As a home inspector sometimes I’m getting questions that are difficult to answer without first studying the subject.

One day I had a call from a lady, who owns numerous properties in the twin cities area. She asked if I can inspect a house and determine if somebody was smoking cigarettes inside. If there is an air quality analyzer that can prove it.

First of all, I know from my own experience how difficult and expensive can it be to get rid of the smell of tobacco smoke in the house.

Somebody can ask why it should be expensive.

Well, besides being a home inspector I have substantial experience in house remodeling, so I’m talking based on my own experience, there was a couple of properties I remodeled with my partner, where heavy smokers use to leave for more than 20 years.

The goal was to completely eliminate tobacco cigarette smoke in the house. The first property we did, we were able to eliminate the odor approximately on 90%, 2nd property we did not cut corners, we did everything, based on what we learned from previous mistakes. In general, it that can be done only by completely encapsulating with paint everything that can be saved. Here is a list of what can be saved:

Kitchen Cabinets, windows, doors, walls, and ceilings. Everything else must be replaced, yes I’m talking all fabrics, like carpets, draperies, electrical switches, receptacles, and all lightings, must be thrown away.

The ventilation system must be cleaned by companies who specialized in ventilation cleaning and odor removal.

The kitchen cabinets, drawers, doors with frames, and trim needs to be sanded and cleaned. Some wood surfaces like oak, have such an open grain that it is very hard to hide, even when painting over it. Professional refinishers have resorted to wood-grain fillers to level out open grains in preparation for a clear finish.

All walls must be washed using smoke odor remover cleaners, some people use a mix of water with vinegar. Sometimes washing needs to be repeated to completely remove smoke tar.

After sanding and cleaning are complete, all these surfaces need to be painted with good quality blocking smoke odor primer and then finished with paint.

Now let’s talk about the floors and ceilings. Unfortunately, half measures will not work here. Floors need to be either refinished or replaced with a new one.

If you decided to go with something like engineered floors, before laying floors some preparations need to be done, subfloors must be painted with a good quality primer that is blocking smoke odor.

The ceiling is a different story. I’m talking here about the popcorn ceiling – on the first property we did we tried to spray it with primer and then spray with paint, and it still had some smell. For the best result, I highly recommend removing the popcorn, then making a skim coat, painting with primer, and finishing with ceiling paint.

When everything is done, I’m recommending running an ozone or Hydroxyl generator for 3 to 4 days with open kitchen doors and drawers. Sometimes even longer.

You can say that it is possible to achieve similar results by skipping some steps, yes it is possible, I just shared my experience. You are welcome to try it using different methods, this video is not about the only way of getting rid of the smell of tobacco products.

Now let’s talk about detecting smoking in the house.

I want to make something clear; there are different types of tobacco smoking:

First-hand and second-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker and can get inhaled by others, third-hand is smoke that gets left on the surfaces of objects that ages over time and becomes progressively more toxic.

Yes, it is possible to detect all types of smoking.

I found that there are quite a few devices that can detect firsthand smoking is manufactured by different countries.

USA-made devices.

Fresh Air, these devices available for hotels and apartments, immediately detect and prove tobacco and marijuana smoking. Plugs into a standard North American Type B outlet or is hardwired into a ceiling or wall. Connects via Wi-Fi to FreshAir’s cloud-based platform to monitor up to 500 square feet of open space per device.

Notifies you immediately via email, computer desktop, and/or mobile phone push notification.

PSA Live Saver; their devices Detect cigarette, cigar & pipe smoke. NOT A FIRE SMOKE ALARM. Emits an alarm and flashing red light when triggered Perfect for deterring unwanted cigarette smoke. This device did not send a notification.

Verkada system, the all-in-one sensor that detects wipe smoking. This device Connects all Verkada devices to Command, a web-based platform, it is mostly for commercial use.

UK devices

sold by Discount Fire Supply. There are different types of devices-Stand alone cigarette smoke alarms, Wireless cigarette smoke detectors, Cigarette detection systems. These devices are quick and easy to install. They are battery-operated too which means they can be installed in virtually any location. Cigarette smoke alarms are finely calibrated to detect the fine particles of tobacco smoke. They work with incredible accuracy and can detect someone smoking in a matter of seconds. Many also have voice alarm functionality which means they will sound a pre-recorded message instead of a traditional alarm when they detect a cigarette.

Singapore Devices:

These devices require wi-fi and SMS alert modems.

It is beyond scope of this video to review these devices here. I’m just sharing with you the information I found.

All these devices have a lot of pros, but some have cons, certain types of devices that alarm during smoking can be very annoying and can be easily covered or destroyed by tenants, the others once, requires WiFi, SMS alert modems which are not always possible to have on rental properties.

Finally, Nicotine smock testing for 3rd hand smoking.

E M S L Analytical Laboratory provides test kits to identify nicotine residues left on surfaces in homes, rental units, and other indoor environments.

Link to all these equipment providers will be provided below.

Please call us if you have any questions.