Most people believe that fire restoration begins with putting out the fire and ends with replacing whatever was burnt – but, unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even surfaces that weren’t burned were probably damaged and will be damaged even further unless you do something about it.
We know it may not make sense at first, so let us explain. In a fire scenario, the smoke produced from uncontrolled combustion and heat contains a wide array of chemicals, some of which can adhere to surfaces like wood or plastics. If left untreated, these residues can corrode materials, release extremely pungent smells, and even cause health hazards.
While removing the affected materials can fix the problem, it’s a costly and impractical solution. Especially so when the house is totally or partially built from wood. What you do instead is remove as much of the soot and residue as possible, and then seal it so that no nasty particles or smells are released into the air.
How do you fix smoke damage?
First, I wanna make it clear that you CAN’T fix burnt wood, you can only replace it. Once the wood has been burnt, the structural integrity may be damaged and even if you manage to make it look pretty again, you’re putting yourself at risk of further structural damage later on. This works for wood that has been stained by soot, exposed to smoke or other nasty chemicals.
So, with that out of the way, there fixing smoke damage is a two-part process, first, you have to remove as much residue as possible, and then seal the wood to prevent any smells or noxious particles that remained from being released into the air.
Clean the Wood
Sealers are not perfect and smoke residue can be corrosive, so it’s extremely important to remove as much of it as you can from whatever surface you’re planning on sealing later. When it comes to cleaning methods, nothing is off-limits, but most experts suggest using some form of wet washing to do so since most smoke or combustion residue is water-soluble.
Depending on your situation you can scrub it with soapy water, brush it or use a power washer, but if the material is permanently stained, you may need to resort to more abrasive methods, like sanding, scraping or even grit blasting. What’s important is that you clear as much residue as possible, since anything left behind can cause problems down the line
Sealing the Wood
Now that you’ve cleared as much smoke residue and soot as possible, it’s time to seal the wood to prevent any lingering smells or materials from making your home unlivable. Of course, you’ll need to buy a sealer of some sort. Most paint primers will do the job since they basically do the same thing a sealer would. Both primers and sealers work by filling in any gaps or porous surfaces so that an even coat of paint can be applied.
The hard part is applying the sealer, as an improper application will result in a poor seal that will allow whatever material was left inside the wood to release into the air. We strongly suggest you let a professional apply the sealer for you, but if you want to do it yourself, you should:
1. Remove any dust from the surface you’re about to seal, any debris will compromise the integrity of the seal and will probably lead to the seal lasting a lot less than it would otherwise.
2. Spray Perpendicular to the wood to form a clear, unbroken membrane across the entire surface.
3. Avoid coating studs or bolts, as any trapped moisture won’t be able to evaporate and may lead to rust.
Is it safe to live in a house with smoke damage?
We’ve seen plenty of people who choose to live in a damaged house to save money on repairs and restoration. However, while smoke damage may look like it’s only cosmetic, it can actually cause some serious harm:
Corrosion: As I said above, when left untreated, combustion residue can be corrosive and continue to damage your house long after the fire has been put out. Unless you want to risk serious structural damage, have your house treated.
Respiratory Conditions: Any smoke residue lingering on your floors, walls, etc can cause irritation of the sinus and lungs if breathed in, as well as more serious conditions later on.
Skin Conditions: If smoke residue can corrode walls and metals, imagine what it can do to your skin, any particles lingering on furniture or even clothing can cause irritation that may need medical attention.
Eye problems: The same applies to your eyes, which are even more sensitive than your skin. You’ll experience itchiness, dryness, and irritation, if left unaddressed, you may even cause permanent harm to your eyesight.
How to find a fire restoration company
You should always let professionals handle things after a fire. They’ll be able to tell you what needs to be replaced, what can be salvaged, and take care of cleaning and sealing it so that your house is safe to live in. In case you’re unsure who to turn to for professional help, get in touch! Here at RestorationUSA, we can get you in touch with the best restoration companies in your city!