Evicting Bad Odours

August 2019

Unpleasant smells can become a fact of life in a building housing hundreds of people.

Trash chutes, resident habits, cooking, cleaning and even breathing all contribute to bad odours.  Build up in ducts and vents, which can include allergens and pathogens, contribute to unpleasant odours and health problems.

Keeping  buildings fresh and clean requires a concerted effort that includes addressing complaints and regular maintenance.

Bad odours are subjective.  Odours offensive to some may be inoffensive to others.  Homes connected by air ducts and ventilation systems allow odours from one suite to migrate throughout a building.  Pet dander and cigarette smoke are among odours offensive to many.

Pets, cooking and second hand smoke are among the top odour complaints in condo buildings.  Trash odours, from improper items being discarded or trash chute hatch doors not closing properly, can filter throughout a building.  Avoiding these odours is one reason to bag all discarded items prior to disposal, and to never dispose of wet items.  External odours, perhaps from a nearby restaurant or factory, may mingle with internal odours.

Less visible odours such as mould beneath floors and behind walls, and pest infestations, can be difficult to locate.  Residents can experience health problems from such unknown sources.

Renovations, cleaning chemicals and construction supplies can all impact on air quality and odours.  Unapproved renovations that block an air duct can have negative implications.

A proper functioning HVAC system will transport odours from their source to outside the building.  Higher air pressure in hallways help keep odours from coming through suite doorways to common areas.  An effective air system is necessary for an odour-free high-rise building.

Professionals have a variety of tools to help identify the source of odours and eliminate them.  Olfactometers can be used to find the source of odours and determine if they are at a nuisance level.  BiocCassettes and dust monitors measure allergens and airborne irritants.  Air sampling equipment can measure mould.

Regular maintenance should include trash chute cleaning and sanitizing so that splatter on the sides of a chute don’t create odours and attract pests, and that it remains clean-smelling.  Cleaning air ventilation systems will remove accumulation and allow for cleaner air to be circulated.