Smoke, Soot, & Ash After a House Fire: How to Spot Hidden Damage & Get Compensated

A house fire is more damaging than many homeowners realize.

After a house fire, there’s plenty of visible damage – like charred drywall and scorched appliances. However, your house may have thousands of dollars’ worth of smoke, soot, and ash damage.

House Fire Smoke Damage

Your homeowners insurance should cover this damage – but you need to know where to look and how to report it.

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about spotting hidden smoke, ash, and soot damage after a house fire.

Smoke, Soot, & Ash Cause “Hidden” Damage

A house fire pushes soot, smoke, and ash throughout your home.

This damage is “hidden” because it occurs in areas you can’t see – like the areas between walls or deep within the fabric of your carpets and furniture.

You may have had a fire in your kitchen, but that fire caused smoke, soot, and ash damage throughout the rest of your home.

Smoke and soot gets lodged into any porous material in your home. The longer it stays, the more difficult it is to remove.

And, because smoke and soot consist of microscopic particles, they’re difficult to remove with ordinary cleaning techniques. That’s why a smoke smell could linger in your home long after you’ve restored your property.

Some of the “hidden” damage caused by smoke, soot, and ash after a house fire include:

  • Odors
  • Stained fabric, upholstery, carpeting, and furniture
  • Damage to flooring
  • Rust, corrosion, or pitting of metal surfaces or pipes
  • Damage to jewelry and other metal property
  • Discoloration of paint and other surfaces
  • Damaged electrical wiring
  • Damage to the motherboard of all electronic components

Why Smoke & Soot Damage is Serious

You shouldn’t ignore smoke and soot damage. Instead, you should repair the damage as soon as possible. The longer you ignore the damage (or fail to notice the damage at all), the harder it can be to remove in the future.

Some of the reasons smoke and soot damage are dangerous include:

Respiratory Issues: Smoke and soot damage can cause respiratory problems for you, your family, and your pets. The smoke and soot may have come from burning toxins – like melted plastic. These toxins can lodge themselves into your walls, insulation, and furniture, creating respiratory issues and other health risks.

Residual Toxins: Burning plastic is one concern. However, a house fire can lead to all sorts of toxins throughout your home. Toxic soot could mix with water (like the water used to extinguish the fire) to create a toxic sludge. This toxic sludge is harmful to your skin on contact.

Discolorations, Stains, and Corrosion: If you leave soot and smoke damage untreated, it could cause greater damage to your property. This damage could include more than just stains and discolorations; it could also lead to corrosion and rust on furniture, flooring, and other surfaces throughout your home.

Smoke & Soot is Particularly Harmful to Children: Studies show even short-term exposure to soot in infants can cause lifelong health consequences.

Toxic Gasses from Damaged Sewage Pipes: Many homeowners think pipes are immune to fire damage. That’s not true. Smoke and soot can cause pipes to corrode, causing toxic gasses to spread throughout your home. Many homeowners have restored their home after a fire, only to experience dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and breathing issues in the months after. These issues have been traced to damaged sewage pipes.

Increased Risk of Health Problems: Studies show exposure to smoke and soot can cause bronchitis, asthma, shortness of breath, and general respiratory problems. Some studies even link smoke and soot exposure to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and premature death overall. There are studies that show there could be up to 2000 cancer causing agents in a home fire.

To protect the health and wellbeing of you and your family, it’s crucial to clean smoke, soot, and ash damage as soon as possible.

Hire Professional Cleaners for Smoke & Soot Damage

Smoke, soot, and ash can push deeply into the pores of your home. That’s why this damage is difficult to remove with ordinary cleaning techniques.

Ordinary cleaning techniques could minimize the appearance of smoke, soot, and ash damage, tricking you into thinking the problem has been removed.

In many cases, however, you’ve simply covered the visible signs of the problem – and there’s still plenty of harmful smoke and soot deep within your property. That’s why the smell of smoke lingers even after cleaning.

For all of these reasons and more, it’s important to hire professional cleaners to clean soot, ash, and smoke damage. These cleaners know exactly how to clean smoke, soot, and ash damage from a property and may have special equipment, cleaning tools, or cleaning formulas to remove all traces of damage.

Homeowners Insurance Should Cover Smoke, Soot, & Ash Damage

If your house has smoke, soot, or ash damage, as a result of a covered fire insurance claim then your insurance should cover the cost of repairing the damage and properly cleaning your property. You should always use a company that is IICRC certified for smoke and water damage. They are trained, licensed and held to a higher standard than a normal person.

You buy homeowners insurance to protect against unexpected emergencies – like house fires. Your insurance company agrees to cover the cost of restoring your home to pre-loss condition after a covered event.

If you need to hire professional cleaners to clean smoke, soot, or ash damage, then keep all receipts and documentation. Or, approach your insurance company’s adjuster with proof of damage. In most cases, insurance will cover the cost of repairing this damage.

Check for Smoke & Soot Damage Early

Fire and smoke damage restoration works best when it’s all performed at once. That’s why it’s important to check for smoke and soot damage early.

The sooner you spot smoke and soot damage, the sooner you can take action and hire professional cleaners or restoration crews specializing in smoke damage restoration.

In many cases, homeowners have restored their home after a fire, only to notice a smoky smell continue to linger. In this case, restored items may need to be removed again, causing further disruption to your life.

Check for smoke and soot damage throughout your home after a house fire – even if your insurance company claims there’s no smoke or soot damage.

How Public Adjusters Help with Smoke, Soot, & Ash Damage Claims

A public adjuster is an insurance industry professional who represents your best interests – not your insurance company’s bottom line.

When you hire a public adjuster, that public adjuster can:

  1. Assess the damage and create a report.
  2. Analyze your property for any type of damage that may be covered by homeowners insurance.
  3. Collect all evidence and present it to your insurer.
  4. Organize cleanup and restoration to ensure your property is 100% back to pre-loss condition.
  5. Put you in touch with licensed and trained companies to provide the clean up.
  6. Negotiate with your insurer on your behalf to obtain the highest possible settlement.

If you have a costly homeowners insurance claim (say, where the disputed amount is over $10,000), then it may be worth hiring a public adjuster. Public adjusters can double or even triple your settlement – especially if there’s smoke damage that was initially ignored.

Contact ClaimsMate today for a free consultation with a public adjuster who can analyze your claim, then help you navigate the best path forward.

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