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Smoke Restoration after Fire

by Anne Barbour

Wildfire causes severe destruction to a home not just with flames but also with smoke. Even if your house is still standing after a nearby fire, you should still check for possible smoke damage. The following information is compiled as a resource to help you navigate the process of smoke restoration. Smoke restoration techniques, equipment, and business owners change over time, so consider the following information as you begin interviewing local businesses about their services and methods. 

The smoke restoration process may vary from company to company but it seems that most  use the same general procedures, factoring in how close the fire came to your house or which direction the wind was blowing and for how long. The longer that your house is closed up with the smoke inside, the more excessive the damage can be. 

First steps 

A company will come inside and measure your house, usually with a laser pointer, to know the square footage of damage. They will charge based on this square footage.

They will open up your house, windows and doors, and start running HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) air filters to clean the air. This is to eliminate the smell of smoke. 

Early in the process they will take a sample off your walls using a sponge (similar to a sponge used for make up) to determine the level of smoke contamination in your home. Most companies will send this sample off to a hygienist to determine if the sheetrock has absorbed the smoke. They will inspect insulation inside the walls and attic for soot contamination, and if found, they will need to remove and replace it. 

During the process they will also be looking for water damage, possibly caused by refrigerators and freezers being turned off due to power outage. In this case flooring and subfloors may need to be replaced. 

Smoke damage can contaminate the inside of your home’s HVAC system, which you should turn off, and not start up again until thoroughly cleaned and smoke restoration is complete. 

Comprehensive cleaning

Every part of the house that has smoke damage (usually the entire house) will require cleaning. Walls, cabinets, shelving, appliances, plates, utensils, windows etc., anything that has been  contaminated. The service will even go through your pantry and wipe down all salvageable items and dispose of items that cannot be cleaned. 

Furniture will also need cleaning. Wood furniture will be wiped down and upholstery will be vacuumed about 3 times (soot removal) as will the carpets. Some upholstered furniture may be too damaged to be salvaged. 

Carpets may need to be shampooed. All clothing, drapes, bedding, and towels will need to be washed or dry cleaned.   

Home exterior

Smoke and heat can cause damage to the surface of your homes exterior. They will check the surface for paint blisters and they will check if windows show signs of warping, edge deformation or if moisture has seeped between double panes. The house’s exterior and patios will require pressure washing. 

Interview several companies

Whether your home needs all of these services, or just a few, will be based on the level of smoke damage. When seeking a good smoke restoration service, interview them and find out what procedures they use for each of these potential problems. Some companies have licensed contractors so that they can do all of the work themselves while others sub-contract the more extensive work to other companies. 

A few more tips

  • Smoke restoration companies seem to all use the same equipment and if they don’t own it,  then they will rent it. 
  • Flat wall paint is more prone to absorb the smell of smoke. 
  • Being a ‘preferred insurance vendor’ does not mean that they will “side” with your insurance company. Most smoke restoration services will advertise that they “advocate for the homeowner. Their relationship with the insurance company makes for a more trusting resolution, too. Without these relationships the insurance companies are just like you, having to take a chance on who they hire.

Sonoma County Smoke Restoration Services

(The information in this article was based on interviews with the following service providers. This listing is provided as an information resource and is not an advertisement, nor does it constitute a recommendation, or endorsement. Hopefully this list gives you a good place to start in your restoration process.)

North Bay Environmental
David Keith, 707-321-2969
Licensed Contractor with 14 years experience
Diamond Certified Preferred vendor with some insurance companies 

Service Master
Franchise owner – Stephanie Ceja, 925-471-7295
Preferred vendor with most insurance companies
Capable of pulling in other franchises to help during a large disaster
Largest on West Coast 

Norcal Disaster Restoration
Shad Tavolacci, 707-975-0582
30 years of experience
Preferred vendor for AAA
All employees are background checked 

Bay Area Water & Smoke Damage Restoration
Licensed contractors, Certified Institute of Inspection, cleaning, restoration
Preferred vendor for some insurance companies
Satellite offices which are fully equipped for different areas 

Serve Pro (Franchise)

Pacific Restoration
Shane Vogel-707-568-7144