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Smoke damage
Posted by houseangels (House Angels), 13 January 2004
This forum is a remarkable font of knowledge and as such I need as much advice as possible about cleaning a smoke damaged property
Is there special equipment needed?
What chemicals to use?
What safety precautions do I need to take?

Any help will be greatly appreciated


House Angels
Posted by RAINBOW69 (CATMAN), 14 January 2004

Hoover as much of the soot up as possible, plenty of a degreaser in a spray bottle for the walls and ceiling. I use one called strongarm which I found is very good.  Mixed in with this a smoke odour counteractant from either chemspec or D-smoke. Dont use loads of buckets of water, you end up with black soot every where. That is all we use, for the buildings.

If you have any clothes wash with again a smoke odour countteractant. Any pot and pans we take offsite and wash ourselves in a dishwasher.(Make sure you make a full list and get the homeowner to verify this with you.

We generally put an ionizer in for a few days and fog the property, because the cleaners have complained of feeling sick whilst there, even though we provide masks, gloves,goggles,etc

My main piece of advice to anyone with a fire, is take plenty of photographs, or as we do video it all on first arriving ( I had one woman say that she had three TV's in her kitchen and we nicked em. The video we had soon changed her mind)get the homeowner to take all her expensive items offsite with her, as you can be accused of allsorts, and get the lot finished within 4 days, as this is when shock turns to anger and you will get the blame for everything.

Posted by houseangels (House Angels), 14 January 2004
Thanks Catman

I will not have the problem of the occupiers as it is empty but I will video the house inside before I start anyway.
I have taken on board your advice and thanks again

Posted by woodman (woodman), 14 January 2004

What type of fire is it?
Posted by houseangels (House Angels), 14 January 2004

It was an electrical fire caused by a short circuit in the back of a fridge. Mainly confined to the kitchen but with smoke damage to the rest of the 4 bed house.

Posted by goodhand (goodhand), 15 January 2004
would the house insurance not supply cleaners ect..
i work as a painter and decorator full time for an insurance company and clean part time. the houses i have been too with fire damage to re-decorate, have already been cleaned with a chemical/obliterating paint called milton which is hazardous to health but covers soot and smoke damage up but obviously would need re-decorating.
depending on how bad the situation was and on what surfaces , there would probably be a varried number of answers although trial and error may come in to play!
if the damage is to painted ceilings this would be difficult and messy to clean. painted walls would also be difficult because too much water wwould cause the paint to run and look patchy. wallpaper could sag/bubble/rip or wash away the pattern.
the choice is yours Huh
Posted by petra (petra), 15 January 2004
Just don't give any gaurentee
Posted by houseangels (House Angels), 15 January 2004
Thanks guys, I'll take it all on board - especially the no guarantees.

Posted by Happyeater (Happyeater), 15 January 2004
Sorry Im late in replying here. make sure you wear masks and disposable suits. Fog the whole place and loft with an odouriser to nutralise the acids on the walls, carpets etc. Dont fog without a mask and leave the fogger to work in each room and leave it for 5 mins or so a room.

Wash all plastics esp the UPVC as the acids eat away at them. Throw out the carpets and backing etc.

Ring D Smoke for a fire kit 01403786070, asap. Youll be sent wipes, chemicals etc.

I recently did a job and charged £2000+ for it. Made good money.

Hope this helps.  Smiley
Posted by woodman (woodman), 16 January 2004
on 01/14/04 at 16:18:28, woodman wrote:

What type of fire is it?

Hi Terry reason I asked was to establish what course of action to take.For example an electrical fire would be easier to deal with than a protein fire.

I assume that you have established who is responsible for payment have had a mandate signed plus authority to proceed.

Digital photographs or video before starting all items in there place.
Then carry out your triage assessment:
a) what is beyond economical repair and can be removed
b) What needs urgent attention and testing to prevent secondary damage
c)What is clearly restorable.

Do this then you can deal with the job in the correct order.
The Acids especially hydrochloric acid will be present so carry out your damage limitation by cleaning first,metal and glass surfaces to prevent permanent staining and pitting.Spray a light coat of vegatable oil to metal surfaces to protect against damage.All porous items porcelain,marble etc rinse with fresh water.
Vacuum all carpets and soft furnishings to prevent people walking soot further into property.Clean carpets and furnishings to remove soiling and then clean AGAIN at jobs end and then cover with sheeting.
Preclean hard floors to prevent soil travelling.
Remove all items of dry cleaning,curtains (after vacuuming)clothes etc and dry cleaning to specialist dry cleaners for professional cleaning (do not attempt this yourself it can be a very costly mistake) of course at jobs end add 10-15% mark up for yourself.
If property is wet from fire brigade or burst pipes install dehumidifers to dry off.
Remove all items of value including books to safe clean dry area,digital photograph or video as already mentioned.
Once this is all done there should be no further damage and you can clean away as normal.
Do not use high alkaline cleaners unless surfaces are being repainted.
Fogging on its own will not neutralise acids although this is a good method of odor treating as it mimics the smoke movement.Very important, before carrying this out exstinquish all flames ie boiler,heaters etc, put up signs with time and date of fogging,vacate property and notify fire brigade.
It goes with out saying that full PPE should be worn.
Your suppliers such as D-Smoke,prochem will advise on the correct solutions.
A lot to take in I know and I could go on but carry out the above and you should be just about covered.

Good Luck  Wink
Posted by Glynn (Glynn), 16 January 2004
You should be using prochem Ultrapac renovate for fire/soot damage.
Posted by DP (DP), 16 January 2004
Ok I was resisting posting till now Wink
However Woodman you got me!

Can you expand on your point about not using High Alkaline cleaners unless redecorating?

High Alkaline cleaners can "matt" painted/plastic surfaces etc if used in too stronger dilution and/or not rinsed properly (glass is another issue as well).

Was this your reasoning in respect of the above comment, to which I agree.

If not then I remain curious !

Thanks DP
Posted by woodman (woodman), 16 January 2004
Hi Mr DP

Yes, High Alkaline will affect the paint finish altering the finish and colour even if rinsed.

I always recommend that when walls etc have been cleaned in this manner that an alkyd oil based sealer be applied before painting.

Unfortunately loss adjusters don't like to pay for this on top of the cleaning costs and decorators always say that they can 'deal with it' (with sugar soap no doubt) . As a result I have on several occasions been called back to property's that have been painted only for the finish to 'dull' quite rapidly due to non sealing only for the decorator to say it's down to cleaning not being carried out properly Roll Eyes.

Luckily I just produce my job sheets with our recommendations, it can prove quite costly for the loss adjuster as he pays us to seal over the paint and for the decorator to come in again on his own time to put his bodge right Grin

I am sure you have come across similar incidents.

Posted by Derek (Derek Bolton), 18 January 2004

I am surprised that you have been asked to deal with Fire damage at all.
Insurance Companies are pushing all the work out to the BDMA (British Damage Management Association) Companies which comprise of the major franchises

Posted by DP (DP), 18 January 2004
The current trends on distribution of insurance related clean ups do not account for the sum total by any means.

There are still many which are being handled by independents outside the franchise criteria and outside the BDMA, although these do account for a very high percentage.

You also have to consider other area's such as cash settlement claims, where the insured takes a settlement in favor of self repair. This would also include the non insured or the multiple claimant or the rejected claimant or the partially compensated claimant, or commercial policies covering domestic dwellings (high excess clients) or contract repair etc etc.

There are a number of situations where works can be awarded outside of what is perceived to be norm, So Iím not really  surprised at all when you look at the big picture.

Posted by DP (DP), 18 January 2004
Woodman Im sure you would agree that:
Alkaline is reduced by dilution and therefore so are its effects, it is completely possible to reduce the residual damage by application volume and still achieve neutralisation using a lesser mix.

Excess Alkaline will remain active on any surface just as the acidity contained within any smoke contamination. I have seen a number of metal surfaces corrode from the use of un rinsed and aged alkaline detergent, not surprising when you think that some high alkaline detergents are supplied at near caustic level.

Often residual Alkaline will dry without any visual problems, however when moisture is re-introduced such as with the water content from emulsions, a certain amount of reactivation is induced attacking the coating from behind and causing a bleaching effect, although air inhabitation will control this to a large degree, the reasoning why this effect is therefore less with oil based coatings.

The use of sealers is common in respect of covering any residual smoke staining which may be left behind prior to redecoration. This will also have the added benefit of sealing in any un -rinsed area's which may have been missed, but should not be viewed the prime reason, although an ultimate safeguard.

High Alkaline detergents properly applied and rinsed are very capable of leaving a surface ready for decoration without the use of sealers other than for staining and exceptionally porous surfaces such as matt coatings. Unfortunately the trend is to use very high concentrates in spray bottles with hardly any rinsing other then a damp cloth under the belief that it saves time and money which it does but not without problems somewhere else. Although I am sure this has not been the case with yourself, it is never the less, one to watch out for.

Regards DP.

Posted by houseangels (House Angels), 19 January 2004
Guys I really am amazed at the in depth replies that I am getting and fully appreciate all comments made

Thanks again
Posted by petra (petra), 19 January 2004
Good god Dp that is real seriouse stuff mate
Posted by woodman (woodman), 20 January 2004

The point is do you know the high alkaline has been rinsed out properly.The answer is no and this can add hundreds if not thousands to a claim.

Which is why as stated before if the job is to be done correctly, then surfaces should always ,in my opinion be sealed before decorating.

It's just a case of convincing the Loss Adjusters Wink
Posted by DP (DP), 20 January 2004
Hi Woodman

We seemed to have managed with just clean water in the past without any problems.

I guess if we are to seal everything irrespective of reason or cost then perhaps we could just clean with sugar soap, which just may put those decorator's onto a winner, looks like they could do our job after all.  

Not sure I could sell that concept in the commercial sector, where 1 coat of sealer could cost tens of thousands to apply.

However if the costs and cleaning methods are acceptable by all parties then there isnít an issue.

As for "Reason" and the terms "Correct or Proper" I think we may have to agree to disagree on that one or we could go on forever.  

Would you agree? (sorry just kidding  Wink)


Posted by woodman (woodman), 20 January 2004

We don't seal every thing, only the ones that need it . Wink

I have seen jobs where the decorator has attempted to clean heavy smoke damage areas with just sugur soap.

Once they have removed them from the job they get the professionals in to carry it out in the  'correct and proper' method  Grin

You must do some huge fire jobs if it would cost tens of thousands to seal.In terms of area what was your last one?

Posted by DP (DP), 20 January 2004
I do !!!

(I guess this is the accreditation bit)

OK (but then can we play another game like scrabble I need the practice).

Last one: Comet electrical store

Others would include:
The Home shopping channel (distribution warehouse)
Crompton Lighting (main factory)
Tarmac plant workshops
Toys R Us
Tesco's x 3
John Lewis (Lakeside and Surrey)
Bank of China (that triangular building in the centre of Hong Kong)
Texas Instruments (Portugal) x2
Ford Motors
Motorola factory (Scotland)
Linpac factory (Erith)
Pilkington Glass research laboratory

etc etc etc to name a few

including Theaters, Cinemaís, Factories, Hospitals Colleges, Hotels, Showrooms, Airport Service buildings and even a sub power station and telephone exchange in Ireland and 2 Bus Garages in North and West London

They will all vary in size, by example Linpac was 400 feet long in total and 160 wide and yes we did paint it at a cost of £30,000 per coat x2 coats (roof only) plus a huge disruption to production which is the real cost.

Shall we move on?


Posted by woodman (woodman), 21 January 2004

you decided to supply me with a named list when all I asked for was  the size of your last contract.

(you don't think I was questioning your integrity do you?)

I did this to compare yours with mine Grin sorry I'll do that one again.
I did this because I carry out mainly domestic restoration and wanted a comparision with the type of commercial work you do.

Obviously I am boring you with the subject so as you say I'll move on.

House Angels: how are you getting  on with your job?

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