An interesting development in the Charlotte crawl space encapsulation market is the increasing complaint of homeowners reporting odors and smells after the encapsulation has been completed. This phenomenon is commonly called the “cat urine” smell and/or the “pool liner” smell. Closing the crawl space off completely from air exchange from the outside air is allowing these odors and smells to build up over time and work their way upwards into the living areas of the home via the stacking affect. These symptoms are often reported within hours or even a few days of the installation. Some homeowners note the affect during seasonal changes when mechanical systems run less. Construction style, soils, low areas and dead pockets, as well as the combined cubic footage noted inside the crawl space also appears to accelerate the phenomenon. The source of the odor varies from soil gas release, moisture, mixed organics under the foundation, and/or construction materials, etc. But research with a variety of these customers points to a correlation with the thickness and manufacture of the plastic liner used for the encapsulation. There are currently hundreds of plastic manufacturers around the world that manufacture custom fiber reinforced liners, and each year, newer products come into the market all claiming to be “odor free”. Being that plastic liners are derived from petroleum products, it is certainly problematic to claim that plastic has no odor. There certainly will be some odor as with any construction product installed on a house. Encapsulation companies receive an increasing number of calls for this problem with no real answers to resolve the problem with a guarantee. Many franchisees are now equipping their encapsulations with exhaust fans that run continuously in a vain attempt to manage the problem without any controls and/or the use of proper sensor packages. The attached video shows a 1.4 million dollar home that was for sale with the cat urine / pool liner smell being reported not only by the homeowner but by the potential home buyer as well. Without resolving this issue with a warranty the transaction would have fallen apart. A number of attempts were made by others to get rid of the smell but nothing worked. The only certain way to get rid of odors is effective air exchange managed with proper sensors. The video link below shows in detail an encapsulation retrofit restoring proper ventilation to the house in a controlled way utilizing The ATMOX ACE Controller with supporting fan technology and dehumidification. Please see the attached video for reference.
The good news is the sale of the home went through without any additional challenges. The buyers received a good home for their investment with the addition of a high tech, energy efficient crawl space system moisture and odor control system that will be relevant for decades to come. For more information on encapsulations, and/or controlled ventilation hybrid systems with advanced sensor technology please feel free to contact us for more information.