Most home cleaners contain high levels of water, they do not have enough cleaning agent to break down the soot that results from fire damage. As a result you tend to smear the soot and not remove it. We use chemicals specific to the makeup of the soot during the fire damage restoration process. For example, some fires are petroleum based, like when plastics burn or if you had a stove top grease fire. The cleaning agents for this type of fire damage have to be strong enough to cut through the grease and not cause additional damage as it is cleaned. Additionally, wood fires are carbon based and can be cleaned using using simple chem sponges or citrus based degreasers.
In most cases we clean homes from fire or water damage while the homeowners are still in the house. The initial fire damage inspection helps determine if the home is livable. I work with the adjuster to determine if it is safe or practical for the homeowner to remain.
The level of fire damage will determine that as well, for example if you have power pulled from a bad fire or if the mold levels are at a point where it is not healthy to stay. But bottom line it is your home and you are the one that in the end makes that call.
We use a variety of cleaners and processes throughout the fire mitigation process depending on what we are cleaning. Lets talk fire, most of the cleaners are citrus based, they smell like oranges. The citric acid cuts the grease and allows us to clean it away without streaking. For flat paint surfaces we use something called a chem sponge it looks like a large pencil eraser. This strips soot off of walls and ceilings. Then we also use the professional versions of windex, oven cleaners, and toilet cleaners. Mold cleaning is a little different we try and use green products and get away from harsh chemicals. We use a hydrogen peroxide based cleaners for mold its safe to use and be around, in crawl spaces to clean mold we use food grade baking soda in a blaster to strip fungus away. Its like sand blasting with baking soda.
We clean the home, remove the heavy soot, clean all the surfaces, and deodorize the structure. We basically get the home to a state where a proper repair evaluation can be made. Once our services are complete, a contractor can come in and evaluate and submit a repair breakdown to the insurance company.
For now we will think about the most common type of fire, a kitchen cook top grease fire. We always recommend disposing of any food items close to the fire. Canned food can partially cook depending on the intensity of the fire. Soot can penetrate the smallest opening in food boxes and bags. We consider soot a contaminate.
Odor is from out-gassing of bacteria and fungal growth from water or moisture in the home. The longer water is present the more odor you will have. Everyday that passes more bacteria is allowed to grow the same is true for fungal growth. The odor level increases as bacteria and fungal growth grow.
The drying process will vary house to house room to room. Typically, water damage is a result from a broken, cracked, or frozen water supply line. These are found all over your home. For example, under your sink, supplying your toilets, washing machine, and drain lines from the HVAC unit. The goal is to remove the layers to get to the wet underneath. In addition, during the water damage mitigation process carpets, carpet pads, and sub floors would be removed to do this and the wood floors would need to be removed.
On average the drying process during water restoration takes anywhere from 3 to 4 days.
The drying process briefly described above is basically removing wet layers. These layers include carpets, carpet pads, sub floor, and so forth. If your wood floor has gotten wet it would require removing the wood floor to expose the sub floor. Treating the wet area with an antimicrobial solution to remove bacteria and possible fungal growth.
Drying equipment is used to remove humidity and dry wet surfaces. Dehumidifiers and large air movers are brought in during the water mitigation process to circulate the air. Furthermore, moisture checks are made throughout the water restoration process to determine if the drying is on track. Once the drying is complete then repairs can be made. Premature repairs can trap moisture and in time mold growth.
Mold develops once the home has been exposed to a moisture source. Moisture sources can include anything from extreme humidity to a broken water supply line. Mold needs 3 things to develop.
1) Moisture source- The source of the moisture can be elevated humidity from a malfunction in a HVAC system, or a direct water source like a broken, cracked or leaking water supply line. Sinks, toilets, washers, hot water heaters, and HVAC drain lines all have water lines that can become defective.
2) Food source- The food source is anything made of cellulose paper, wood, sheet rock, or wall paper glue. All these things and more are made from cellulose.
3) Time to grow- fungal growth is a plant a microscopic plant and as such need time to grow. If an area isn't properly dried and the moisture is allowed the time to grow mold, it will. Smell and then visual evidence will become obvious.
Preventing water damage is the same as preventing mold damage. Water damage can be prevented by periodic inspection of water supplies, HVAC maintenance, and making sure that leaks are repaired. Replacing old water supply lines with newer metal mesh braided lines can also prevent damage.
Mold effects people in different ways, some molds have no effects while some can be very harmful. You would need to have your doctor tell you what you are and are not allergic to. Common signs of mold allergies are headaches, nasal congestion, coughing etc. If you have any of these symptoms and you smell fungus talk with your doctor.
Mold is considered a plant. Mold might be a very small plant, but it still falls in that category. Therefore, if you decided not to remove the mold from surfaces in your building then it would leave a rough surface and you would roll the fungal growth over a larger area.
Painting over it doesn't remove the mold. You would first want to address the cause of the mold growth to stop it from happening again. Then the next step would be mold mitigation. This means that the mold would be physically removed and the surface treated and dried.
Once those steps in the mold damage restoration process are complete then you can repaint the area.
Mold needs 3 things to grow:
1)Water source: This can be an over flowed toilet, leak in a water supply, malfunctioning AC unit pumping high humidity into the home, ground water from rain storms, storm damage, window leaks and so forth. Home maintenance is critical to prevent excessive water into a home.
2) Time to grow: Remember mold is a plant. Therefore, it needs time to grow. You will most likely smell it prior to seeing it. Fungal growth is a microscopic plant so it needs time to grow to become visible. On average the mold would be visible around 7-11 days.
3)Food source: Any kind of cellulose material is a food source for mold. For example, paper, wood, glue, and leathers. You can look around your home and see so many examples of these.