When Is Carpet Damage Too Bad to Fix?

Unsuspecting homebuyers who purchase previously owned homes might end up with less than they bargained for with the existing carpet. The number one problem is the odor and damage caused by pet urine, which is at times difficult to detect. It could be days or weeks before the problem is discovered and is often long after the new owners have moved in. When shopping for a home it is very important to thoroughly inspect the carpet for pet urine before making an offer to buy a previously owned home.

Pet odors may not be so obvious.

When touring a home for sale, a homebuyer may not immediately notice the odor from pet urine if the carpet has been cleaned recently and might therefore assume that the carpet is in good condition. Similarly, if a homebuyer tours a home while it is unheated or when doors or windows are wide open, odors from pet urine will be less noticeable. Pet urine odor will be easiest to detect in the winter months while the heat is on, and also when air circulation is limited during hot summer days.  

Carpet cleaning won’t solve the problem.

Pet urine is very difficult to completely remove from carpet because it often soaks through the surface fibers into the carpet backing and may even become embedded into the padding and flooring below. Having the carpets professionally cleaned may help temporarily but the underlying damage caused from pet urine will not be solved and the urine odor will quickly return.

How to protect yourself.

It’s not enough just to ask the seller if there is or has ever been a pet urine problem because people who have pets can become so accustomed the odor from pet urine that they may be unaware of the severity of the problem. In order for a homebuyer to know for sure if there is a pet urine problem they will need to conduct their own investigation. 

The best way to determine the presence of pet urine damage would be to pull up the carpet in a corner of the room and look for signs of urine stains. A less popular method is to just get right down on the floor and smell the carpet in suspected areas. Cat urine glows under a black light and that may also be a method that could be used. The room must be darkened for this to be effective. Cats tend to go in a quiet corner or in closets, while dogs will usually urinate in the middle areas of a room. A thorough room by room search may be necessary to discover the scope and severity of the problem.

If it is determined that the carpet has pet urine damage, the total cost to repair the damage and replace the carpet should be considered prior to making an offer to purchase the home. If the damage is severe it is important to treat all affected areas with a product designed to remove the urine with enzymes or by sealing the subfloor with oil-based sealer to encapsulate the odor. 

In some cases, urine soaked wood subflooring may need to be removed and have new wood installed. If urine has soaked into the subfloor the problem must be properly addressed before replacing the carpet or the urine odor will once again come up through the new carpet. A contractor should be able to provide a repair estimate. 

The cost to replace carpet.

Replacing the carpet in a typical 2-bedroom home could easily cost more than $2500. Prices for carpet vary widely depending on the quality, face weight, type of fiber, and style selected. There are other expenses to consider including carpet padding, moving furniture, removing the old carpet and pad, and professional installation. Some carpet retailers include some of these items in their carpet price but homeowners are often charged extra if the job requires more than what is considered to be a simple or “basic” installation. 

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