Saturday, August 23, 2014
   
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Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration

If you have had a fire in your home or commercial building, call RestorePro right away.  It is important that cleanup begin as soon as possible, and our service professionals will work quickly to stop the damage and restore your home and personal contents back to their pre-damaged condition by using our state-of-the-art cleaning systems and equipment carried out by experienced, educated service professionals.

Damage Overview

Smoke damage is accumulative, and many factors affect the level of contamination as well as the degree of mitigation required to remove the physical soot contaminants and odors.  These factors however, give us a good idea of what to expect from smoke.

  1. The temperature
  2. The surrounding areas
  3. The ionization of the particles
  4. The general arrangement of space (partitions, openings, and air ducts)
  5. The pattern of airflow
  6. TIME  How long has the soot contamination been present
  7. SOURCE, i.e., what material(s) burned

1.  Temperature:  Hot air rises, so the greatest amount of smoke damage will be above the fire area  The smoke goes up until it reaches an obstacle, a ceiling for instance.  The hot air and smoke then tend to move toward cooler surfaces like outer walls and windows.  These surfaces cool the air causing it to drop down, following the contours of the wall.  This causes an air current that then brings in more heated air (and smoke) to the cooler surface again.  Smoke residue therefore settles on these areas--the ceiling above a fire area, outer walls, and windows.  You will also find more soot and smoke residue on the inner part of draperies on outer walls than on the room side.  Blinds and shades will also have a larger concentration of smoke residue than surrounding areas.

2.  Surrounding Areas:  Smoke can penetrate even the smallest opening.  As the heated air moves to cooler areas, and as the air cools, the particles in the smoke drop out and deposit on surfaces. Those particles get into drawers, inside closets, above suspended ceilings, behind radiators, even travel through ductwork and along water pipes to other rooms and stories of your building.  You can find smoke damage in parts of your structure that weren’t even involved in the fire.

3.  Ionization of the Particles:  Smoke particles tend to be ionized (electrically charged), and since identical charges attract and opposite charges repel, this phenomenon causes some surfaces to attract smoke residue while adjacent surfaces may repel the same smoke particles, and thus have llighter amounts of contamination.  Smoke particles can line up on a surface like metal filings around a magnet.  Some synthetic materials, like plastic, create highly charged smoke particles when they burn.  They thus attract heavier concentrations of the particles than do organic materials.  The best chance for success in restorative cleaning results by employing HEPA vacuums with natural bristle brushes, followed by wet washing with cleaning agents specifically formulated for this kind of contamination.  Staining often results, and today's latex paints don't stand up to wet cleaning very well, requiring sealing and refinishing of surfaces (paint).   The “smoke webs” in the corners of rooms are caused by this type of smoke.  Some mistake these "smoke webs" for dust webs and get embarassed thinking the smoke/soot made them more visible.  That is not the case, the webs resulted from the smoke particles.

4. & 5.  Arrangement of Space & Airflow:   When smoke hits an obstacle, it goes under, over, or around it,  but the obstacle acts almost like a filter and particles collect behind and around them.  That is why you will find smoke particles on the far side of doors and on the ceiling above them.  The farther the heated air travels from the fire source, the more concentration of particles fall off.  Air travels in curves and arcs, so the corners of rooms and the juncture of ceiling and walls seldom get much smoke adhering (except the "webs" mentioned above). Items in closets and drawers collect residue because of their irregular surfaces.  Synthetics and plastic collect more than other materials.  Smoke may even pass through plastic bags, leaving a stronger odor inside the bag than on the outside.

6.  Time is a critical component to achieving success.  Because smoke is acidic, and moisture and humidity are a catalyst to the corrosive degradation of finishes that result from contact with the acidic soot residue, the sooner it is cleaned up, the better.  Typically, the highest success in restoring finishes by restoration cleaning operations are achieved when gross cleaning of affected surfaces (contents and structure items) is performed in the first 72 hours.  Porcelain finishes (washing machines, tub and basin fixtures, 3 dimensional articles), painted finishes (dryers, refrigerators, appliances, furniture) as well as synthetic materials (formica, cultured marble, carpet, upholstered furniture, drapes and clothing) all will permanently stain if not cleaned timely.  TIMELY ACTION IS CRITICAL.

Restoration

Types of Smoke

At RestorePro, when you call us to restore a fire/smoke damaged building, we first test the smoke to identify the type. The type of smoke determines the type of restoration methods to be used.  Wet smoke is created by low heat and is smoldering, has a strong odor, and sticky and smeary; dry smoke is created by a fast, hot fire; protein smoke is hard to see, but is very odorous, and stains paint and varnishes; fuel oil soot is caused by furnaces; and miscellaneous types such as tear gas, fire extinguisher residue, etc.

After identifying the type of smoke, we test the items damaged to see what can be salvaged and what cannot and identify the most effective method of cleaning the salvageable items.  We also pretest surfaces to be sure that the cleaning method is effective and safe for that surface.

Smoke odors can be difficult to remove due to its penetration and absorption into building materials. RestorePro’s service providers have the knowledge, products and equipment to permanently remove these stubborn odors. Place your RestorePro phone number next to your emergency numbers and call us for an estimate of damage repair in the event of a fire or smoke damage.

Restoring a structure that has fire damage—scorching, smoke odor and soot residue—is a complex situation.  Since some damage can keep spreading, the quicker it is tackled, the less time and cost to restore it.  Unfortunately, nothing can restore a badly scorched item.  Sometimes  slight scorching can be remedied however.  Smoke residue is acidic and will eventually corrode some surfaces and leave permanent stains.  If also can permeate cracks in the walls, ceilings, and floors and leave an odor that is very difficult to remove unless treated swiftly.  RestorePro has the skill, training and equipment to restore many things to pre-fire condition and eliminate the expense of replacement items.  RestorePro’s experienced, certified technicians use the best of professional cleaning products and state-of-the-art technology, including ozone deodorization, to restore your property and eliminate odors.  We work with you to lessen your losses and with your insurance agent to expedite your claim.

What to do before RestorePro arrives

DO...

  • Stay calm! Call RestorePro.
  • Inventory the contents.
  • Open all windows.
  • Blow, carefully brush or vacuum loose soot from carpet, drapes, and upholstered furniture.
  • Be sure your hands are always clean.  You don’t want to spread the soot around.
  • Close doors on affected areas to slow down spread of smoke odor.
  • Wipe off metal items to prevent tarnishing
  • Wipe down bath fixtures so that the soot doesn’t etch them (smoke is acidic).
  • Empty the freezer and the refrigerator completely if electricity is off. Prop open doors.
  • Remove pets (especially birds) to clean environments
  • Change the HVAC filter
  • Turn on your heating and air conditioning system if it is not currently on.
  • Tape damp cheesecloth over air registers.  This will keep the soot in the air out of the system.

RestorePro will:

  • Professionally clean upholstery, drapes, carpets, walls, and all other contents.
  • Clean and protect trim and hardware on kitchen and bathroom fixtures and appliances.
  • Clean and protect bathroom fixtures from smoke damage.
  • Gently wash plants on both sides of leaves with water.

DO NOT. . .

  • Don’t attempt to wipe or wash the walls, ceilings, or other absorbent surfaces. Soot needs specialized attention to be removed successfully.  (That’s what RestorePro does.)
  • Don’t sit or lie on upholstered furniture if possible.
  • Don’t use exposed food goods or canned goods that have been subject to excessive heat.
  • Don’t use TVs, stereos, or any other electrical appliances until cleaned and checked, this includes ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet.
  • Don’t send smoked garments to an ordinary dry cleaner, because improper cleaning may set the smoke/odor.
  • Don’t walk on carpets and floors unless you put down clean sheets or towels.  You don’t want to grind the soot in or carry it to other areas on your feet.

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