Fire Damage Restoration

Fire Damage Restoration

The goal of Fire Damage Restoration is to lessen the ongoing damage to the structure. The preliminary deodorization and packing out of personal contents help mitigate the impact of smoke odors and soot residues.

Understanding the effects of a fire can help homeowners evaluate the damage to their home. By learning more about fire residues and deodorization after a fire, you can minimize the need for costly restoration.

Fire damage and smoke restoration experts can help you return your home and furnishings to “pre-loss” conditions.

Professional restoration technicians know that damage increases and restoration costs escalate the longer neutralization, corrosion control, and cleaning are delayed. When homeowners prolong the restoration of their home, they extend the effects brought on by the smoke exposure.

Fire Damage Restoration Process

The goal of the fire damage restoration process is to transform a smoke and/or a fire damaged structure into an environment that is clean, safe, and free of unpleasant odors.

To accomplish this, the structure and its contents must be returned to equal or better appearance and cleanliness than before the damage occurred, and to do so in the most economical and efficient means possible.

The equipment and deodorizing products needed for the initial smoke odor reduction are also used throughout the job to ensure no remaining odors are detected after job completion.

Structural Cleaning

“Structural Cleaning” refers to materials used to construct the building envelope, roofing, floor and wall assemblies, and all items physically attached to the structure. Structural cleaning attempts to restore these same surfaces; smoke affected walls, floors, ceilings and anything permanently mounted or improved upon.

Restoration technicians should be familiar with the basic chemistry and principles of cleaning. These principles are the science that makes the cleaning process work and will help technicians avoid or solve problems when restoring smoke damaged building materials.

Fire Damage Restoration Services

The goal of fire damage restoration services is to lessen the ongoing damage to structure and contents items. The preliminary deodorization and the pack out of personal contents help mitigate the impact of smoke odors and soot residues.

The equipment and deodorizing products needed for the initial smoke odor removal are also used throughout the job to ensure no remaining odors are detected after job completion.

In the wake of a fire that has covered homes with smoke and ash, it’s important to begin cleaning as soon as possible in order to prevent permanent damage or discoloration from soot residue.

Fire Soot Removal

Soot is oily and easily stains carpets, draperies and other household textiles. For this reason you must remove it before you attempt to clean or deodorize items. If possible, hire a professional fire damage restorer to remove soot with a heavy-duty vacuum.

Soot residue and volatile vapors are carried and deposited by rising and expanding air to surfaces throughout a structure. This process occurs repeatedly until combustion ends, with soot residue building up on surfaces layer by layer. By the time restoration technicians arrive, lacquer-like soot residue may be quite difficult to dissolve and remove.

Fire Residue Removal

Fire residue must be tracked from its initial source and diligently followed in every direction it penetrated to locate all surfaces that are considered damaged. Once identified, the restorer then documents what types of materials have been affected. Affected materials are evaluated against replacement costs versus restoration costs.

It is a waste of resources to clean anything that is not worth saving. Only after identifying the material or surface and testing the same for responsiveness to cleaning and deodorization does the restorer decide which materials should be restored and which should be replaced.

Fire Residue Classifications

There are three general types of residues typically produced in a fire. They are as follows:

• Protein Residues
• Natural Substance Residues
• Synthetic Residues

Protein Residues

Protein residues result from overcooked or burned meat, fish, or beans. The residue color range falls somewhere between yellow and brown. The texture is greasy and sticks to most surfaces it comes in contact with.

Water based cleaning solutions can be used to effectively clean this type of residue, as long as the target surface is wet cleanable (not damaged by water).

Natural Substance Residues

Natural substance odor and residues result from burned paper or wood. Campfires, forest fires and wood fireplaces produce natural substance odors. These residues are grey to black and have a dry, powder-like texture.

Natural residue can be removed easily with vacuums and other dry preconditioning techniques, followed by wet cleaning techniques. Natural substance residues are easier to clean and deodorize compared to protein and synthetic types.

Synthetic Residues

Synthetic residues result when the burned material is oil based. Carpets, upholstery, window shades and draperies, furniture and toys are typically constructed with synthetic materials. All synthetic materials produce a thick, heavy black smeary residue when they burn. If the burn residue is left undisturbed on a surface, much of this residue may be easily vacuumed away.

On the other hand, touching the residue will smear it into a surface creating more work ahead for the restorer. Fires involving synthetic materials will often leave behind ornate soot covered webs, sometimes called smoke webs, tags or streamers.

Soot Residue Cleaning

Cleaning up soot residue must be done as quickly as possible. During combustion, particles of smoke with opposite charges attracting to each other. The formations of these smoke chains are referred to as “smoke webs”.

Smoke webs are usually found at upper corners of rooms, around drapery pleats, or inside of cabinets or drawers due to the unique air movement in and around these spaces. The presence of smoke webs indicates combustion of synthetic materials, not spiders or cobwebs as some believe.

Cleaning Principles

Cleaning principles are generally categorized into six categories:

• Solvent Action
• Chemical Reaction
• Lubrication
• Agitation
• Temperature
• Dwell Time

Solvent Action

Most smoke residues are acidic. Therefore, most water based cleaning products used in fire damage restoration are alkaline. Alkaline products have a pH between seven and fourteen. Solutions that have a pH of less than seven are acidic. The farther away from seven, or neutral, the product’s pH is, the more aggressive cleaning the product can provide.

Chemical Reaction

Rust spots on carpets are corrected by use of this method for example. In this case, an acid combines with the oxidized metallic residue and the resulting material is rinsed away.


Reducing friction between the surface and smoke residue. By reducing the friction between these two surfaces, the residue can be removed easily without causing scratching to the surface finish. Vegetable oil soap is a common lubricant cleaner. This method is commonly used on finished wood surfaces that will not be damaged by water.


Utilizing some type of physical force to suspend soot residue. Agitation media range from least aggressive to most aggressive. The most frequent method of applying water based cleaning agents is with a soft towel. A different cleaning result will be achieved if the same solution was applied with a brush. The level of soot contamination should determine the proper level of agitation, the cleaning agent used and the surface involved.


Higher temperatures speed chemical reactions, open surface pores on the finish being cleaned and decrease drying times. Higher temperature may have a negative effect. Always test surfaces before utilizing higher temperatures.

Dwell Time

Dwell time is the amount of time a cleaning product is allowed to remain in contact with contaminated surfaces. Dwell times vary from one product to another. To maximize cleaning pre-treatment performance, always follow manufacturer dwell time specifications.


Pre-conditioning safely removes soot from a variety of delicate fabrics and surfaces by dry soot removal action. Examples of pre-conditioning procedures are the use of a lamb’s wool duster, HEPA vacuuming with a soft bristle brush or the use of compressed air.

Wet Cleaning

Wet cleaning is a process to remove most remaining soot contamination that embeds itself into the paint or other affected surfaces following the pre-conditioning and dry cleaning steps. Wet cleaning describes a cleaning procedure that requires water as part of the cleaning solution. A water based deodorant can be added to clean and deodorize simultaneously. The most effective deodorant additives are those that are formulated specifically for smoke odor counteraction.