Smoke damage from a fire can be devastating to houses and other buildings. It can render your property unusable for an extended period or even cause injury and death.
Smoke damage clean-up is time-sensitive. This is why restoration companies often work round-the-clock. Soot and water can leave irreparable damage if they are not cleared immediately. When secondary effects such as smoke odour, health problems, and corrosion set in, it makes the clean-up even more difficult and expensive.
How does smoke damage affect a building?
Smoke can ruin your property in four stages.
1. Minutes after the fire.
Smoke residue can turn plastics yellow. You will notice that small appliances located near the source of combustion start to discolour. Marble, alabaster, and other highly porous materials can also be permanently stained.
2. Hours after the fire.
Smoke residue starts to stain tile grout. Countertops and fiberglass bath fixtures turn yellow. Metals begin to tarnish. Appliances and furniture that are close to the heat line may discolour.
3. Days after the fire.
Smoke residue can discolour painted walls permanently. Rust starts to build up as metal surfaces corrode. By this time, wood furniture and vinyl flooring will require refinishing or replacement. Clothing is now probably stained with soot. Stains on the upholstery could become permanent.
4. Weeks after the fire.
Restoration costs are quickly piling up. Synthetic carpet fibres may discolour, and silverware corrodes permanently. Severe etching and pitting from prolonged exposure to acid soot will make your glass, crystal, and china unusable.
What is ash?
Smoke consists of leftover particles that did not go up in flames. Although these particles are microscopic, their volume makes them visible to the eye. When these particles fall, they settle on the ground as ash.
Along with from ash, other substances such as tar, melted plastics, and metals may be present in smoke and leave unsightly deposits on the surfaces of your home.
Smoke does not go away easily. Ash particles can damage your home long after the fire has been put out.
Ash is a health concern
Fine particles known as atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (also referred to as PM2.5) are present in ash and can irritate the lungs and skin. Inhaling ash can result in breathing problems, trigger asthma, and worsen pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease.
Symptoms of ash irritation include itchy eyes, skin rashes, sore throats, runny noses, and nonstop coughing. The effects of smoke can be worse in children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with a heart or lung condition.
How does ash get inside your property?
Long after the fire has been put out, ash can find its way into your home in many ways:
- Cooling and heating systems
- Ceiling openings
- Cracked cornices
- Gaps in the roof space
- Fans and vent points
Cleaning up ash
Ash can accumulate inside your home as well as in its periphery, making it a potential health hazard. Here are some essential safety tips when cleaning up ash.
- Wear a mask, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants to avoid skin contact
- Wash off any ash from your skin as soon as possible
- Do not allow children to play near or with ash
- Do not use leaf blowers as that could further scatter ash in the air
- Vacuum with a HEPA filter
How to clean ash indoors
- Wash surfaces with soap and water.
- Run kitchenware through the dishwasher or wash with detergent and hot water.
- Wash curtains, carpets, cushions, beddings, and other soft furnishings.
- Use vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Wash any clothes that have been exposed.
- Wash toys with soap and water.
- Wash pet bowls, toys, and beddings.
- Call a professional to clean all heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning units.
How to clean ash outdoors
- Wash landscaped areas.
- Pressure-wash exterior surfaces such as the roof, walls, driveways, decks, and windows.
- Clean windows with soap and water.
- Call a professional to clean the chimney.
- Take your car to a car wash.
Cleaning up soot
Soot is a black powdery substance made of carbon, produced by the incomplete combustion of coal, wood, oil, and other organic matter.
Soot residue is carried by air and humidity. It builds up on your home surfaces layer by layer. This is why it is critical to clean up soot as quickly as possible. If you wait to call for professional help, soot that has hardened into lacquer-like residue will be too difficult to dissolve and remove.
Ash and soot are not the only issues you have to deal with when there is smoke damage. It is necessary to get rid of the stench after a fire. Here are four ways to remove that smoky odour.
- Take away the source of the odour.
- Remove smoke residue from salvageable surfaces and items.
- Apply an appropriate deodoriser.
- Seal salvageable surfaces to prevent recontamination.
How to refurbish a smoke-damaged building
Knowing how to evaluate smoke damage, clean up the residue, and deodorise your home after a fire can help minimise repair costs.
To refurbish a smoke-damaged home, the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification recommends that you hire a professional who is certified in smoke damage restoration.
It may be tempting for homeowners and property managers to clean up the property on their own, but often, this can only lead to more damage. Professional restoration services understand the time sensitivity of clean-ups. They know that smoke damage tends to escalate, complicating the cleaning process the longer it is left.
When building owners do not act right away, they exacerbate the damage caused by smoke exposure. If your house or place of business has smoke damage, do not hesitate to call a trained restoration professional. These experts can help return your property to its original condition.
Contact an exceptional building inspector in Newcastle today
If you intend to sell your property in the future, you want to make sure that Newcastle building inspectors won’t find any smoke damage.
If you’re looking to buy property in Newcastle, book an inspection with Exceptional Building Inspections (EBI) to make sure your future home has no defects. EBI offers pre-purchase property reports based on a comprehensive inspection process that complies with the AS 4349.1-2007.