Effects of smoke damage to a property29-09-2022 | Damaged Property
Smoke damage is always a real headache to fix, and this is the major cause of many landlords not being able to complete a full smoke damage recovery project on a property. The invasive nature of smoke can be more devastating than the fire itself, with soot later being discovered in places such as air ducts and ventilation systems.
CIA Landlords will be looking at the effects smoke has on a property and how you can protect yourself and your tenants from unforeseen fire and smoke-related damage.
You’d be right in thinking that smoke is more dangerous than fire. Most fire-related deaths occur due to smoke inhalation.
If your or your tenants are fortunate enough to not have had any major injuries yourselves as a result of a fire, you’ll want to look around at the property to understand the real level of damage and how to salvage whatever you can, quickly.
What is smoke damage?
Smoke is made up of fine particles of burned-up matter, so we can’t be sure of what it consists of, but we do know that it is destructive.
Post-fire you’ll certainly notice these things if there is smoke damage:
- Thick black soot-streaked marks or yellowing on wallpaper and walls
- A greasy texture to touch
- Black dust coating surfaces and belongings
As the fire consumes the contents of the property, the heat rises to circulate and carry the burned-up matter through the house. The flowing funnel of charred air can often be found in higher levels of the house away from the source of the fire. As the air cools, the soot falls and disintegrates into a fine dust which covers all surfaces it comes into contact with.
Does my property have non-visible smoke damage?
No matter the size of the fire, hopefully, the damage has been isolated to the source of the fire. Unfortunately, even with doors closed, expect to find smoke damage behind walls, in fabric and carpets, and in electrical fittings and appliances. All of these need to be secured and made safe before a new tenant is even shown around. The odour alone can be quite overbearing for a couple of months.
Having the windows open while the fire is happening causes a dangerous and healthy current of air to disperse the often toxic burnt matter. Windows are often closed post-fire to protect the property from theft and break-ins which results in trapping the combusted air which grows grossly pungent.
Is it safe to stay in a house with smoke damage?
Unfortunately, the answer is pretty much… ‘No’.
Before you’re able to even consider the idea of welcoming new tenants into your property, you need to be sure that the environment is safe and habitable.
Smoke, soot and dust dramatically change the air quality as it becomes polluted with many toxins such as tar and carbon. Not to mention any metal and plastic that has been burnt. The contaminated air in the property can lead to long-term respiratory illness affecting the lungs and sinuses and even result in brain damage if the air quality is extremely poor for a prolonged amount of time.
Skin irritations from loose particles are often not treatable with medical lotions.
All in all, you can’t cut corners and you can’t move people back in quickly without doing your due diligence. You need to take the right steps in your recovery project.
How to clean smoke damage
There are some tried and tested ‘clean up’ methods that will make a considerable difference to your smoke damage recovery project.
- Air the house as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Dry clean the house before wet cleaning. The Hoover will take the first of many layers of dust off.
- Water jet carpet and fabric cleaners will draw out the surface level of soot and odour. All carpets, sofas, upholstery and fixed soft furnishings will need going over a few times.
- For surfaces, you can use natural products like vinegar or baking soda with water (never together).
- Wash your fabrics more than once with lemon verbena essential oil in the mix with your usual detergent.
But even though you can make the initial dent yourself, you may find that you have to replace fixtures. In this case, you’ll want to have landlord building insurance on your side to cover any rebuilding costs. Typically, this includes cover for the roof, floors and walls, as well as any permanent fixtures, such as kitchen cabinets and bathroom suites.
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