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Dealing with Smoke Damage After a House Fire

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

Fire is one of the worst events your home can go through; however, not all fires actually burn a house down. Smoke damage is a common result of a fire that doesn’t involve complete destruction of a house. If you have smoke damage in your house, make sure you get a professional to remediate it as quickly as possible. The technicians get rid of odors, and they can also determine what articles are able to be saved. Not only do they have to consider smoke damage, but also ash and water damage. The water used to put the fire out can also cause damage to a house. It causes the wood in a house to open its pores, which absorbs more smoke and other residues.

Time is one of the worst enemies when it comes to restoration and cleanup after a fire. Soot can turn acidic and the longer it sits, the more damage it will enact. Soot also can discolor and corrode in just a few hours of being on a surface. If it is left for multiple days, then it is usually unsalvageable. Within minutes, soot will turn plastic yellow on some appliances. In hours, it will stain grout and bathroom fixtures. In just a few days, it will discolor paint on walls and metal will rust. If soot is left for weeks, pretty much everything can be discolored permanently and the cost of restoring the home is increased tremendously.  This means (in many cases) furniture, rugs, countertops, etc. will have to be removed and replaced. The smell is one of the most difficult parts of smoke damage to remove, which is why calling a professional is so essential.

Wear a mask if you go into a home that has had a fire. Wood isn’t the only thing that burns in a fire. Plastics, leathers, chemicals, etc. can all release toxins into the air, which are harmful to breathe. There are many examples of why the smell of smoke is so difficult to remove. There are documents over 110 years old that were in San Francisco fires that still smell of smoke. Most homeowners don’t want the smell of campfires in their homes. Here are some steps and issues that are involved with removing the smell:

  • Removing the Source of the Smell

Anything that has a smoke smell should be removed from the home as quickly as possible. This helps mitigate a large amount of the odor.

  • Framing

If the wall studs used to frame a house are charred more than ¼ of an inch, they are considered a total loss. This is something that is assessed to make sure it is safe. Sometimes a new undamaged beam is put next to charred beams to help with support.

  • Drywall

Drywall is cleanable about 80% of the time. The issue with drywall is actually the smoke behind it and within the wall. Even if the drywall is cleaned, there can still be issues behind it. If this is the case, the only thing that can be done is to remove the drywall and replace it.

  • Countertops

Solid counters are easier to remove the smell from; however, if soot sits on the surface for a prolonged period of time, there could be permanent discoloration. With tile counters or floors, grout is the issue. Sometimes chipping away the top layer of grout will solve the issue.

  • Carpet

Carpets can be cleaned to remove light smoke damage, but anything severe will need to be replaced.

  • Insulation

Insulation is the one item that always has to be replaced if there is any smoke within the walls.

To make sure no smell lingers, different treatments will counteract the smell of smoke. Sealing surfaces that might have had some damage (such as framing) is important. This prevents the recurrence of the smell during changes in temperature. Make sure you have a professional fire damage remediation company handle the fire and smoke damage. While it is pretty easy to remove the sight of smoke damage, the odor is the part that will be nearly impossible to remove, unless you are a professional.


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