This is our third house restoration and I’ve discovered that there are many odors that go along with old house projects. Some identifiable, some not so much. All old homes have a very similar odor when they are vacant. It’s a mix of dust and old wood and old plaster. It’s nostalgic and not unpleasant. When you start ripping into things, you can start to identify the odors that make up the old house. The old plaster and lath smells of century old lime and wood. When you refinish old hardwood floors, the sawdust doesn’t smell the same as sawdust from new wood, it is more woodsy and organic. Stripping wall paper fills the house with steam and a clean vinegar smell. Once the preparation of surfaces is done, you are immersed in odors of fresh paint and fresh varnish on the floors. All relatively pleasant smells that are associated with the process.
Then, there are the unpleasant odors. The smell of any old basement is almost always disgusting. There are always dead mice to discover and it seems that every old basement I go into smells of cat urine weather the home ever had a cat or not. Working on plumbing always releases the sewage smell, no matter how careful you are. If there is linoleum to rip up, it always smells like rotted food and forgotten crumbs. Not to mention the smell of your own sweat from grinding away the hours in the dust and dirt and grime.
Yesterday, Sean disconnected the old dishwasher in the kitchen. He made the mistake of moving it out to try to see what the flooring was like underneath and spilled some of the water that had been trapped inside for over a year. A year of varying temperatures combined with whatever food particles had been trapped inside. Holy hell it smelled like the walking dead. The last time I smelled something so horrid was after a trip to Mexico 10 years ago when Montezuma’s revenge hit our house. He tried to cover the smell by cleaning it up with vinegar and water, but then it just smelled like death bathed in vinegar. We left all the windows open overnight and there was a stiff breeze moving through the house, but it merely wafted the stench up the stairs and through the rest of the house.
At least it made me thankful that we are still sleeping in the camper!