So you’ve encountered that unmistakable cat pee smell in your encapsulated crawl space, and you’re left wondering what could be causing it. It’s understandable why there’s so much confusion surrounding this issue, with so-called “experts” attributing the odor to everything from reinforced plastic to the cleanliness of a homeowner’s cat. But let’s delve deeper and uncover the truth about what’s really causing this smell.
Unraveling the Myths
You may have come across videos online that blame the cat pee smell on reinforced vapor barriers and their supposed disintegration when exposed to moisture. Some companies even claim to have a miraculous “ninja plastic” solution that conveniently eliminates the odor. However, it’s important to approach these claims with skepticism.
In reality, the cat pee smell stems from the decomposition of plant material in the soil beneath your home. When a plant breaks down, bacteria decompose it into minerals that serve as nutrients for other plants. Ammonia, a compound consisting of nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3), is a common byproduct of this process. Ammonia is notorious for its similarity to the smell of cat urine, and it forms a significant part of the odor.
The Role of pH
To understand the difference between ammonia and ammonium, we need to consider pH levels in the soil. Higher pH levels favor the existence of ammonia and the accompanying cat pee smell, while lower pH levels support the less toxic ammonium.
So, how can you prevent or eliminate the cat pee smell in your encapsulated crawl space? It comes down to two options: testing and pH balancing the soil before encapsulation or installing a soil gas mitigation system to remove the ammonia odor.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Ammonia thrives at around 11 on this scale. Achieving a soil pH as close to 7 as possible is key to preventing or eliminating the cat pee smell.
Prevention is Key
Contrary to some misconceptions, the cat pee smell is not caused by polyester string or any specific products. While high levels of ammonia in the soil can permeate polyethylene and make the plastic smell unpleasant, it is not the true source of the odor.
To ensure your encapsulated crawl space remains free from the cat pee smell, take proactive measures. Test and balance the soil’s pH before encapsulation, or consider installing a soil gas mitigation system to tackle the odor as it arises.
Remember, maintaining a balanced pH in the soil is crucial. By doing so, you can bid farewell to the cat pee smell and enjoy a fresh, odor-free crawl space.
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