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How do I encapsulate CREOSOTE soaked joists/beams? ?

How do I encapsulate CREOSOTE soaked joists/beams? ?


  #1  
Old 02-12-22, 12:51 PM
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How do I encapsulate CREOSOTE soaked joists/beams? ?

We purchased this home just a few months ago. When I initially walked in the house, I thought I smelled moth balls. Then after we bought the house, I began to think it smelled more like oil heat (like I had smelled in my grandparents home as a child). We now have found out that there is a gigantic creosote soaked beam under the living room (which is a very large room, about 28' x 28'). I cant take the smell. It's very strong in this room, and even the air blowing through the vents when the HVAC is running smells of it. My husband crawled under there today to look and in addition to beam being solid black and soaked/coated, he said it appears that the substance was sprayed on the surrounding joists as well.

How in the world can we deal with this? I have read about a product called "Enviroshield / CreoShield". Is anyone familiar with this product? If not this, can you suggest something that would work? I'm wondering if we can seal the beam/joists/ floor from the bottom and if so what to use to do that.

Also, my husband is suggesting that maybe we need to pull up the carpet in the room above this beam and put some sort of sealant on the subfloor to try to seal from the top.

And what about the HVAC duct work? Is the crawlspace air just getting into the ductwork and if we can encapsulate the source of the smell, that will stop? Or do we need to replace the ductwork completely? (we had them cleaned when we first moved in). Or do we need to seal the vents off and instead get a split unit for the room?

Any help or advice is much appreciated!!
 
  #2  
Old 02-12-22, 01:57 PM
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Honestly, if your house is constructed that way and it bothers you that much... think about moving. Encapsulation can be done but it's difficult (expensive) and needs to be done thoroughly (expensive) to be effective. You are talking about somehow creating a air tight barrier between the structure of your home and the interior, no small feat.
 
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Old 02-12-22, 02:02 PM
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How old is the house ?

Cresote has been banned for many years as a carcinogenic and I have never seen it used inside a home. That should have been in the home inspection.
 
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Old 02-12-22, 02:24 PM
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PJmax / Pete - the house was built in 1963. I too, am very upset that the home inspector didn't at least point it out. It is what it is at this point,

Pilot Dane, we don't want to sell it, we LOVE the location, so I'm just reaching out to see if there are any solutions to try.
 
  #5  
Old 02-12-22, 02:51 PM
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I can recognize that smell immediately as I had a many railroad tie walls that I had recoated with creosote in the past. That product you linked to encapsulates the wood to keep the smell in. I've never used it but the reviews look good.

Enviroshield

 
  #6  
Old 02-13-22, 03:06 AM
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Is this beam in a crawlspace or a basement?
About 50 yrs ago I got paid big bucks to crawl under a house and spray all the floor joists with creosote as an insect prevention.
Applying 1-2 liberal coats of a pigmented shellac [BIN] over the beam should lock in the odor.

btw - welcome to the forums!
 
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Old 02-13-22, 05:16 AM
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Is this beam in a crawlspace or a basement?
If a crawl space then you could look at making sure your floors are fully air sealed and insulated and vent the crawl space to lower the off gassing!
 
  #8  
Old 08-23-22, 02:28 PM
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Were you able to solve this issue? Dealing with exactly the same issue
 
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Old 08-23-22, 05:58 PM
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I have been on jobs after there has been a fire. Typically they remove all the drywall and coat all the framing with a sealer so the smoke smell cannot continue to come out of the wood. I do not know what it was called but I just Googled "sealing framing members after a fire" and found some interesting reading.
 
  #10  
Old 08-24-22, 02:37 AM
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I've done a handful of fire jobs but none in the last 30 yrs or so. We used to always use pigmented shellac. When Kilz came along we used it on some jobs and it seemed to be as effective. The main thing is to spray a liberal coat on all porous substrates. The general rule was all surfaces that couldn't be cleaned and weren't replaced would get coated with pigmented shellac. Failure to coat all the porous surfaces could result in the smoke/fire smell returning especially during times of high humidity.
 
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Old 09-28-22, 09:05 PM
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Same

Sbrady and Joyauburn
Whatíd you end up doing? Iím in the exact same situation. Creosote treated wood support beams and joists under the home in the foundation.
Did you do the encapsulation?
 
  #12  
Old 10-09-22, 07:59 AM
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Jillian after lots of research and reading through forums, I think I've decided to remove the batt insulation under the floor (which some person decided to seal the bottom of underneath with poly which is just forcing the smell up. Then I'm going to let it air out for a week or so and then find some willing painter to go under and spray the joists with the pigmented BIN shellac, then installing crawl space fans in opposite sides to create negative pressure to hopefully force any odors out instead of up/through any leaks in HVAC (even though it's now brand new). I'm then having the soil and walls lined with poly but keeping those exhaust fans going. If necessary then I will put a dehumidifier in drawing through the one vent we are keeping open for a little positive pressure replacement. I'll let you know how it goes. What's crazy is the humidity and temperature has dropped lately and there is absolutely no smell. But we are doing this anyway because I'm certain it will return. I hope this works...so tired of reading about solutions to this problem.
 
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Old 10-09-22, 09:32 AM
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.
What's crazy is the humidity and temperature has dropped lately and there is absolutely no smell.
Most odors appear stronger during high humidity.
Wish you luck finding a painter willing to spray BIN in close quarters. The ones that stay busy will prefer to turn that job down.
 
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Old 10-31-22, 10:15 AM
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Joyaburn,
Would love to hear how it goes! We decided on an encapsulation company and a week after the job, the smell in the house has not changed at all. 10k down the drain!
 
  #15  
Old 11-11-22, 10:02 AM
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JillianT23

So sorry! What type of encapsulation did you do?

We have had high humidity, the smell has been bad again. We removed the poly/batt insulation from under the joists and the smell is now more in the crawl of course, but hoping that once we put in the fans it will exhaust it out. Then planning to have painter spray the BIN Shellac on the underside of the joists and beams. Have been concerned it will just push it up through the hardwood (which is in perfect condition). After that we are lining the floor and walls with poly but keeping the fans and keeping one other vent open for make-up air.

My biggest concern with a 100 year old house was smell but they sold it during a time of low humidity and it just didn't smell. We feel extremely taken advantage of.
 
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Old 11-11-22, 10:08 AM
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Sbrady - what did you end up doing?
 
  #17  
Old 12-01-22, 08:03 PM
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Update: sprayed 2 coats of BIN pigmented shellac and a top coat as suggested by forums and Rust-Oleum saying it was more than substantial. Were very hopeful for a week and now it smells possibly the strongest I have ever smelled here. We have POURED money into this historic house and at this point I can't live here with this smell. How have people lived here for 100 years like this?! Am I missing anything? How is this possible that this smells this strong after 100 years?! I've prayed for an answer and I don't have any other ideas. Florida has no disclosure requirements legally. Shame on this system. This is a disaster.
 
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Old 12-02-22, 02:39 AM
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Some folks are more susceptible to odors than others.
Fresh air ventilation is always the best way to remove odors from a home.
Does your crawlspace have adequate ventilation? [fans can help push out the odor] Laying plastic on the ground might help reduce the humidity in the crawlspace.
 
  #19  
Old 12-02-22, 06:59 AM
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[fans can help push out the odor
Blowing air into the crawl space will help push the odor from that area but could also push it into the living space above. Although it may be less efficient from an airflow perspective, pulling air from the crawl space will also put it under a negative pressure so odors will not migrate to living spaces.

In both cases there needs to be an adequate opening in the crawl space enclosure to allow free air flow in or out depending on fan direction.
 
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Old 12-02-22, 07:34 AM
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I didn't mean for air to be pushed into the crawlspace but rather a fan set at the access opening to draw air out.
 
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Old 12-02-22, 09:09 AM
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Mark is right on - set the fan up to blow air out of that space and then air will flow from the house into the crawlspace instead of vice-versa. This is basically the same concept as what a radon mitigation system does for the space beneath the slab.
 
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Old 12-15-22, 06:14 PM
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Thanks for helping

Not sure why I'm not getting alerts to replies, but found my way back here.

To recent posters, thank you!....that's exactly what we have done. First step: remove batt joist insulation that had poly on the bottom, sealing in moisture. Then let it air out. Second: painter sprayed 2 coats of the BIN pigmented shellac and a top coat based on the corporate Rust-Oleum tech support. Third:. Installed (2) exhaust fans in main and (1) fan in smaller separate crawl. 240 cm each fan which should provide 13ish ACH. Smell got much better. All other vents were still open. Trying to create negative pressure so Fourth: in process of sealing floor and walls with 10 mil poly but keeping exhaust fans taped to flanges and one small vent open for makeup air. Smell has increased again. Did I make a mistake putting down poly? Everything that I know (in custom home building in a different city than our residence) is that this would help seal odors and force out through fan exhaust vents. The only other thing I have in my arsenal after this step is completed is to add a dehu with pump to pipe out water to lower humidity in the crawl. We are WAY past the point of selling the house because we have dumped so much money on the renovation of this historic house we would lose a lot in current market. Anything I'm missing?

**Also anyone know how I can get email notifications when there is a reply??

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-16-22, 02:48 AM
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I haven't done so in a long time but you should be able to subscribe to a thread thru the box at the top of this page.

A dehumidifier might help. I know if smoke isn't encapsulated well the odor can return during periods of high humidity.
 
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Old 03-01-23, 05:58 AM
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UPDATE to our situation:

Joyauburn & JillianT23 - We decided that trying to spray or treat the beams just really was not possible in our house. The crawl space where these multiple beams are is extremely tight (I originally thought it was just one, but there are several, and it's also on the bottom of all the joists). Trying to maneuver in there to cover all that with something would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. My husband is generally willing to do anything in the world to make me happy, but he said that painting those beams and joists was just not a viable solution.

So then we consulted with someone who installs "EZ Breathe". After reading about that and consulting with the person, we decided against that also. We wanted to install the system in THAT specific area of the crawlspace only (we have separated crawl spaces), but the installer wanted to put the system in the "lowest point" of the house. The crawlspace where those joists are located are higher than the lowest point of the house, so we decided against that also.

What we wound up doing is sealing all the vents in the rooms located over that space and we installed a split unit HVAC system to condition that room. Initially we thought the joists were only located the living room so my husband sealed all the vents in that room. It cut the smell dramatically but it was still there somewhat. Then we recently realized that the bathroom that is next to the living room is also located over those beams, so we just sealed those two vents last weekend. I immediately noticed an improvement. I think this is going to work.

The way my husband sealed those vents by taking flashing and cut it to the size of the vent to make it like a cup. He pushed that down into the vents. Then he sprayed expanding foam around the edges of the flashing to seal it into the duct. And then he sprayed Flexseal and sprayed all the surfaces to make it like one sealed cup in the vent. Now, no air (and no smell) comes out of those vents. Praying this solution will work forever!
 

Last edited by Sbrady01; 03-01-23 at 06:10 AM.
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Old 09-08-23, 01:41 AM
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Epoxy paint

Hi and thank you for all of your posts. Please continue posting ANYTHING you discover that might help resolve this.

my family and I are dealing with the SAME EXACT thing for a year now. Sometimes itís unbearable.

So far I have had the crawl space joists/beams sprayed with two coats of BIN shellac primer. Unfortunately not much has changed. Ö.Iím wondering, has ANYONE in here tried a water based EPOXY to seal and encapsulate the smell within each beam/joist?

The creoshield product seems to be just that. I actually called them about 7-8 months ago and they came out here in california and gave me an estimate for almost $17,000 to have 3-4 coats sprayed on. Iím thinking I can have this done with a few painters of my own for a lot less, using a water based epoxy.

would appreciate your thoughts and if you have tried epoxy yet. Thanks
 
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Old 09-08-23, 02:00 AM
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In the past I've had ink stains bleed thru water based epoxy so I wouldn't be confident that it would seal in odors.

Was the BIN sprayed on heavy? it should almost drip off. You want a heavy fluid coat.
 
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Old 09-08-23, 07:56 AM
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I cannot see a water based product of any kind sealing in a petroleum based substance like this.
 
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Old 09-08-23, 08:19 AM
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Take a look at the rim joists in your crawl space. Insulate this area with foam board and spray foam to reduce fumes to the living space.
 
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Old 09-08-23, 09:09 AM
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Bin was sprayed heavy. But I guess we can go even one more coat to feel certain of that.

Would I be able to use a regular epoxy as opposed to water based? The idea is obviously using something that is thick enough to encapsulate odor within the wood. If thereís something in particular you can think of that you have used that can do that I would appreciate it.
 
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Old 09-08-23, 09:32 AM
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Sbrady01 - I think you will always smell the creosote when the temperature increases in summer and during high humidity periods. if you lived in a very cold climate area with low humidity you would not be bothered by the smell near as much., but... Unfortunately, I think you'll have to learn to live with it.

The one positive you have is, you'll never have termites in that wood!

That smell of railroad ties treated with coal tar creosote as a boy walking along the tracks on a hot summer day to collect drink bottles or going fishing brings back fond memories.
 

Last edited by Kooter; 09-08-23 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 09-08-23, 10:12 AM
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If 2 heavy coats of BIN were applied and the odor still comes thru - I doubt any more/different coating will help
 
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Old 09-08-23, 10:48 AM
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You donít believe pure clear epoxy would create a more sealed/solid barrier ?
 
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Old 09-08-23, 11:40 AM
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I don't know the chemistry but unless the molecules are closer together than pigmented shellac I fail to see how it would do better. Pigmented shellac {BIN} has always been the ultimate sealer both for stains and odor.
 
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Old 09-08-23, 10:31 PM
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BIN seals well. If two thick coats of it did not work, I would guess there might be some part of the wood which is not accessible to the material and thus not being sealed. I really doubt the BIN is not doing the job.
 
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Old 09-12-23, 07:01 PM
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Jay - first I'm so sorry you are also in this situation. It quite literally almost drove me insane from the second I walked through at our closing (hadn't seen it in person). My husband was totally duped we now know and the seller took advantage of a crazy market. They had all the windows open in 50 degree weather and burned incense. My ONE request was if it had an old house smell. I build custom homes so I know how impossible it is to get rid of smells. All that aside, it is what it is. I previously posted here what we had done so I won't repeat all of that but just refer back. This is going to be long but I know when I was researching this every day for almost a year I would have hoped for more advice.

We also looked into EZ Breathe and Creoshield. Creoshield data looks very similar to BIN shellac. There are hardly any reviews out there and they wouldn't/couldn't give me any references. The few reviews I got to on Reddit/anything other than their website were not good. Lots of money down the drain from most. The steps we took probably got it to about 80% better. I kept a daily log for months (and bought air pressure testers) and for us it is DEFINITELY tied to pressure. It actually is the opposite of what science would tell you. When the pressure drops outside, it should in theory make the air in the house rush out, thus decreasing the odor in the house. For whatever reason (95 years old, no insulation, etc?) when the barometric pressure drops below 30 the smell returns a bit more. The air tester (not the correct term but I'm sure you know what that is) shows air rushing INTO the house in these situations which makes absolutely no sense.

I think the BIN shellac helped a little (and the poor painters were absolutely miserable - not a fun job) but I think the crawl space fans I put in helped the most. They are running constantly (also measure temperature and humidity). I can share with you what we bought (after an insane amount of research - AC Infinity I believe but if you want, let me know and I can double check). They are high CFM but quiet - we installed them into 3 of the old vents and everything else is sealed off). I did some calculations with ACH and it definitely meets the criteria for the volume. If you stand in front of one outside it smells SO STRONGLY of creosote (which also makes you think the BIN shellac didn't do the trick unfortunately). Ours also doesn't seem to be highly tied to temperature at all or humidity (slightly worse when super humid) but the low pressure is a definite cause based on keeping all data every day for 5 months.

Then we had a few pockets remaining but not an all over smell that was noticeable much even to my overactive sensitive brain/sense of smell. When I travel for work, occasionally my clothes have a slight smell but that also got much better with time. The few pockets I realized were areas where there were gaps in the plaster allowing the odor to deep out and I spray foamed those and it basically stopped in those areas. So now we still need to do that in our closet behind some new drawers that have gaps and I hope that fixes our clothes smell issue.

Basically I am at a point where I can live with it and don't notice it much at all... probably 90% better. Our next steps are to add dehumidifiers in the crawl and attic (mostly due to an HVAC issue this summer that leaked condensation into the attic thus wetting the wood which has brought the smell back a little more). I think that will help a lot as well. Again, it doesn't seem to be the relative humidity because it is odor free sometimes in high humidity and then smelly but again more due to pressure from our observations. It seems to be the humidity is worse when the actual wood gets wet if that makes sense.

All in all, I wish I had gotten through my life without ever thinking about creosote (more than some historic commercial projects I've done in the past) but here we are. I honestly have NO IDEA how people lived here all these years without taking all the steps we did. We did have an environmental engineer come over for a consult. He did say that creosote is a substance that is extremely detectable in very small amounts (like crazy small) and that the human nose can pick up on very tiny PPM. He added that after 95 years it really isn't a health concern at all unless you were down there touching it every day (more of a skin cancer concern when workers got it all over their skin for years). Either way, I absolutely HATE the smell. We almost just sold the house last year after we moved in and took the loss but like I said, sealing the crawl, spraying the entire underside of the framing, installing the fans made it bearable mostly. I think the dehus will help more and we are considering getting whole home dehus (even though it doesn't seem to be directly linked it can't hurt). Hindsight - when we had walls/ceilings opened we should have spray foamed all the cavities but we have 2 layers of plaster on metal lathe so that is not an easy feat at this point but that would have helped drastically. I also know without a doubt if I just spray foamed the underside of the joists this problem would probably completely go away but we can't in Florida with termite bonds, insurance, etc. We had a few companies suggest it but I couldn't in my business. Would be really hard to resell later.

That's about all the advice I have. I truly hope it gets better for you.
 
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Old 04-15-24, 07:15 PM
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Joyauburn - Your issues are very similar to ones I am having. Your noting of the barometric pressure makes sense and after researching pressure reading history from my area, I can see days when the smell was considerably worse line up to days when we had low pressure. Our house has a section that is pier and beam. The piers are essentially railroad cross ties. 24 to 30 of them. We were considering several things that you did and/or were mentioned in this thread (put down plastic, shellac coat piers and etc. I am not going to take those measures now based on findings here. One thing we did, that you did not do, was spray foam under the joists. We removed the original insulation bats that were falling down in places and sprayed in 6 inches of closed cell foam. We needed it and it did its job insulating that area, but it DID NOT stop the odor. So don't beat yourself up on that one. I figure it is due to to the same reason shellac didn't work for you. It just couldn't fully encapsulate it and it is still going to gas off in those area that aren't covered. In my case, a load bearing wall is sitting directly on the piers and I imagine it is gassing straight up into that wall and making its way into the house through areas not caulked/sealed very well. We have identified the area (inside the house) where the majority of the odor is coming in and are removing the sheetrock in order to seal everything from the inside. Hopefully this fixes our problem.
 
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Old 06-03-24, 07:33 PM
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Kthornton68 - We share the same problem. Did removing the sheetrock to seal everything work out for you? I sure do hope so. I was thinking about taking off all of my floor trim and spraying all the joints with insulating foam. I have to keep the crawlspace smell out of my living space before I go crazy. What kind of spray do you use? Thank you.
 
  #38  
Old 06-04-24, 01:36 PM
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We're always thinking of ways to help members.

If the creosoted treated wood is directly against the flooring..... there would not be a way off completely sealing it from below. The smell would always go up thru the floor from the top of the treated wood.

Keeping a vacuum in the crawl space would be the only answer.... other than adding on a new floor covering the old one.
 
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Old 06-06-24, 09:41 PM
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Update

Saw the recent posts - definitely feel like the crawl space constant vent fans - again basically intentionally created a vacuum sealing everything except the fans to their flanges made the biggest difference. There are still (3) pockets that smell occasionally. One is behind our kitchen range (didn't Sheetrock behind it due to new gas line accessibility (again....if renovating 100 year old house, hindsight I would have spray foamed every single cavity I could possibly get to at the time. The other is behind our sons vanity where the previous owners didn't do things very well and there are HUGE openings behind the renovated bathroom vanity. I have spray foamed everything possible but my next step is to remove the toekick and spray foam back there. Smells really strong if you take the cabinet skin off so that's the source. Third in our closet which is why my clothes occasionally smell. Shame on us, completely renovated that also and didn't cover a few areas where we took the baseboard out to add built ins. Also on list is to take out hampers, fill gaps and spray foam those also. I am certain after all of this that will stop those pockets. But, it's also not a huge priority because it's really not bad at all. We have very sensitive noses but typically don't smell anything at all and most guests/family don't detect anything. Our house was built by a successful harbor pilot and at the time in 1930 they could access creosote to coat lumber for pest resistance. And of course, which isn't common in our historic neighborhood, we have NO termites, NO mold, NO rot. So I guess there are the pros. I still can't fathom how families lived here without mitigating this like we have. Those are my last steps and then I think we will be done. But basically don't have anything that makes me upset/obsess over more than one day every month or two. Huge improvement. I would prefer no smell but what I've noticed after this is most houses (even new, I build them) have a smell. Creosote is horrible for me personally but if you can get it to a point where we are, it will be okay I hope. I'm happy and proud of our home and no longer upset or embarrassed.
 
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Old 06-10-24, 04:36 AM
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Joyauburn
Thank you for the update. I am so happy that things are much better--encouraging for my situation. Which brand of foam do you use?
 
 

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