I have a strong odor coming from my "hoarder" neighbor upstairs. It is seeping through a drywall column that houses a metal ventilation shaft (in the corner of my bedroom closet).

I am thinking of opening the drywall column, inserting a plywood shelf, insulating the shelf and the inside of the column and then filling the space above the shelf (between the drywall and the metal shaft) with 20 lb of odor-absorbing charcoal.

Is this a reasonable approach? What would be the best material to insulate the drywall against the odor: foam sealant, waterproof paint or something else?

  • What is the purpose of the shaft? Does the super agree the shaft no longer has a function?
    – Bryce
    Mar 29, 2018 at 4:40
  • Bryce - the shaft is for ventilation. It will not be affected as I will insulate and fill just the space around the shaft (inside the drywall column)
    – Anton
    Mar 29, 2018 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


Does this ventilation duct in your closet have an opening into your room?

The most effective method for reducing this odor would be to first identify any air leaks in the shared wall. Insulation will do very little compared to sealing. Leaks are probably the reason you are able to smell the odor to begin with as odors should really not be able to penetrate solid surfaces. Most common sources of air gaps are around electrical outlets, the baseboard where the wall meets the floor, and ventilation outlets. These air gaps can be sealed easily with silicone caulk.

I need a more detailed description of what exactly is going on with this duct in your closet. Is this purely for exhaust/air circulation, heating, or cooling? How easily can you hear noises coming from your neighbor's domicile? There may be serious issues in your home that may be unrelated to your neighbor's living habits. You may have a dead animal or mold hidden somewhere. I absolutely would not do anything you suggested in your initial question. Please provide more details!

  • Dear Venzer, thank you for replying. There is no doubt that the source of the smell is the upstairs apartment, you can feel it quite distinctly outside her door and the super has been inside (it's a very strong stale urine smell by the way). As to the metal air duct, it opens into the bathroom that's adjacent to the bedroom closet, but curiously there is never been any odor coming that way. It seems to be coming through the space around the duct, encased by the drywall column. There are no visible cracks, gaps or even nail holes in that column, it's a solid wall. Hope this clarifies it a bit
    – Anton
    Mar 29, 2018 at 4:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.