How Long Does Smoke Damage Last?

How Long Does Smoke Damage Last?

Smoke damage can last months or years if not remediated properly. We will cover how long smoke damage lasts and how quickly it can occur in this guide. For more information about smoke damage, check out our smoke damage blog.

House fires are terrible things. In just minutes, your entire life can go up in flames. Your clothes, furniture, cherished pictures, and memories, all gone. Not to mention the risk for yourself and your family.

Even when fires are put out, they still leave a lot of damage behind. Obviously, there will be fire damage, but also much more insidious smoke damage. Fire damage stops once the fire is out, but just a few plumes of smoke can keep damaging you home for days, months, and even years.

It covers objects in soot, gives off unpleasant smells, and can even pose a major health hazard. Depending on its composition, smoke can contain very harmful chemicals that will wreak havoc on your lungs when you breathe them in.

How fast does smoke damage occur?

No matter the size of the fire, some smoke will be produced and it will instantly begin spreading through your home. Some things may be ruined or permanently discolored, which is why it is crucial to begin cleanup and restoration as soon as possible to salvage your valuables.

Minutes:

Porous materials like marble, alabaster, and plastic will begin absorbing the smoke and soot. Smoke settles in a sort of greasy film which will make it harder to clean up, and some things will be permanently discolored if not addressed immediately.

Hours:

Smoke and soot will begin acting as acid does, corroding and eating through metals, including the insides of appliances and electronics. Things may look fine on the outside, but inside, the smoke deposits will make them malfunction. That’s not all unfortunately, within hours, lighter colored walls will yellow, clothing stains will become permanent, and the finish on your wooden furniture will be corroded and need to be redone.

Days:

Synthetic fibers will be affected and begin changing color, even seemingly resistant materials like silver or glass will be damaged and etched.

Is it safe to live in a smoke damaged home?

Short answer? No, it is not. Long answer? It depends.

There is no way no determine the exact composition you smoke in YOUR house. It varies depending on what kind of fire caused it and what was burned, but there is ONE thing we can be certain about. Smoke always contains carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and soot.

Carbon dioxide is naturally occurring on earth and in it of itself has very little effect on humans, however, a recent study has shown that prolonged low-level inhalation of CO2 can cause changes in brain function, and even respiratory issues in small children.

Carbon monoxide is a different animal entirely, inhaling it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, with symptoms that begin as “flu-like” but get progressively worse as long as inhalation continues and can lead to dizziness, vomiting, impaired mental state and even fainting in very high concentrations. To make matters worse, it has no smell or taste, so there’s no way to know.

These are just the basic components of smoke, it can also contain all sorts of heavy metals and toxic chemicals depending on what caused the fire. It should be pretty obvious that living in a smoke damaged home is a no go. But there is one caveat.

If you get your house properly restored and cleaned up by professionals, they can assess the smoke damage and give you a much better diagnostic of the possible health hazards involved. So if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you might be completely safe living in a house that was previously smoke damaged.

Types of smoke damage

There are four types of smoke damage that can occur, depending on several factors like the origin of the fire, how hot it burned and its location, these are:

Protein Residue:

Most common as a result of cooking fires, it is produced when organic material is burned in low heat fires.

It doesn’t leave visible residue or soot only mild discoloration of porous substances, so it can be hard to spot. But it definitely is easy to smell as it causes a very unpleasant smell that can spread easily in your home.

Dry Smoke:

One of the mildest types of smoke damage out there, it’s caused by fast burning, high-temperature fires like those fueled by wood or paper.

It leaves behind a powdery residue that doesn’t smear, which makes it easier to clean up. Unfortunately, this also means it will fall into cracks and crevices, so you might not see the residue but may be able to smell it.

Oil/Petroleum Residue:

Not very common in most house fires, this one occurs as a result of burning fuel or petroleum products. It’s dense, sticky, and smears easily, making it very hard to clean up. Plus it has a very pungent smell that can ruin upholstery in hours.

Wet Smoke:

One of the worst types of smoke out there, its caused by burning plastics and rubber in low heat fires. These fires produce very little flames, but very heavy plumes of thick dark smoke.

We call it wet smoke because it acts very much as some liquids would. It sticks to surfaces, smears and is generally a pain to clean up unless you’re using specialized equipment.

Who to call to deal with smoke damage?

Dealing with the aftermath of a fire can be overwhelming, to say the least. Dealing with the police, fire department, insurance, and lawyers. All while not even knowing how extensive the damage will be.

If you find yourself in need of professional cleaning and restoration services to mitigate smoke damage in your house or business, be sure that here at Restoration USA we can get you in touch with experts that will assess the damage and fix it. That way you can rest easy knowing you’re not inhaling any harmful chemicals and won’t find yourself pestered with the burnt smell for months after the fire.

Remember the longer you wait, the worse it’ll be, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even a few weeks can cause the costs to skyrocket and you may be forced to get rid of some of your belongings that are not salvageable anymore because they weren’t cleaned on time.

Other Resources:

Science Direct

NHS Carbon Monozide Information