So once we had the wood dry - after a lot of work and irritation - we were finally ready to move forward! At this point it had been about 8 weeks since we moved in, and we were still existing in the cat pee smell 24/7. It was getting quite old!
We knew the next step was primer. The only way we would be able to seal in that smell and restore the living room to a livable condition would be to either tear it all out (including sub-flooring) and re-do it, or primer the snot out of it. We obviously chose option number two.
Poor Dave had already spent the better part of a day putting multiple coats of primer (Kilz MAX, which was advertised as very effective on such things) on the living room floor, back when we first started fighting with the pee-soaked wood in the wall.
You can see the wet wood area along that one wall, which at the time he could not apply primer to, because we were concerned the wood would then rot. No good!
The smell was still so strong in this room that poor Dave put something like 14 coats of primer on this floor, of course having to wait between each one for it to dry, and still working full time and doing all the normal day to day stuff. We were shocked and not pleased to find that the cat pee was still soaking through - both visibly and smell-wise.
So gross!! We were starting to wonder if primer was actually going to do the trick, or if we were still going to have to rip all the sub flooring (and maybe all the sheetrock?!?) out and start over. If it were to come to that, we would need to talk about filing an insurance claim, because the money just did not exist to pull this off. This was not a good feeling at all. We were really fighting the feeling that we had just made the biggest mistake of our lives by buying a true money pit. We really did all our research and all our due diligence in this purchase, or we felt we did anyway. As it turns out, those popular candle warmers and wax blocks can hide amazing amounts of stench.
The seller, who you probably remember was a coworker and a 'friend,' or so we thought, had long since stopped responding to any communication from us, so that wasn't really an option for help or recourse. We had people tell us to sue her, but that was most definitely a very last resort. Not only because we're not really sue-happy people, not only because we didn't want to turn this into a big legal fight, but also because wouldn't have been able to pay a lawyer! Even if we had, the legal route was never really the right answer to either of us. Though in some moments it sure seemed tempting...
By this time, Dave felt it would be okay to go ahead and patch the pee-soaked wall and - FINALLY - call in the flooring guys and the painters. We hadn't anticipated nor budgeted for the painters, however the walls were so dirty, dingy and covered in candle remnants and cat damage that we didn't have a whole lot of choice. Plus, as pretty as these blue walls were, the lower ones were cat-damaged, and the walls were so dark that they really made the room seem smaller, which we didn't love:
The other main justification for painting was that we felt like the smell might be living in the paint as well as in the floor, so we were really looking to stack the deck in our favor by having the whole living room re-painted. We actually planned to paint the whole house, but the living room was the one room we could not easily do ourselves, since it has a 17-foot ceiling, and a support beam that runs across. We don't have the equipment to handle all that and, let's face it, we are not in our 20s anymore. Ha!
We definitely still plan to repaint the rest of the house, not only to freshen it up and make it ours, but also because of things like this:
Yes, that is a burnt orange wall in the dining room. It extends into the kitchen. The color is - well, whatever - but my issue with it is that it looks like it was painted by a seven year old after two Mountain Dews. If you look around that window, it's... bad. There are also places where the second coat was missed completely, and all the edges of this color are just sloppy. But, these were low priorities compared to the cat pee issue, so it would have to wait.
Anyway, a-patching Dave went on the previously soaked wall, and I squealed in delight...
After that pink dried to white, he sanded it all smooth and then applied a bunch of Kilz to that area also. Sadly, it then became obvious that the Kilz was not cutting it. In desperation we began googling once again. We found out about this product (but in gallons), which is apparently completely amazing at sealing in cat pee smells, according to what we read online.
Unfortunately, we had already spent a lot of money on primer in order to seal that whole floor 14+ times, but we were about to spend a lot more on new flooring, and we just could not take the risk that we might be laying new flooring down on top of pee smell which would then leech out and we'd be right back at square one. So, back to the store we went, and bought two much-more-expensive gallons of this nifty new primer.
After just a couple more coats of this new one, the pee stains and the smell stopped seeping through. Yay! A couple of days after the final coat of the magical primer, we were able to proclaim that after over two months, the cat pee smell was banished from the house! The joy and relief that came with this was huge!
About this time, the new flooring we'd ordered came in. The flooring company delivered it to the house to acclimate for a few days.
We finally gave the painters the green light to come work their magic on the living room walls. We had agonized a fair amount about what color to use. We had samples taped up around the room and spent a lot of time using apps and websites that help you determine what will look best. I mut say that until this experience, I thought that "white" was, well, just white. No. Turns out there are eleven bazillion shades of white. Oh, dear!
Ultimately, we settled on this color, called Snowbound. Appropriate for an Alaskan house, no?
Dave stayed home with them while I took the kid out-and-about for most of that day, so that we would not be underfoot. Dave sent me pictures as they worked, which made me just so darn happy! I love fresh paint! It's a much better smell for our new house than urine! Ha!
Look at that difference! The paint that was there before, in addition to being dirty and past its prime (see what I did there?), was a cream color that we really didn't care for. This room is north-facing, which means it doesn't get a lot of sun. We wanted it bright! The difference was (is!) stunning. So, so pretty.
These two pictures (before and after the new paint) were taken under conditions that were as similar as possible. It's the same time of day (as far as darkness outside), the same lights are on and I am standing in exactly the same spot. Look at the difference in light! Just amazing. It already felt like a brand new house. Finally all our misery, stress and expense was beginning to pay off! It had only taken over two months!
A few days after the painters worked their magic, the it was finally time for flooring. What this room had before was that cream/tan colored semi-shaggy carpet which, had it been clean, would have been nice to keep. However, it was stinky and 'crunchy' as the kid called it, in the areas where cat pee had soaked it for years on end. (Gag.) We chose a nice wood laminate to replace it. The challenge with that was the new flooring would border three other types/colors of flooring: the gray stone in the hallway, the dark red wood laminate in the dining room, and the cream stone around the fireplace. It is not easy to find a color that compliments all of those! But I feel like we found one that looks darn good.
If you're an observant type like my husband (and not like me...) you may also notice that that far corner of this room, by the fireplace, used to have a weird little glass shelving unit attached to the wall. Those shelves held the monitor for the security cameras outside the front door. It was an old style monitor, a foot deep and 20 pounds, and it just had to go. That has been replaced with something much better, and Dave removed the ugly shelving, so that's now a nice clean corner. Love it!
And with that, the cat pee saga was finally OVER!!!! To say we learned a lot in this experience would be the understatement of the century. It was unpleasant enough that I don't know if I could honestly say I'd do it all again. But at the end of it all, we ended up with a beautiful living room that's basically new, the kid has room to play, the dogs don't feel compelled to try to cover up the old cat pee smell, and we just really love the space now.
Four months later, we are looking at painting the kitchen and dining room next, followed by bedrooms, and a bit of touch-up on the outside of the house, and I think we'll be done with paint for a while. Next up, whenever the budget allows, should be things like re-grouting both showers, and replacing the carpet on the stairs which has a lovely spot about the size of a softball that the stupid cats chewed and/or clawed through. We're also thinking of making some changes to the outdoor space and the driveway.
It's exciting to finally make a house our own!