Clear Air Inside
Clear the Air! Solving odour transfer problems in your apartment
OTTAWA - From tobacco smoke to cooking smells, the transfer of odours is a common problem experienced by people who live in apartment buildings. There are however a number of simple and practical steps you can take in consultation with your property manager to eliminate, or at least reduce, odour problems in your apartment.
To help you clear the air, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers a range of tips on what you can do about odours and how to stop them from drifting into your home, including:
- First, understand how air flows in your building. For odours to
transfer between apartments, there must be a hole or pathway for the
odour to pass through, as well as a driving force to push air through
the hole. The most common locations for these leakage pathways are:
under the entry door from the corridor; behind electrical outlets and
switches; at wiring and plumbing penetrations; through ducts; at
joints between walls and floors at your apartment's boundaries; and
through dropped ceilings.
- Next, work with property management to identify and eliminate the
source of the odour. While this is not always possible, it can be the
most effective and inexpensive solution to odour transfer problems.
- If the odour is coming into your home from other areas of your
building, try sealing the gap around the door to the corridor with
weather stripping. You should also seal plumbing penetrations in
kitchen and bathroom walls and floors with low-odour, water-based
caulking or spray-in foam; install air-sealing gaskets behind the
cover plates of light switches and electrical receptacles; caulk the
bathtub and its surrounding enclosure with silicone caulking; and
remove the grille from bathroom exhaust fans and caulk the gap between
the fan and ceiling or wall, or seal it with foil-duct tape. As a last
resort, you can also remove your baseboards, and caulk the floor-wall
joint around the perimeter of your apartment on both the inside and
- To reduce the leakage of air from your apartment through outside
walls, ensure your window and door gaskets are in good condition; seal
joints around through-wall air conditioners with caulking or spray-in
foam; hire a contractor (with the building management's approval) to
seal wiring penetrations behind electric baseboard heaters; install \
air-sealing gaskets behind the cover plates of light switches and
electrical receptacles and consider caulking the wall-floor joint
- To increase the air change in your apartment to dilute and remove
odours, try using your kitchen and bathroom fans more frequently.
Once you take these measures, if your home's air becomes stuffy, odours linger or condensation on your windows increase, you may have to unseal the corridor door or try operating your kitchen and bathroom fans more frequently. Also, make sure the odour isn't coming from inside your apartment. If it is, consult CMHC's Clean Air Guide for ideas on how to improve your indoor air quality.
Remember to discuss any action you want to take with the building management, and get their approval before making any changes. Plus, if your apartment has a fireplace, hot water heater, furnace or other combustion appliance, consult with a qualified professional before taking any measures.