Much of the damage after a house fire is obvious. The blackened walls, the smell of smoke hanging in the air, the objects covered in scorch marks or turned to ash — it's not a pretty sight.
But just as important as the visible effects of fire damage are the invisible ones. If you've recently been through a fire, it's important to know that there's more to cleaning up than meets the eye. Fire and smoke restoration is a complicated process, so be sure to deal with a professional restoration company with the expertise to find and repair all your damage – both obvious and hidden.
The soot and ash that are left behind after a fire are more than just a mess. These byproducts of combustion are also acidic; soot and ash that are not cleaned up quickly can begin to eat away at the materials they cover. Glass and metal can etch and corrode to the point where they lose their structural integrity. And soot and ash can get into all sorts of cracks and crevices, causing damage to objects, electronics, and other equipment from within.
All sorts of building materials can be deformed by the extreme heat of a fire. Metal can become soft and warp under the stress and heat, and concrete weakens and loses flexibility. Many materials, including these two, will expand; as different materials expand at different rates, this causes stress at junctures such as foundations, roof joins, and even between the interior and exterior portions of walls. While this damage may be visible in extreme cases, even small amounts of deformation that are not easily visible will still weaken the structural integrity of a building.
Smoke from a building fire often contains some amount of metal, although the exact composition varies with the fuel being burned. When smoke with metallic elements enters an electrical system, it can cause short circuits and blow out appliances and electronics.
Paints, varnishes, and other finishes are also easily damaged in a fire. While paint damage may be obvious, it can be difficult to tell whether other sealants and varnishes have been destroyed by the heat. However, sealants are applied for a reason. Without them, walls and furniture are at the mercy of all sorts of environmental problems – both fire-related, like acid damage from ash, and everyday, like damage from air moisture and ultraviolet light.
When your home is on fire, it's a wonderful thing to see the powerful jets of water that firefighters can direct to put out the blaze. But it's also important to deal with the aftermath of all that water. Even materials that would normally hold up well to moisture may be more susceptible to mold and rot since fire destroys many protective finishes. It's no surprise that many fire damage restoration companies are also well-versed in water damage restoration.