloration below B.

The wet area along this wall was only 1 or 2 tiles wide. Only the tiles with urine under them could be removed. The staining at C and D do not appear to be too severe at first viewing, but the plot thickens.

The contamination continued into the closet on the right, but to a much lessor extent.

Notice the spray stain just below B on the shoe strip. This has been washed several times with the non-phosphate version of TSP. Clearly an inferior product to the real thing but still better than most of the off the shelf cleaners. The staining in the flooring did not respond to the TSP cleaning. Spraying with OdorXit at this point reduced the odor considerably but clearly not enough to continue with reconstruction.
There was no sub-flooring in this room so when the boards that were soaked with urine were removed it exposed the beams below. They measured 4"x8". Notice the beam under and left of D. The area next to the wall was so spongy you could scrape it away with a putty knife and it really smelled bad! Also notice the gray area just above the beam. It is discolored with spray/urine. This was behind the 8 inch high shoe (trim) molding.
This view shows that what seemed to be a minor problem on the flooring above was much worse below the flooring. The beam below A to the right has a section near the wall that had to be removed to eliminate the odor. The concrete wall was sprayed with OdorXit and responded nicely.
Although the floor staining below B seemed to be the worst, it appears that most of the problem was contained in the flooring (now removed). The beam and wall are obviously stained and need treatment with OdorXit but there was not nearly as much damage as by A and D.
Area E is on the opposite side of the room from C. Notice that the narrow strip of flooring and the wood next to it (the plate at the bottom of the wall) are both severely stained with urine. The drywall was removed at E to expose the staining for treatment and to get rid of the drywall that was soaked as well.
Because the tile was so difficult to remove from the center of the room, and there were areas of contamination in the center, the choice was made to replace the flooring with 4 sheets of 3/4" plywood. Even after all the flooring was removed the entire exposed floor area was sprayed to eliminate the odor from the urine that had seeped between the tile and through joints in the floor boards.

The Rest of the Story

The conclusions that can be drawn from this example are quite clear.
  • Long term and repeated urine application to walls and flooring can and does cause considerable damage which OdorXit can not reverse. Disposing of the unrecoverable flooring, trim and drywall and spraying what remains is far more cost effective than replacing everything that smells like urine.
  • Allowing long term tenants to have even 1 or 2 (not 10 or 15) cats requires close supervision and frequent inspections to avoid this kind of damage.
  • This whole apartment smelled very bad because of this room and the hallway leading to this room were heavily contaminated with urine and hormonal spray. It was clearly unmistakable. However, when doing inspections check all the rooms!

This study is meant to demonstrates that urine contamination can do serious damage to flooring and structural members. The source of this type of staining is by no means limited to pets.

Please do not take this case study or its conclusion as an indictment of cats or pets in general. IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE ONE! I have a dog and 2 cats pictured on this site, and would not trade them for anything. They also do not foul my house.

Updated April 2013

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