Not Everyone Likes the Smell of a Fire

Home Inspector with WWW.ExecutiveRestoration.Com

Have you had a fire in or near your home? If so, regardless of the type or location of fire, there is a pretty good chance you’ll never forget that smell. I have restored hundreds of homes that have been damaged by fire and almost every homeowner complains of the odor. Oftentimes myself and my crews smell the odor at first. However, as the demolition and the fire cleaning processes occur, the odor dissipates greatly. Once the reconstruction is complete the odor is completely gone. If for some reason there is a lingering odor there are additional processes that certified restoration firms can perform such as Ozone and Hydroxyl. Any reputable fire restoration company will guarantee the structure odor free upon completion of reconstruction. As a restoration expert we rely on our experience and training to do proper procedures to alleviate the smoke and odor. In order for us to provide this guarantee these processes are extremely important. Proper demolition, emergency cleaning and fire restoration cleaning (both structural and contents) is vital to ensuring that the home will be odor free upon completion.

Clothing and soft goods: There is a reason we have a professional fire restoration dry cleaner remove all clothing and soft draperies and linens from the home. Simply washing these items as you normally would; will not properly deodorize these items. Your fire restoration contractor will have you gather clothing that you need immediately and rush it so that you have clothing readily available in 24-48 hours. The rest of the items removed from your home will be returned upon completion of the reconstruction in order to prevent recontamination.

Depending on the scale of the fire, often, soft furniture items near the fire will need replacement. There are certain items that are virtually impossible to remove the fire odor from if the fire was in the same room, such as a fire in a bedroom, the mattress will usually be replaced. If your fire restoration contractor is properly trained, equipped and set up they will be able to clean upholstered furniture on site then remove it to their warehouse to be cleaned again and then placed in an ozone chamber to completely alleviate the odor. Upon completion of the ozone, the furniture isn’t going to smell like a field of flowers, as ozone is often described to smell like ground pepper. However, if the cleaning procedures worked the furniture will be smoke odor free. It is important that you do not remove items from your home after the fire thinking you’ll clean the item on your own and bring the item back into the house after completion of the reconstruction. If there is an item that you are extremely attached to and feel you or perhaps a child has to have with them, speak with your contractor about it. They will most likely be able to perform an emergency cleaning so that the item does not contaminate unaffected items and structures.

Proper structural cleaning is crucial for both odor and proper reconstruction. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make after a fire is to think they can spray a cleaning agent on the walls and start to wipe away the soot. After they wipe the surfaces they repaint. I have been called out to somewhere between 80-100 homes where this has been done. Often I am called in by the insurance company when the homeowner calls the insurance because they still have the odor. Unfortunately, at this point another cleaning of the freshly painted surfaces is not going to remedy the situation and a much larger reconstruction process must now occur. In order to get your home back as soon as possible it is imperative that you leave all of the fire restoration up to the professionals.

Now, the fire has been put out, the house has been cleaned and reconstructed and your cleaned contents have been returned and you’re moving back in you still feel as if you can smell the fire. Why is that? Did the restoration company you hire not do what they were supposed to? Did the insurance company not replace as much as you felt should have been replaced? Unfortunately, the answer to one or both of those questions may not be favorable to you. However, more often than not the odor you are sensing is a fire memory phenomenon. I have seen dozens of homes where the restoration was completed perfectly and yet one homeowner still feels that they smell the fire. The odor is only noticed by the homeowner. This fire phenomenon is a form of PTSD and most often only experienced by the owner whom the fire most affected. If only one person is noticing the odor it is most likely this form of PTSD and not an actual lingering odor. Often it’s due to not properly dealing with the emotional aspect of the fire. Each person deals with this trauma a different way, but most often speaking with someone you trust about your loss, and try to make the most of the fire; yes, it was tragic, but try to find the bright side (did you get a new kitchen or perhaps new flooring and a paint job)? And one of the most important things in our lives is mind over matter. You need to trust your contractor and believe they will alleviate the odor. If you keep telling yourself that you’ll always smell the fire, chances are, you will, even when no one else does. You must remain confident that the cleaning and reconstruction will do what it is intended to do. Our minds are stronger than most people think. If more than one person still notices an odor than it is time to get your contractor back out to investigate and most likely start another odor treatment. You will not be allowed to enter your home during this time or approximately 36-48 hours after the treatment and often to mask the odor a cherry scent will be applied in a fog throughout your home.

In short, if you’ve had a fire and you’re the only person who smells the odor after the <a href="">fire restoration</a>


Comments (3)

Sonja Patterson
Keller Williams - BV - College Station, TX
Texas Monthly 5-Star Realtor Recipient for the Hou

David, this was very interesting!  Our mind/memory does some amazing things. My dad's college dormitory caught on fire when he was a young man.  It is something he remembers with horror to this day.

Mar 26, 2012 01:08 PM
Debbie Laity
Cedaredge Land Company - Cedaredge, CO
Your Real Estate Resource for Delta County, CO

The only fire smell I like is a campfire. That's good to know that you can get the fire odor out of a house.

Mar 26, 2012 01:08 PM
Elite Home Sales Team
Elite Home Sales Team OC - Corona del Mar, CA
A Tenacious and Skilled Real Estate Team


The smell of fire is a serious problem and needs to be addressed.

Mar 26, 2012 01:26 PM