A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Waiting for “Nature’s Miracle”

Since the day we closed on the bungalow we’ve been working on the cat litter and urine smell that has permeated the basement there.

We armed ourselves with several odor-fighting products in the hopes that we could fairly easily solve this problem. The first product we tried was Odorzout. I can’t say if the product really works or not, but for us it didn’t do the job. Odorzout comes in granular form and is supposed to absorb and trap odors via a negative molecular charge. You sprinkle it on, leave it overnight and then vacuum it up. Again, I’m not saying it isn’t a good product; it just wasn’t the right one for us.

We also tried the Stink-Finder Ultraviolet light which will supposedly help you locate the source of urine, feces, etc. so that “you can eliminate them for good.” Again, I’m not saying it doesn’t work; it just didn’t work for us.

The product that we’ve used most is Nature’s Miracle. It is a liquid that you pour onto the offending areas and allow to evaporate. I would say that this product has done the most good so far, but it too has not completely eliminated the problem. Part of that could also be because the basement floor has quite a bit of slope toward the drain, so we have not been able to pool it in the worst areas. We’re going to just try soaking paper towels with it on a couple of remaining spots next.2007071101.jpg

Nature’s Miracle wouldn’t be able to correct this problem on its own, unfortunately. 2007071102.jpgWe discovered that the cat was also using the area under the basement stairs as a litter box. We decided that we had no other choice but to start tearing out some walls, as the smell seemed to be soaked into the drywall. Sure enough, you can see the urine stains here as well as the urine-soaked litter that was lodged under the studs. Of course the smell had also permeated the wood studs (I am really sick of that smell!). 2007071103.jpgBecause this is not a supporting wall, we cut the framing out and will either replace them by sistering new studs to the remaining ones, or we may just open the basement stairs onto the finished portion of the basement.2007071104.jpg

We really didn’t want it to go this far, but we next had to cut off the bottom 2 basement stairs. Because the stair bottom rested on the concrete floor the cat pee had also soaked into the end grain of that wood. Pete made 2 new stringers, bolted them to the remaining stairs and replaced the supports. It’s not the ideal solution, but it will do for now.2007071105.jpg

All of these things have helped greatly in reducing the smell and I think we are very close to licking this problem (ew!), but we certainly didn’t intend to embark on a minor remodel of the basement at this point. Because we have two male cats of our own, we absolutely have to do everything we can to eliminate the smell before we move in so that they don’t start marking their own spots —— and I think it goes without saying that we just don’t want to live with that smell ourselves. We will probably keep them out of the basement for a while anyway to get them used to their new surroundings. That will mean the litter boxes will go into the main bathroom, which I’m not thrilled about, but it’s the only surface that isn’t wood on the entire first floor.

Speaking of moving in, we don’t have an exact date yet, but it will definitely be before the end of the month. The floor guy managed to fit us in to refinish the hardwood floors and they should be arriving around noon today. Once that is done, things will start happening quickly!


  1. sandy on July 11, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    wow, what an ordeal, I hope you get rid of it! Our house was fine until the PO was sent to jail in a couple of weeks before closing and locked the cats in the house with NO LITTER BOX. Disgusting. There is also a rumor that he himself used the house as a litter box at one time. We ripped all the carpets out already, but with the heat of the summer the smell is getting worse. I will definitely be doing a major cleaning before we move in. Good luck – at least you’ve finally closed!!

  2. chris on July 11, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    We had the same problem when moving into our new house. You can also cover the drywall/floor with Kilz primer. We tore out the worst of the drywall, ripped up carpets and than just slathered Kilz on all the surfaces before recarpeting. The smell was gone and our cat never tried to use those areas as a litter box.

  3. Suileeka on July 11, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Yuuuck. I wonder why (I know, I know – futile) this is such a common occurrence? I never knew there were so many people hoarding dirty litterboxes, letting pets use houses as litterboxes or leaving feces and urine strewn about until I started reading houseblogs (and encountered it in my own ‘new’ house)!

    The product I’ve had the most luck with is 1-2-3 OdorFree, though that was only on carpet with *one* cat who marked . It still wasn’t perfect, but the results lasted much longer than anything else I’ve tried.

  4. StuccoHouse on July 11, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    I lived through a similar cat nightmare. As way-too-easy as it sounds……I had the most success with vinager water. I did have to replace a whole lot of sections of hardwood floors. But, if it offers any hope…..you would never know there was a cat in this house…ever…..except for one lone scratched door waiting to be refinished in the basement.

  5. Kristen on July 11, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    We had a similar problem when we moved in to our house. And the StinkFinder UV light was the biggest disappointment! I was all set for a Gross Stain Scavenger Hunt, but it totally let me down. We also found that gallons of Nature’s Miracle was the most effective short-term solution. We also set out a big bowl of cheap white vinegar in the basement which helped – things smell a little pickley, but not bad. Maybe another short-term fix. It’s absolutely the worst smell ever. Good luck!!

  6. denise on July 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks everyone, for your suggestions (and sympathy!). It IS pretty amazing how common the problem seems to be. I’m going to try the vinegar route next, because I think Nature’s Miracle has gotten enough of my money for now (I think we easily went through 5 gallons). I’ll take pickle smell over pee any day!

  7. southsideandy on July 11, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Well, I definitely feel a little better about our place. My big sympathies on that…I have a dog, but apparently our PO didn’t have pets…but I think someone did, because my guy keeps peeing on the carpet in the basement…fortunately, someday, that carpet will be gone. But for now, Resolve does the trick (on recent stains/smells, of course).

  8. kim on July 12, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Lucky you to be taking care of this in the summertime. If it was winter, the dry air might make you think you got it all, but the kitties would still smell it. The humidity will help ensure you get every last bit. Good Luck!

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