Dog-pee marinated hardwood floors
June 19, 2010 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Dog urine-soaked hardwood floors - is it a big deal?

I'm considering putting an offer in on a house but there's one thing about it that really bothers me. The previous owner was a very old lady who let her dogs urinate all over the floors in the lower part of the house. This must have been going on for some time because the floors are very stained and there is a horrible smell of urine in these rooms.

How big of a pain would it be to fix this? Are the floorboards going to have to be replaced? And could I, as someone with basic woodworking skills, do it myself? Is it just a question of getting those click together floorboards from IKEA, ripping out the old ones and laying some new ones down? I'm in Scotland if that matters.
posted by hazyjane to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, soaked-in dog urine will require replacing the wood. I'd factor the costs of this into your offer. Seller(s) may want to do the work to hold its costs down, but make sure what they want to do really fixes the problem to your requirements ... do not accept "cleaning" "disinfecting" &c. -- the problem will only rise (and I do mean rise) later.
posted by Bet Glenn at 7:48 AM on June 19, 2010

oops, also in category of unacceptable fixes: "refinishing"
posted by Bet Glenn at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2010

You don't mention the walls--dogs like to mark on vertical surfaces.

Agreeing with Bet Glenn, this is way past cleanable.
posted by hexatron at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2010

With respect to Aliens, "Pull back and nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
Not a jokey answer. I can't imagine a solution to this problem that doesn't require entirely new floorboards, at least some new wall material, and probably replacing anything else porous that's been, as you say, "marinated" in the smell. That scent gets -into- things. At one point, circumstances forced me into living with someone who let her dogs do this. It was the most obnoxious three months of my life despite liberal application of de-scenting supplies in the areas of the apartment I controlled.
posted by Alterscape at 8:20 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks all. I'm now wondering how I can tell what kind of sub-floor is under there when viewing the house. The house was built in 1880 and the wood floor that's peed on looks original.
posted by hazyjane at 8:29 AM on June 19, 2010

There may not be a subfloor. Go into the basement and look at the ceiling and see if it's the living room planks.

What you can do is use the existing pee floor as a subfloor and have a new one laid on top of it.
posted by asockpuppet at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2010

There's no basement, unfortunately. I guess that means it must have a subfloor of some kind?

If I used the pee floor as a subfloor would I have a problem with mildew or anything? My partner has asthma so I need to make sure the house is safe for him.
posted by hazyjane at 9:06 AM on June 19, 2010

If you use the pee floor as a subfloor, you will smell it and regret it every day. I lived in a house that old, the subfloor where there wasn't a basement was just more boards. Those will be soaked with pee, too, and have to come out. Now you're down to dirt, and IKEA isn't going to help you there. I'd strongly suggest making full replacement of the floors by the current owner a condition of your offer. You don't want to live in the house while the work is being done, especially if your wife has breathing issues.
posted by donnagirl at 9:18 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd strongly suggest making full replacement of the floors by the current owner a condition of your offer.

The only modification I'd make to this is something like asking for a financial consideration for the cost of replacing the floors--you might get a couple of estimates to present. I'd think you'd want to be in control of the quality of materials and work, rather than trusting the seller to make it right in good faith. This is advice I've heard given to other people buying homes that need repair and it seems like good advice to me. Which of you is more motivated to see that this is done right?
posted by not that girl at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the flooring is strip flooring (fairly thin wood planks) then there is a subfloor. In a house that old it's ship lap (bigger, coarser planks of T&G) or else nailed down planks. Both are good and sturdy they might not be level or anything approaching level which is going to increase the cost of putting new floors in by quite a bit.

And yep you're going to have to rip out the sheetrock and put new because it wicks liquids up into itself. That's fairly easy to do as long as it is sheetrock and not plaster, which it might very well be in a place of that age. So check that too.

But don't despair yet: my old house had thick, thick tarpaper between the floors and subfloors which saved the shiplap subfloors from all manner of neglect and cat pee. They looked like new basically. I also salvaged a wood floor by sanding down to new wood, see if there's enough left of this floor to do that before deciding anything.
posted by fshgrl at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2010

It might be doable. It's going to be a lot of work, though.

We had carpets covering hardwoods that had been peed on in certain corners by the previous owners' cats. Of course, these corners were irresistible to our own cats. It got pretty gross, eventually. I threw out the carpet and padding and scrubbed the corners repeatedly with ammonia and water. When they were mostly odor free, I continued cleaning with that enzyme stuff that eliminates urine odors. Then, we had new floors installed right over the top. There's no smell at all. I only had to clean a few square feet, though, not a whole house.

(Our new floors are vinyl, but installed over an underlayment similar to the way the Ikea laminate flooring is installed.)
posted by zinfandel at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2010

If you don't have the floors and subfloors replaced, you will smell dog urine every single time it rains. And you live in Scotland, you say? Every. Single. Time it rains the smell will get stronger.

Floors (definitely) and subfloors (maybe) have to go. And you may have to also replace parts of walls and moulding. I'd suggest getting a flooring expert in to assess the cost before you decide to go further with this house.
posted by cooker girl at 7:34 PM on June 19, 2010

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