How Does Smoke Restoration Work?

smoke and soot on a white ceiling

Much of the attention after a fire is given to structural damage from burning within the home. Smoke damage, however, can be just as devastating. In addition to cosmetic issues, such as yellowing, tarnish, and etching, smoke damage can pose a significant health risk. 

What Is Smoke Damage?

Smoke damage includes any physical damage to the home that was not caused by the fire itself. It can be broken up into five categories, based on the type and source of the smoke.

Complex Smoke Damage

This type of damage results in a greasy yellow residue that results from the corrosion of natural and synthetic objects within the home. 

Dry Smoke Damage

Dry smoke is commonly associated with natural fires, such as wildfires, and enters the home from the outside. Smoke odors and soot can penetrate the house through porous surfaces and other openings. 

Dry smoke ash is less greasy and has less odor than that caused by complex smoke. As a result, it is generally easier for restoration companies to restore objects contaminated with dry smoke.

Fuel Smoke Damage

This type of smoke damage is uncommon in homes unless petroleum products were present or a petroleum-fueled appliance, such as a furnace, malfunctioned. This particular type of smoke damage is especially difficult to clean, since it is sticky and has a strong, unpleasant odor. 

Protein Smoke Damage

Protein smoke generally occurs in the kitchen. A cooking accident can cause smoke from charred organic matter (food) to permeate the kitchen and surrounding rooms with soot, grease, and burned food odors.

Wet Smoke Damage

Plastic, rubber, and other materials that have been smoldering can create wet smoke. This is a particularly offensive odor, and the residue from such smoke is sticky, dense, and easily smeared without proper cleaning equipment. 

What Does Smoke Restoration Do?

The goal of smoke restoration is to clean objects and mitigate health risks posed by toxins from soot and residue. Long-term health risks associated with smoke include cancer, stroke, and heart attack, so it is important to have your home and contaminated objects professionally cleaned as soon as possible.

The first steps in the restoration process will involve an on-site inspection, unless the surrounding structure is deemed unsafe. In this case, objects will be removed and transported to a restoration company warehouse to be cleaned. 

Objects from the home are evaluated for restoration based on a number of factors, including:

  • Whether or not it is more expensive to restore the object or replace it
  • Whether or not the object has sentimental value
  • How useable the object is
  • How valuable an object is
  • Whether or not an object is out of date with respect to current technology (decreased obsolescence)

What Is Involved in Smoke Remediation?

Any objects that have been deemed eligible for restoration will undergo a process called smoke remediation. Smoke removal and remediation includes cleaning objects and any un-charred surfaces like walls, counters, and upholstery. Specific techniques include:

  • Removal of ash, soot, and smoke
  • Air purification and ventilation
  • Ozone treatment
  • Thermal fogging
  • Sealant
  • HEPA vacuuming
  • Dry cleaning

Who Pays for Smoke Remediation?

Smoke remediation is generally covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Your adjuster will work with you to find a good contractor to accomplish this and also to decide which objects are better replaced than cleaned. 

What Can I Do If My Insurance Will Not Pay for Smoke Damage?

Like the clearing of debris, smoke remediation is typically considered a necessary expense in order to restore your home to its pre-loss condition. It should therefore be covered within the limits of your policy. If you are having difficulty communicating with your insurance or you feel they are not handling your claim fairly, you may want to hire an experienced fire damage attorney. 

David Roth has helped hundreds of policy holders in Colorado seek fair settlements when their insurance companies have failed them. If you are struggling with your fire damage claim, please contact our office or go online to schedule your free consultation. 

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