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Ask Our Experts: Cleaning Up Smoke Damage After a Fire

November 4, 2021 | 10:47 am

How to Deal With Smoke Damage

Article originally published on May 15, 2017. Content and graphics revised on November, 4, 2021.

Table of Contents

How to Deal With Smoke Damage

If you need help addressing smoke damage, contact Tuckey Restoration, Inc. at 717-249-7052. We provide 24/7 emergency services to help you and your home recover from serious damage caused by fire, smoke, water or mold. Attempting to clean up smoke damage on your own is complicated – may be dangerous – so it’s essential to rely on trained, credentialed professionals. Read on for more information about the specific steps of smoke damage repair.

Question for Our Experts

What’s the deal with smoke damage? Can I clean it up myself or do I need a pro to get that “smokey” smell out of my home?

Our Experts’ Answer

Here is the short and long version of our expert answer to this question.

Short Answer:

It could be possible to deal with minor smoke damage on your own. However, most significant cases of smoke damages will require professional clean-up, as smoke damage is not always visible and often requires special cleaning agents or partial building reconstruction. Read on for more info!

Long Answer: How to Recover From a Fire in Your Home

Fires are devastating — not only resulting in damage to the physical structure of your home, but also to your state of mind. They might get their start from several sources, including cooking, portable heaters and electrical equipment, candles, faulty wiring, and flammable liquids. While moving forward from your home’s destruction may prove difficult, and you may not know where to begin, it’s imperative you take immediate action.

Fires may char walls, create odors, cause devastation to your personal property and damage the foundation of your home. Cleaning soot may be challenging, as it may cling to the interior walls; carpets may be soggy from water used to put out the fire, and the roof may be damaged, but immediate attention will minimize destruction. The more time odors have to seep into your walls, carpets, and furniture, the less chance you have of removing the smell.

Although it’s smart to start repairing your home as soon as possible, if you rely on the experts, they will relieve you of jobs around your house and provide advanced services. Cleaning up after a house fire may seem like a daunting task, but there are simple steps you can take to start the process and be well on your way to recovery.

8 Immediate Steps to Take After Smoke and Soot Damage

8 Immediate Steps to Take After Smoke and Soot Damage

The fire damage restoration process requires immediate action within the first 24 hours. Your quick reaction may minimize damage, and you may be able to salvage some items from your home. Hours of prolonged exposure may cause permanent harm, making it harder to recover your home. Refer to the following guide on how to address smoke damage within the first day.

  1. Keep in contact with your insurance company: Be sure to review the value of your home and ensure you have the correct paperwork and coverage.
  2. Ventilate your home: As soon as possible, open your house’s doors and windows to mitigate smoke. Turning off the HVAC systems also prevents the smoke from circulating further throughout the home.
  3. Vacuum soot: Vacuuming soot and ash requires a heavy-duty shop vacuum. Don’t press down on the residue, because it might cause stains — instead, hold the vacuum hose above the ashes at an angle.
  4. Wipe soot from walls and ceilings: Use a dry sponge or vinegar to rid your ceiling of soot stains. For better results, use paint thinner.
  5. Deep-clean your home from top to bottom: Throw away soiled items and any food not sealed in a container. Wipe down hard surfaces such as countertops, furniture, appliances and inside cabinets with a cleaning cloth. Protect your floors with plastic coverings to reduce the possibility of more devastation. Floors and furniture may also need to be refurbished or replaced.
  6. Clean all your household items: Wash your clothes and drapes with an alkaline cleaner to neutralize the acid from soot. Deodorize your carpets using baking soda.
  7. Clean the outside of your home: Clear off your roof and gutters by sweeping the ash into plastic bags and inspect your chimney for damage. You can also clean the outside walls to loosen soot by using a hose attached to a cleaner.
  8. Turn on the HVAC system: When your home is clear of significant destruction, and when it is safe to do so, turning on the HVAC system will speed up the process of removing odors.

Common Questions Regarding Smoke and Fire Damage

Fire is one of the most devastating disasters that can occur in your home. Unless you work as a professional for a restoration company or for the fire department, you may be at a loss for what to do, whom to contact, or how to begin. Refer to the following common questions that may be helpful when moving forward and restoring your home. Frequently asked questions include:

  • Can a homeowner clean smoke damage themselves? Homeowners should rely on professionals to address smoke damage, as cleanup could present a safety hazard. However, a homeowner can take some immediate measures to help minimize damage, as described above.
  • Who is a reliable resource to contact? Be sure to contact your insurance company and ask to work with a certified fire damage cleaning professional like Tuckey Restoration.
  • Why is hiring a restoration service necessary? Hiring a restoration service ensures thorough cleaning and safety. Trained professionals have restored many homes after fire, wind, water, and smoke damage and, thus, have good experience doing so. Homeowners who attempt to address smoke damage on their own often have little or no experience doing so.
  • When should a homeowner consider fire restoration services? Any time a fire or smoke has damaged a home, professional restoration may be necessary.
  • What will happen to a home if services aren’t called right away? Calling services right away may keep damages from worsening.
  • What does smoke damage look like? Smoke damage may look different depending on its nature, location, and severity. It may appear as a dark residue.
  • What surfaces and items are most likely to need cleaning?Some of the common surfaces requiring cleaning include floors, countertops, appliances, wallpaper, and ceiling fixtures.
  • How is smoke damage cleaned by professionals? Professionals follow a detailed protocol for preparation, cleaning and damage repair (too detailed for a quick Q&A section, but we’re happy to discuss the process with you if you give us a call). Read on below for more info.
  • Do you also need water damage restoration? Fires often lead to water damage in addition to smoke and soot damage, so water damage restoration is frequently necessary.
  • What do I do if my personal property is also damaged?In almost all cases, personal property restoration is also required. Cleaning and restoring personal belongings is one of the last steps to restoring your home. Rest assured that it’s often possible to save smoke-damaged family heirlooms, furniture, electronics, physical photo albums, and more!

These questions will help you understand the process of home restoration after a fire and give you a good starting point on how to take care of your property. It’s important to gain knowledge about your situation before performing actions and using tools that may not be the safest. Learn more about the answers to these common questions.

How to Detect Fire and Smoke Damage

Fires cause direct heat damage to your home. If a fire reaches high enough temperatures, it may melt or warp even durable building materials. Fires erupt at a faster pace when objects around the flame catch fire and become consumed. Smoke damage consists of acidic properties and could cause corrosion, discoloration, and the yellowing of paint. Other types of damage aside from fire and smoke include structural, pressure, electrical, chemical and water damage.

Detecting fire damage may be simple, but smoke damage includes three different types — wet smoke, dry smoke, and fuel oil smoke.

·Wet smoke damage is a result of fires that burn at low temperatures and produce fewer flames, but more smoke is present with a thick coating and a poignant smell.

· Dry smoke damage is a result of high levels of heat but is simpler to clean compared to the slow-burning fires from wet smoke. Dry smoke will foster damage that is powdery, dry, and thin.

· Fuel oil smoke damage comes from flames burning in an oil furnace, creating a strong odor. Fuel oil smoke has the potential to destroy furniture and will often require expert assistance.

However, smoke damage may not always be visible. In other words, homeowners and building owners should not assume that smoke damage doesn’t exist simply because they don’t see black soot or other stereotypical signs of smoke. In fact, smoke damage is most easily detected by odor. If you whiff the lingering smoky smell in certain parts of your home or office, you have smoke damage. Additionally, there may also be gray or black powder-like substances visible, but it’s not always the case.

As for water damage that may occur, your home may be soaked after the fire department arrives. This includes your carpets, clothes, sheets, drapes, and other materials. When water touches hot surfaces, it also creates heated steam that proves harmful to people and the physical condition and structure of the house.

Common Smoke Damage Scenarios

Soot and ash are a result of fire and smoke. Prolonged exposure of either of these in your house without immediate restoration could permanently harm surfaces, furniture, clothing, carpets, and everything you own. Acidic soot may stain all surfaces as residue settles.

Discoloration begins on walls and is permanent on more porous materials. Porous materials like textiles and soft goods are often more affected by smoke damage than hard and impervious material since porous materials may become saturated with smoke faster.

How Professionals Clean Interior and Exterior Smoke Damage

It’s excellent that you performed some cleaning on your own within the initial 24 hours to reduce further devastation, but professional restoration services will clean the interior and exterior of your home at a deeper level. Professional cleaning includes discarding odor sources that are non-salvageable; cleaning hard surfaces with chemical sponges as well as appropriate, professional cleaning agents; and professionally dry-cleaning soft goods for smoke removal. Keep in mind many times smoke damage is not visible — extensive, professional cleaning techniques may be needed to remove the source of the odor.

Steps Behind Smoke Damage Restoration

Steps Behind Smoke Damage Restoration

Professionals follow comprehensive steps for smoke damage restoration, including preparation, damage repair, and finishing touches. Here are some of the details on the steps that might be involved with restoration.

Before: Preparation

The first step — after the fire is out and the emergency trucks leave — is to inspect each room in your home. Experts perform tests to determine the extent of the fire, smoke, soot, and water damage, as well as examine the framing of your house and floors for safety. They will be able to assess what type of fire erupted and what caused it to do so. An evaluation helps them develop a plan of action on how to restore your house, inside and outside.

The next step is to board the windows and doors, as well as cover the roof with a tarp or other plastic material. Boarding your house will maintain security and protect it from other damage.

During: Damage Repair

After preparation, the real work begins. Qualified restoration services remove soiled items from your home such as destroyed furniture and appliances. If your home has excessive water damage from firetrucks, water removal begins immediately upon arrival. Once they remove a majority of the water, skilled staff members set up dehumidifiers and associated equipment. Dehumidifiers remove the remaining moisture.

After the experts eliminate water, it’s easier to move around your home and begin cleaning hard surfaces. Specialized equipment and modern techniques remove soot and smoke damage from surfaces such as walls, countertops, and furniture. Professionals will also clean restorable items to the best of their ability. Experts also clean and restore electronic structures if possible and control any signs of corrosion.

After: Finishing Touches

The final step restoration companies take is to repair the inside and outside sections of your home. Repairs may include drywall replacement, painting, carpet installation, or complete reconstructions of rooms and roofing.

How Long Does Restoration Take?

It will take time to restore a home after smoke damage. How long the process takes depends on the size of the home and the extent of the damage. The process may take anywhere from a few days to several months.

When to Call in the Professionals

Although you may clean the initial portions of your home yourself, calling a professional is vital in cases of extensive devastation. Hastening the process of cleaning smoke damage by hiring experts will help control damage and ensure proper techniques are used. Cleaning on a small scale is okay, but the residue may be a bio-hazard that requires professional attention.

Many people wonder when the appropriate time is to begin smoke damage cleanup and when to contact a restoration service. The answer is: as soon as possible! The longer you wait, the higher the cost of restoration may be. Damage could worsen as time goes on and soot and odors may become more challenging to remove.

Looking Ahead: How to Prevent Smoke and Water Damage in Your Home

With more than 1.3 million fires reported in 2016, people spent $10.6 billion restoring property damages. Of the 1.3 million fires, 475,500 were structure fires. These caused $7.9 billion in property damage and accounted for 74 percent of the total property loss estimations, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

It is apparent that house fires are seldom intentional, but there are still several ways to prevent smoke and water damage in your home. Refer to the following list to learn how to keep yourself, your family, and your dwelling safe:

  • Cook with caution: You should never leave your stove or oven unattended even for a short amount of time. Turn off your burners when finished cooking and make sure items stay off the stove and out of the oven until it is cool.
  • Don’t overload extension cords: Too many cords on one extension may cause an overload and strike up a fire.
  • Don’t smoke inside: It’s crucial to smoke outdoors in all instances and to never smoke near flammable liquids or materials. Always make sure you extinguish your cigarette butt before throwing it away, too. Or, for optimal safety and your long-term health, choose not to smoke at all!
  • Educate your children: Kids are curious by nature. Teaching them about fire safety is vital for preventing fires in your home. Educate them on how fire is not a fun toy and to stay away from lighters and matches. Keep them a safe distance from the kitchen stove.
  • Replace candles: Instead of using regular candles, use battery-powered or electric candles. They give off the same scent and effect of traditional ones but without the hazardous flames.
  • Replace damaged cables: You should replace frayed wires to prevent sparks.
  • Use safe space heaters: Use an evaluated space heater equipped with controllable settings. Better yet, find one with a timer for automatic shutdown. Or, best of call, contact an HVAC professional (like Tuckey Mechanical Services) to evaluate your home’s heat gain/loss calculation and recommend a professional heating solution for those cold spots around the house.

You can’t always guarantee a fire will never occur in your home, but you can definitely take preventative measures to lessen the chance. And if the worst should happen, remember to find a reliable restoration company that is able to support you in the event that a fire does break out on your property.

Rely on Tuckey Restoration

Tuckey Restoration, Inc. is a 24-hour emergency service provider that restores your home after fire, smoke, and water damage. The company also provides mold remediation and general construction/remodeling services throughout South Central Pennsylvania. Our team of professionals serves all of Cumberland, Franklin and Perry Counties as well as portions of Adams, York, and Dauphin Counties, including the cities of Harrisburg, York, Carlisle, Shippensburg, and Chambersburg. If you live in South Central PA and need experts to clean and repair your home after smoke damage, rely on Tuckey.

To help us during the process, document the progression of any work you complete, including costs, before-and-after photos, and paperwork to make life easier. Our staff will also provide expertise on issues involving the air and use modern technology to satisfy your needs safely.

We are an industry leader in fire, wind, water, smoke and storm devastation repair services. Call Tuckey Restoration, Inc. (PA HIC # 15828) at 717-249-7052 or view our website, as we provide damage restoration services to dozens of communities in PA.

Article originally published on May 15, 2017. Content and graphics revised on November 4, 2021.


DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only. A qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies should handle all interior design, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, metal fabrication, and restoration projects. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

All material Copyrighted (c) by the Tuckey Companies, 2022.

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