If you ask how to remove smoke damage after a fire, the answer is almost always “it depends.” There’s no standard smoke damage, and the amount and type of damage can vary greatly from fire to fire. But there are typically two types of smoke damage that Werner deals with – damage that is visible and odors that are invisible. And both must be dealt with properly to remove. Here are a few things you may not know about smoke damage:
The damage you can see
Visible soot and smoke residue are often the first type of smoke damage considered. This is the layer of black or grey residue that can cover surfaces from floor to ceiling. “The type of smoke residue depends on the severity of the fire and what was burning,” explains Janie Bash, a project manager with 16 years of experience. The type of soot will look and feel different based on whether the fire burns synthetic, electrical, plastic, wood or other materials. “And in many cases, it’s a mixture of several,” Janie says. “It will look completely different at every property.”
The damage you can’t see
Unlike the soot, smoke odors can linger and hide. This can be the most difficult part of the restoration process following a fire. “There may be no physical evidence, but there is a smell we have to chase,” says Janie. “And odor is just as much of a concern as the residue.” Training, proper tools and patience are the three things that are needed when removing odors from a home. This means removing smells within the home – like those captured in walls and floors. But it also includes removing smells within contents – like furniture and artwork.
The damage that spreads
While odors and soot may be concentrated in the area of the fire, it certainly doesn’t stop there. “It can go anywhere that air goes,” Janie explains. That means that the restoration process goes well beyond the heart of the fire – because soot and odors can spread to far reaches of the home or business. Under outlet covers, beneath the toilet bowl or within light fixtures – these are all places soot and odor can hide.
Restoring the damage
Once the visible and invisible traces of smoke damage have been spotted, it’s time to remove all traces of the damage. “We are taught and trained to chase it all down,” Janie says. There are a variety of steps in this process. It can include removing all the contents for cleaning, wet or dry cleaning surfaces, removing and replacing areas that are heavily damaged and sanitizing. This is a multi-step process involving a great deal of research and training. And it’s a more technical process than most homeowners realize. After a fire, some people will begin cleaning walls or surfaces with wet soapy water. And in some cases, this can actually soak the damage further into the surfaces. “You can actually cause more damage this way – it can really make it worse,” explains Janie.
The bottom line
The damage that comes after a fire and smoke can be visible or invisible – and the team at Werner can help to restore the property and remove all traces.