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Clear the Air!

Solving Odour Transfer Problems in Your Apartment

From tobacco smoke to cooking smells, the transfer of odours is a common problem experienced by people who live in apartment buildings. There are however a number of simple and practical steps you can take in consultation with your property manager to eliminate, or at least reduce, odour problems in your apartment.

To help you clear the air, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers a range of tips on what you can do about odours and how to stop them from drifting into your home, including:

  • First, understand how air flows in your building. For odours to transfer between apartments, there must be a hole or pathway for the odour to pass through, as well as a driving force to push air through the hole. The most common locations for these leakage pathways are: under the entry door from the corridor; behind electrical outlets and switches; at wiring and plumbing penetrations; through ducts; at joints between walls and floors at your apartment's boundaries; and through dropped ceilings.
  • Next, work with property management to identify and eliminate the source of the odour. While this is not always possible, it can be the most effective and inexpensive solution to odour transfer problems.
  • If the odour is coming into your home from other areas of your building, try sealing the gap around the door to the corridor with weather stripping. You should also seal plumbing penetrations in kitchen and bathroom walls and floors with low-odour, water-based caulking or spray-in foam; install air-sealing gaskets behind the cover plates of light switches and electrical receptacles; caulk the bathtub and its surrounding enclosure with silicone caulking; and remove the grille from bathroom exhaust fans and caulk the gap between the fan and ceiling or wall, or seal it with foil-duct tape. As a last resort, you can also remove your baseboards, and caulk the floor-wall joint around the perimeter of your apartment on both the inside and outside walls.
  • To reduce the leakage of air from your apartment through outside walls, ensure your window and door gaskets are in good condition; seal joints around through-wall air conditioners with caulking or spray-in foam; hire a contractor (with the building management's approval) to seal wiring penetrations behind electric baseboard heaters; install air-sealing gaskets behind the cover plates of light switches and electrical receptacles and consider caulking the wall-floor joint behind baseboards.
  • To increase the air change in your apartment to dilute and remove odours, try using your kitchen and bathroom fans more frequently.

Once you take these measures, if your home’s air becomes stuffy, odours linger or condensation on your windows increase, you may have to unseal the corridor door or try operating your kitchen and bathroom fans more frequently. Also, make sure the odour isn't coming from inside your apartment. If it is, consult CMHC's Clean Air Guide for ideas on how to improve your indoor air quality.

Remember to discuss any action you want to take with the building management, and get their approval before making any changes. Plus, if your apartment has a fireplace, hot water heater, furnace or other combustion appliance, consult with a qualified professional before taking any measures.


This article is courtesy of CMHC.

No Warranties — Disclaimers

The information contained in the articles is based on various sources believed to be reliable, but their accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The information, analysis and opinions shall not be taken as representations for which Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation or any of its directors, employees or agent shall incur responsibility. Although CMHC invests efforts in their preparation, all articles are provided “AS IS”, and CMHC makes no warranty, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will CMHC be liable for any direct, special, indirect, consequential or other damages however resulting, arising out or in connection with the use of any article.