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Is It Safe to Live in a Home with Smoke Damage?


Smoke-in-AirSmoke damage is the outcome of fire. The damage can linger long after the gulf of flames has been extinguished. Smoke damage is not only pervasive, but it can remain concealed. As a result, living in a home with smoke damage is highly unsafe. Smoke damage should be handled by a professional restoration company.

What do smoke particles consist of?

The smoke released from fires of any type is made up of a mix of particles and chemicals. The components of smoke are produced when materials containing carbon fail to completely burn. The amounts of particles and chemicals depend on oxygen levels, burn temps and the items burning.

Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and soot (particulate matter) are present in smoke. The chemicals in smoke are varied and may include sulfur dioxide, acid gases, aldehydes, nitrogen oxides, metals, dioxins, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Exposure to smoke and its chemicals should be avoided.

What is smoke damage?

Damage caused by fires is distinguishable from damage caused by smoke. The latter occurs when smoke from the fire coats household objects with soot and foul odors. Smoke spreads greasy layers that are difficult for the average homeowner to completely remove.

After a fire, smoke particles will travel to cooler areas of the home. The smoke will utilize the home’s ducts, wiring, pipes, and other crevices to reach these cooler spots. Due to its invasive nature, smoke may be easily hidden behind walls or in other inconspicuous places.

A microwave fire, for example, may be contained. Homeowners may reasonably believe the upstairs bedroom remains unaffected by the smoke damage. However, this assumption is inaccurate. Smoke from the microwave fire can set in furnishings, spaces behind walls or within electrical sockets.

Regardless of the fire’s size, smoke damage is extremely dangerous. The hazards are primarily due to the fact that smoke particles are incredibly minute; although a homeowner may not see smoke, smoke particles could still linger in the home environment for weeks after a fire and lead to ill health.

What are the different types of smoke damage?Cabinet-Fire-Damage-Soot

Smoke damage may fall into any one of four categories: dry smoke, protein residue, fuel/oil residue and wet smoke. They differ for reasons, such as the fire’s temperature, location and fueling materials. Each of these types of smoke damage requires a slightly different restoration process.

Dry smoke may be caused by paper or wood burning. Dry smoke can fall into crevices or porous materials in the home. Consequently, surfaces falsely appear to be clean; however, smoky odors often persist. Dry smoke has a less offensive smell and can be easily eliminated by professionals.

Cooking mishaps may lead to protein residue. This type of smoke damage may be invisible to the untrained eye, but the strong, offensive odor can permeate the home if left untreated. The protein residue can permanently discolor painted or finished surfaces.

Fuel/oil residues are sticky and dense, but do not commonly occur in residential homes. Wet smoke damage is a result of burning plastic or rubber. Like petroleum residue, wet smoke damage is dense and can be a challenge to remove without special equipment.

What are the health risks associated with smoke damage?

Smoke, despite being concealed and difficult to remove, is a major health hazard to the occupants in a home. Inhaling smoke even briefly can lead to immediate effects, like eye, nose, and throat irritation. Living in a home with smoke damage poses a serious health risk.

As mentioned, smoke contains carbon monoxide gas. Inhaling carbon monoxide reduces the body’s oxygen supply. Headaches, reduced alertness, and angina (a heart condition) can result. People with respiratory conditions, children and the elderly are most vulnerable to the health consequences of smoke exposure.

Remember that smoke particles are extremely tiny, being 2.5 microns or less in size, and cannot be seen with the naked eye. These fine particles are able to travel into the respiratory tract and reach the lungs. Shortness of breath, respiratory irritation and worsened asthma or heart disease are outcomes.

Due to smoke’s direct effect on lungs and sinuses, difficulty breathing is a common symptom in people who live in a smoke damaged home. Plus, the residual particles embedded into clothing and other soft materials, like furniture, will irritate the skin, with some irritations being severe.

Occupants who experience persistent symptoms that result from smoke exposure are advised to seek medical attention. Long-term exposure to smoke damage can lead to chronic health conditions, like cardiovascular disease. Even brief exposure to smoke damage can result in long-term health problems.

Does cleaning smoke damage reduce health effects?ServiceMaster-Restoration-Services

Fortunately, once exposure to smoke particles stops and the home’s occupants no longer inhale carbon monoxide and fine particles, relief may be found. The symptoms that result from smoke damage will gradually diminish (with some symptoms lingering for a few days).

Contact a Fire Restoration Pro

When your home has survived a fire, smoke damage is inevitable. Even though the smoke particles are either hidden or too small to see, consult a smoke and fire damage restoration pro, like ServiceMaster, to address all types of smoke damage and restore your property to safe living conditions.

ServiceMaster technicians are experienced in smoke and fire restoration. Our advanced cleaning products and proven techniques effectively remove the corrosive byproducts of fire (smoke, soot and oily residues) from your personal belongings, structural materials and furnishings.

Be aware that smoke and soot spread stealthily long after the fire has been extinguished. This is why it is critical for the health and safety of your home’s occupants to call ServiceMaster for smoke damage restoration immediately after the fire is extinguished by fire officials.

Water Damage Restoration

ServiceMaster offers water damage restoration services to restore goods affected by fire hoses. Choose a fire and smoke damage restoration company that will be there when emergencies happen. We proudly homes and businesses throughout the Lincoln, Grand Island and Omaha, NE area 365 days a year.