Smoke damage (Photo: @AZ.BLT via Twenty20)

What Does Smoke Damage Do to a House?

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Smoke damage (Photo: @AZ.BLT via Twenty20)
It’s devastating to have a house fire, both physically and emotionally. Whether it’s an accidental kitchen fire, a lightning strike, or any other cause, the damage is deeper than what you see. Smoke damage leaves a lasting impression with residual discoloration and a smell that can feel almost impossible to eradicate.
What are the effects of smoke damage in your home? Here’s what you can expect and what you can do about smoke damage.

Why is smoke harmful?

Smoke results as an emission from the burning process. Much like a car’s exhaust, smoke is the unburned particles and gases from carbon-containing substances—and all organic materials contain carbon.
Gases include carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which naturally dissipate, but it’s the soot and chemicals like acid gases, hydrocarbons, benzene, and other dioxins that are the issue. These particles visibly hang in the air, permeate porous surfaces, and coat your belongings in a gray-black soot.
Smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat, cause headaches, and even cause a heart condition known as angina.

Immediate effects of smoke damage in a house

Inside your home, smoke is almost as damaging as fire itself. Even a small fire can leave massive smoke damage in its wake that requires extensive remediation. Smoke is inherently acidic and can permanently stain or etch your belongings and the structure, meaning time is of the essence for cleanup.
The immediate effects of smoke damage include:
  • Soot embedded on everything from furniture to walls and floors.
  • Smoke odor traveling up conduits in wiring and insulation.
  • Porous wood furniture and clothing becoming saturated with acidic smoke.
  • Discolored appliances and plastic materials.
Because smoke is acidic, the sooner cleanup can commence, the higher the likelihood you can salvage some of your smoke-damaged belongings.

Long-term effects of smoke damage

Imagine you’re not allowed into your home while the investigation and insurance adjuster attend the scene. In this probable scenario, your home’s contents are experiencing prolonged exposure to smoke. It’s unfortunate, and much of it will end up unsalvageable and being replaced as a result. That’s because the long-term effects of smoke damage include:
Etched and rusting metal surfaces. With the acidic smoke sitting on appliances and metal furniture, it can eat away at the finish, leaving yellowed stains and pock marks in the surface.
Permanent odor penetration. Items like clothing, curtains, and fabric-upholstered furniture will be almost impossible to clean completely as the smoke settles into the fibers.
Stained painted surfaces. Everything from walls to ceilings, doors, and trim will need to be refinished or replaced as the smoke sets into the surface.

What you can do about smoke damage

Smoke remediation is a difficult, time-consuming process, but it can recover some of your stuff and restore your home.
For curtains and upholstery that are treated quickly, vacuuming with a properly-filtered machine with the correct attachments and techniques can prevent the need to toss them away.
Clothing and other soft washable materials can be washed with certain detergents to neutralize the smoke’s acidity and remove the sharp smell.
Hard surfaces can be wiped clean with an enzymatic odor eliminator to prevent corrosion and restore the appearance.
Unfortunately, there will be many items that unavoidably have to be replaced. Even after smoke damage remediation, it’s quite likely you’ll have possessions or surfaces that have to be removed, re-treated, or renovated to correct the problem.