Fire and flame are words that strike fear and cause grief in the hearts of any property owner. Fire is a visible effect of the process of combustion, a force of destruction. It is paramount that we need to protect ourselves and properties from it, but have you protected yourself from what comes with it, something far sinister and most often ignored, the entity is referred to as Smoke.
Fire is dangerous and fire smoke even more dangerous and the leading causes of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a ratio of three-to-one. Hence, it can not only destroy properties but also claim one’s life. Understanding the types of smoke damages would help navigate through its impacts and help to combat the aftermath that it threatens.
Smoke damage refers to the physical destruction created by smoke and not from the fire that is its precursor. The flames destroy property, smoke goes around to not only damage materials but covers them with soot and foul odor which can be unhealthy, irritating, and troublesome. Smoke damage is often ignored and underestimated and little care is given to see to curb its destructive tendencies. It even makes small fires capable of more harm due to its effects. Contrary to opinions, whether an area was directly impacted by fire does not exempt it from being a target for smoke damage hence, smoke damage is quite common in homes today, and this is so because most people turn a blind eye to it.
After a fire, smoke damage becomes more apparent, from the charred items to the soot which tend to soak up the walls and discolor it, to the smell it gives off which becomes harder to reverse as time goes on.
Different types of smoke damages exist and they require varying approaches to tackling them. They include the following:
- Dry Smoke damage
Dry smoke residue occurs when there is a fast-burning fire that combusts at a very high temperature. It is dry and powdery and does not usually stain and smear walls and surfaces. Synthetic soot will be black in color and soot from burnt wood would be grey or light grey.
- Wet Smoke Damage
Wet smoke residue often occurs when there is a low heat smoldering fire. It is usually sticky with a strong pungent odor and during cleaning, can smear.
- Protein smoke damage
It is practically invisible and can discolor and tarnish paint. It also has a strong odor.
- Fuel/Oil smoke damage
The soot residue gotten here is often dark in color and usually comes from furnace puff backs or exhaust pipes blockages. It can be difficult to clean and it is relatively sticky.
Other types of smoke or soot damage include fire extinguisher residue, tear gas.
The telltale signs of smoke damages are commonly imprinted on various areas of the home but most commonly seen in:
Ceilings- Hot air rises up and the highest concentration of smoke residue on the ceiling commonly found where a fire started. Cobwebs, nail heads at the surface of ceilings, or corners also attract smoke particles to themselves.
Windows and Walls- Smoke naturally moves to cooler areas, since the window and exterior walls are of a lower temperature than the rest of the room, smoke residues are commonly found here, and even in spaces behind drapes and blinds than the surrounding room surfaces.
Enclosed spaces like closets, drawers- The reason for this is that the heat generated from the fire stirs the air up and moves it which then causes a collision of some sorts among the particles of the smoke and soot. The air in the enclosed space is now cooler and less unstable than that found in the surrounding causing smoke to settle there.
Corners, on far sides of doors, inside air ducts and Heating, Ventilation, and Air conditioning system are also important-most likely areas where you would find smoke damage.
So how does smoke exert its aforementioned damages, Smoke attacks property in varying creative ways which include:
- Color Change- Notorious for discoloring walls, ceilings, and surfaces shortly after a fire. Smoke residue smears these structures effortlessly and the more porous a material for example marble, granite, the worse, and even permanent the discoloration becomes. Soot is usually acidic and should be watched out for as it can cause discoloration of surfaces faster due to its acidic nature.
- Lingering odor- The aftermath of fire comes with a smoke smell that can be unbearable. Surfaces, fabric that may not show signs of physical damage by fire may possess this smell due to soot particles been deposited there.
- Interior damage- As previously stated smoke residue can get on walls, ceilings, HVAC system, permeating these surfaces and structures thereby predisposing the homeowner to respiratory problems and poor living conditions. Metal and hardware damages can also occur several hours after a fire due to rust and corrosion caused by the acidic feature of some smoke residue.
- Electrical damage- Of course after a fire, it is expected that some damages would be sustained, especially if it is part of the home with the wiring system, the electrical system of that home would be compromised and that is not all, there can also be corrosion, experiences of malfunctioning and short-circuiting of the seemingly intact ones.
Complications of smoke damage are vast and grossly translate into two main problems:
- Health-related problems which can be translated to include respiratory problems, skin, and eye irritation.
- Property damage.
Undoubtedly, smoke damage is a cause for alarm with ranging catastrophic effects from the minor reduction of the aesthetic value of property to loss of life. It is therefore paramount that upon securing your safety and that of the occupants of a fire-ravaged building be it a small or large fire, seek for the help of a professional fire and clean up service (after the fire has been put out) to advise you on the next step to take, to make your home, home again. Home restoration after smoke damage is better done within few days from the fire outbreak, to reduce the cost incurred in repairs.
In conclusion, prevention is always better than cure, and in matters about dealing with smoke damage, this saying is not far off. Anything that can precipitate a fire outbreak should not be left unchecked but maximally dealt with.