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House fires are frightening and can be disastrous, but we usually think that once the fire is out, the immediate danger is over. Unfortunately, the smoke can leave lasting damage and health hazards. We talked with several property experts and they offered some advice on how to deal with the damage, both seen and unseen, that fires leave behind.

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, one of Chicago’s largest fire and water damage restoration companies.

Smoke Can Cause Significant Damage

Smoke and soot particles are very fine and can seep deeply into walls, which causes a lingering smell that’s hard to remove. Besides that, it can compromise the structural integrity of your home which is very dangerous.

Attempting to clean your walls with a sponge will only push the particles deeper into the wall, oftentimes causing irreversible damage. The same applies to upholstery that’s been affected by smoke. Do not attempt to vacuum or clean these items on your own as you will only exacerbate the problem.

Contact a fire and smoke damage restoration specialist who will inspect your property and devise a plan of action to salvage your property and smoke-damaged belongings. They have the professional tools and resources to remove smoke damage and restore your property and belongings.

Don’t Let Smoke Damage Linger

Smoke can be very damaging to your home in several ways. Since smoke particles easily penetrate any crack or crevice, the odor of smoke will linger until it’s treated. Not properly ventilating the home, removing debris, and cleaning and odor neutralizing your home from smoke damage as soon as possible can also result in respiratory problems.

Smoke damage can discolor porous materials such as drywall, plaster, paint, wallpaper, and exposed wood. It can also yellow fiberglass and appliance exteriors, stain porcelain, and discolor plastic and PVC.

Smoke damage can leave visible soot on walls and surfaces, and acidic soot can pit and corrode metallic surfaces quickly. Metal surfaces may also begin to rust from smoke damage.

If smoke damage is left untreated beyond a few days, many materials and belongings in your home may need to be restored or even replaced.

Given the number of ways and the levels of severity that smoke can damage your home, check what your homeowner’s insurance provides for smoke damage. Smoke damage (along with fire damage) is included in all standard home insurance policies. But there could be exclusions that limit what coverage is available for clean-up, repair, and replacement.

Karen Condor is a home insurance expert with Walsh, Owner of Smart Home Perfected.

Serious Health Risks of Smoke

Smoke is harmful to both the health and well-being of the people inside the house, and to the structure of the home itself.

Smoke is hot and depending on what is being burnt, can be full of toxic chemicals. It can cause health problems, through irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Residual smoke damage (also known as “third-hand smoke”) can be particularly harmful to young children, whose bodies are still developing.

The residual smell of smoke in a home can also be very off-putting for people who are not used to it. Just like non-smokers not wanting to sleep in a smoky hotel room, the resale value of a home can be negatively affected by smoke damage. This is down to the restoration cost, to get rid of the odor.

If you have a fireplace in your home, you know how easy it is to get ugly smoke stains on the walls. Whether you’re burning wood or gas, fireplace smoke can quickly build up on the walls. And although you can temporarily remove stains by cleaning them with a damp cloth or sponge, they will reappear when the fireplace is used again.

While some smoke stains are easy to remove, certain types of smoke damage can only be removed by professional cleaning. Even painting over smoke or nicotine stains may not work, as the chemicals seep through the fresh coat.

Some soft furnishings are so far gone from smoke damage they are past the point of repair and need to be replaced altogether.

Fire Is Bad, but Smoke Is Worse

When people think smoke, their first thought is fire. It doesn’t mean the house is on fire, though. Wildfires will cause smoke damage in your home. Smoke can act like acid on different fabrics and will eat away at it if left on too long.

Smoke damage needs to be acted upon quickly if you want to decrease the damage. A smoke restoration specialist needs to assess the damage and create a mitigation plan.

Smoke is tricky, it sneaks into little cracks and crevices, going undetected for a long time. A mitigation specialist has to come and remove the smell. Upholstery needs special tools and technology to clean them correctly.

Bedding and Clothing need to be washed well. If the smell persists, a Commercial Grade detergent may be needed. Fire is not the only thing that can ruin your dream house.

Smoke damage is worse.

The house is still standing but the inside needs to be cleaned thoroughly to be what it used to be.

Eric Nerhood, Owner and President of Premier Property Buyers.

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