After the smoke clears, property owners will usually be caught off guard by the challenges they face making sure their property is restored back to its full potential. Cleaning up what remains and replacing as much destroyed property as possible will become the main goals of the restoration. Fire is not the only damaging agent in a house or business blaze;smoke, soot, and sometimes the water used to douse the fire will damage the carpet, walls, clothing, and upholstery among other things.
These fire damage restoration tips will help to begin the recovery of your property fire, starting with your walls.
Before the Fire Damage Restoration
Before re-entry of a fire damaged property, permission must be given from a fire marshal that it is safe. The severity of the fire and the measures used to put it out will dictate how soon you will be allowed to return.
Proper safety gear must be worn for protection when re-entering. Safety goggles, heavy duty gloves, and a face mask will protect your eyes, hands, and respiratory system. Definitely wear some old clothes that you don’t mind throwing away after, as they will be covered with soot.
Once you’re geared up and inside, it is time to get some fresh air circulating through. Open all of the windows, and bring a fan to increase the ventilation through the building. Increased airflow will help to clear out any residual smoke, bring the smoke odor to a minimum, and provide fresh air for you to breathe, free of soot. If your heat is running, you will have to change your furnace filter daily until it shows no soot. If you live in a warm, humid area, you may have to run a dehumidifier with your windows closed. You may also need a few power fans, depending on the amount of associated water damage. You will have to dry off any wet items before attempting to clean any smoke damage as well.
When you enter a burnt building, you will see a black residue on many surfaces. The visible black residue that left over from a fire is soot. Soot is highly dangerous to your health, as it will enter through your respiratory system and continue on into your blood stream. Soot is known to increase the chances of getting cancer and can cause birth defects. The texture is oil based and is caused by all of the burning plastics in the building, releasing oily molecules into the air.
If attempting to clean soot you must first make sure the building is properly ventilated, with all windows open if possible, and fans running in your work area. Be sure to place a tarp or drop-cloth on the floor, so you do not transfer any stains to the flooring or carpet.
The walls will be the first place to start clearing off soot during a fire damage restoration. A vacuum cleaner can be used for this project. Simply use the plain attachment and hold the nozzle very close to the wall’s surface. Move the nozzle back and forth until all of the soot is removed. Any soot that is not sucked in should fall on to the tarp on your floor. Another method is to use a dry chemical sponge. These sponges are made with a chemical that removes soot and smoke from your wall. To use a dry chemical sponge, wipe the stain until the sponge is saturated. After saturation, rinse the sponge off, allow it to air dry, and start again.
Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is a popular cleaning solution for soot as well. It is a very powerful cleaning agent, but it will still require much time and effort to get a job like this done. With all of your protective gear on, take a bucket with one gallon of warm water and add one tablespoon of TSP. Use a sponge to wipe your walls, one section at a time. After you are done with each section, give it a rinse with a rag dipped in warm water. Repeat several times until your wall is clean, but be careful not to oversaturate the wall with water or let water seep into your walls or baseboards.
- After the soot is removed, you will still need to take care of the strong lingering odor of the smoke damage. Smoke damage is done at the molecular level, so there can be a strong odor, even though there may not be any visible damage to the area. There are some common household items that can be used to remove any stubborn smoke odors from your walls.
- After placing a plastic sheet to protect from any seepage in between your walls and baseboards, take a bucket full of warm water and add a few tablespoons of detergent. You want enough to make a few bubbles. Then, take a sponge or soft cloth and use the solution to wipe down your walls.
- White vinegar has been used as a multi-purpose cleaning agent for ages. While it has a strong smell, it is a powerful neutralizer of odors.
- Febreeze is sometimes used to neutralize a smoky odor as well. It contains cyclodextrin, a very powerful odor neutralizer. Simply spray the walls and any affected areas with Febreeze to reduce the smoky odor.
Fans and dehumidifiers can help, but if fire hoses were used, hiring professionals to do a combination fire/water cleanup is probably your best option. Your insurance company will usually have an approved list of contractors to choose from. Whether choosing contractors from a list or finding your own, Angie’s list is a great way to find a trustworthy option. If you attempt the fire damage restoration yourself, be aware of any places where mold and mildew under the carpet or flooring. The presence of mildew or mold is a serious health risk and can cause irreparable damage to your flooring.
While these fire damage restoration tips can be incredibly helpful, a restoration can be a big job, and you can find yourself getting quickly overwhelmed. Professional damage repair can be costly, but it is sometimes your only option. Professionals can remove most, if not all, of the soot in your property and can perform special treatments to remove the smell of smoke from the area.