Odour Control Requires Basic Building Maintenance

May 2019

Cooking, garbage from the trash chute, cigarette smoke and laundry exhaust are just some of the odours that can make their way from areas of a building to your suite.  While it is not practical to tell people what to cook, discontinue laundry or stop smoking, there are steps condo management can take to help keep odours from creeping into your home.

Many building odour control problems can be rectified by tweaking, repairing or cleaning building systems.

The smell of garbage or cooking from elsewhere in a building travels an air pathway such as a doorway or space in the wall.  Different air pressure between spaces allows these odours to travel and intrude on your home.  While building systems are intended to prevent this unwanted air movement, there can be areas that allow for unintended air and odour transfer.

Unintentional air movement through a building can come from several sources:

Air Systems Failure

Air systems are intended to bring fresh air into a building and remove unwanted air.  Air intake vents bring fresh air into a building.  Air outtake vents, which include exhaust vents and fans, remove air from a building.  They include dampers which prevent reverse air flow.

Fresh air entering a building through air systems creates higher air pressure in corridors.  Fresh air is intended to enter suites through space beneath doors.  When these systems are turned off a pressure imbalance results and corridors are not sufficiently pressurized.  Air and odour can then travel in the wrong direction out of a suite into corridors and other suites.

Fresh air enters corridors through a central duct.  Air volume to each floor is controlled by dampers.  These dampers can get out of alignment resulting in an unbalanced air supply.  Residents may manually close dampers to stop cool air from flowing into corridors or a suite reducing fresh air flow possibly causing odours to migrate into corridors or certain suites.

Air from bathrooms, kitchens and garbage rooms exit a building through air outtake vents leading to outside walls.  Damaged or malfunctioning air dampers may facilitate reverse air flow allowing undesirable air to re-enter the building or suite and be recirculated.


Poorly sealed suite windows and balcony doors combined with strong winds can affect building air pressure by driving outer air containing odours from neighbouring suites in through gaps.

Damaged, Missing or Improper Smoke Seals

Building codes require fire systems to prevent the spread of smoke and fire.  Sealants are used to prevent transfer of smoke and fire between walls and floors.  Damaged, missing or incomplete seals provide a pathway for odours to travel, possibly through ducts and conduits in these areas.

Elevator Shaft Air

Elevator movement causes a large amount of air movement.  Garbage room air unintentionally entering the elevator shaft can exit on other floors through possibly worn elevator door seals.

Orkin Canada’s Scent Services offers building-wide odour control solutions.  Their Air Remedy product is used in areas with foul odours including garbage rooms and dumpster areas to mitigate against odours migrating from their source.  AirSpa is a scent delivery system providing fresh fragrant air in common areas.

The source of many odour problems is usually not obvious.  Trained specialists understand condo building air flow systems, and have tools to help diagnose and resolve air quality problems.