Preface: My grandmother knows little about Home Improvement or Repairing;
please keep answers basic and explain as if she is 10.

My grandmother lives in a new condominium in Canada, built in 2011 that has Popcorn Ceiling or Stucco Ceiling (hereafter SC), that must be repaired because some water leaked from above.

Yesterday, the craftsperson applied some Patching Compound (similar to these pictures in this article) but has not painted, sprayed, sanded anything yet. He said that nothing should smell and that he must return to complete everything his later this week.

Problem: My grandmother can already smell an odor that she finds difficult to describe, but please comment below if you can describe it and I can confirm or supply more details.
Does this odour harm or impinge on health in any degree?


Before reading your question, I would have said that joint compound is completely inert/ non-toxic/ ready-to-serve. (That last one was a joke, btw.)

Looking at a couple of MSDS sheets for common joint compounds, they seem pretty inert. However, there are suggestions on the interwebs (for all that's worth!) that some joint compounds contain traces of vinyl acetate monomer, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde.

My best suggestion is to request the name of the actual products used, and seek out the MSDS sheets for those products. It's possible that she is sensitive to something in the mix. Having said that, though, these things usually off-gas pretty quickly... ventilating will do a world of good.

If a popcorn/stucco touchup is next, there are a few types of product used, but most common are canned (aerosol) wall texture, and premixed/powdered wall texture that are sprayed on with special equipment. If they opt for something in an aerosol can, you might want to specifically request that they use the water-based version, as oil-based ones are smelly. The spray-on ones are probably as inert as the joint compound used for patching.

If there's respiratory sensitivity due to dust, be aware that sanding drywall is messy and it's either that extreme dust containment is needed, or that your grandmother might choose to leave while work is being done.

Same sort of advice for painting: request low VOC paint (which is quite typical these days), ventilate, or vacate.

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