Dealing with a Fire’s Unseen Damage: Smoke
Most the damage from a fire is very obvious. Charred wood, burned fabric, scorched siding. Much of this will be replaced or restored after the fire to be as it was before the fire. However, once all the physical damage is repaired – there is another major factor to take into consideration: odor.
Just like water damage, fire damage can intensify the longer it is left untouched. The Institute for Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration sets this timeline for after a fire:
- “Within Minutes: Acid soot residues cause plastics to yellow; small appliances located close to the source of combustion discolor; highly porous materials (marble, alabaster) discolor permanently.
- Within Hours: Acid residues stain grout in bathrooms; fiberglass bath fixtures may yellow; uncoated metals tarnish; counter tops may yellow; finishes on appliances, particularly refrigerators, may yellow; furniture finishes may discolor.
- Within Days: In time, acid residues cause painted walls to yellow permanently; metal corrodes, pits and rusts; wood furniture requires refinishing; vinyl flooring requires refinishing or replacement; clothing becomes soot-stained; upholstery stains permanently.
- Within Weeks: Restoration costs escalate tremendously. Synthetic carpet fibers may yellow or discolor permanently; silver plating is corroded permanently; glass, crystal, china may require replacement due to severe etching and pitting caused by prolonged exposure to acid soot residues.”
Now imagine how set in the smoke odor becomes during these extended periods of time. It is rare that a fire damage restoration job can begin as quickly as a water damage job can. It is first up to the fire marshal to clear the scene and let the restoration company into the home. It is imperative to be dealing with the smoke odor while also restoring the physical fire damage.
The Type of Fire Impacts the Damage
To get the restoration process started, Alert Disaster Restoration needs to figure out the type of fire. Certain types of fires leave a great deal more residue than others and require a lot more work to clean up the damage. Plus, the more water used to put out the fire, the more likely it is that all the surfaces that got wet or damp absorbed the odor as well.
Items that are not salvageable will be removed immediately, which should have a nearly instant impact on the level of the smoke smell in the home. In cases where damage is minimal, it may be possible to simply clean all the hard and soft contents, carpet, furniture, etc. in a home and that will be enough to kill the odor.
Depending on the extent of the fire, some wood trim, woodwork, cabinetry, and other wood items might need to be replaced, or be thoroughly cleaned with a professional grade deodorizer and resealed. Crews may also bring in an ozone machine or hydroxyl generators to run around the clock to get rid of the odor. Both are tried and true methods, and work much better than items you buy in the store to that will simply mask the odor.
Smoke odor is a tricky thing to remove, and truly should be left to professional companies who can get to the bottom of the problem, and have you breathing easier as quickly as possible.