When Disaster Strikes: How We Help Restore Properties After a Fire

Even the smallest fire can be totally devastating. Whether it’s a commercial or residential property, SBL can help you get back to normal after tragedy strikes.

When you’ve suffered a fire in your home or place of business, of course everyone’s personal safety comes first. But once the fire is extinguished, what happens then? Depending on the property involved and the nature of the blaze, there can be anything from superficial surface damage to complete structural safety concerns.

One of the more rewarding tasks we carry out here at SBL is to help homeowners and businesses who have been affected by fire. We use our tried and true blast cleaning practices to clear away the resulting damage and deposits to help get life back to normal.

Before and After – fire damaged fireplaces:

How soon can SBL get involved after a fire has occurred?

In theory, we can start cleaning as soon as the area has been declared safe. Though we have helped some clients as soon as a week after a fire, it usually takes a little longer for funds for our services to become available through insurers and the like.

What kinds of properties and surfaces do you assist with?

We’ve dealt with quite a range of incidents in our time, both commercial and residential. Sadly residential clean up operations are more commonplace, though they are usually contained to some extent; say to a single room or area of the home. In terms of commercial properties, we tend to deal with shops and industrial units most regularly.

We find that blast cleaning tidies up brick, hardwoods, and stone with only minimal alteration to the surface’s prior appearance. Though we are usually asked to simply restore the aesthetics of a surface to normal, we sometimes get called in to clean away soot deposits so that the property owner can assess any potential structural damage.

Is there anything that property owners should not do when cleaning up after a fire?

Especially if you’re dealing with wood or brick, we advise against using household cleaners or paint strippers to get rid of sooty residues. Though these cleaners may get rid of the soot, they can penetrate the surface and do more harm than good, potentially staining the beam or brick permanently.

What blast cleaning methods are most commonly used when clearing away fire damage?

Our three most commonly used methods when dealing with the aftermath of a fire are crushed glass blasting, soda blasting, and steam cleaning. However these cannot be used interchangeably.

Crushed glass is a quick and effective choice as it’s generally the most abrasive of the three. It makes light work of black smoke stains; removing them from steel, hardwoods, brickwork, and stone.

If the building is Grade I or II listed, we’ll generally opt for bicarbonate of soda. This is also the go-to choice if the surface material is softer or more brittle – this includes soft-faced bricks, terracotta, and limestone. Soda is generally our most gentle blast cleaning method regardless of the nature of the project. If extra care is needed, we can also turn the blast pressure down to an absolute minimum, though this can cause a job to take longer.

Steam cleaning is great for cleaning surfaces where any kind of abrasion would be detrimental (such as detailed, ornate stone work). However steam cleaning can only be used on external features as there is no reliable way of collecting the water runoff.

What kinds of damage and deposits can be cleared away using these methods?

We mainly deal with smoke damage – removing the thick, black, sooty coating that builds up on surfaces during a fire.

Is there a chance of exposing hidden structural damage in the course of cleaning?

Yes indeed, sometimes we are called in specifically to help assess damage following a fire. The main concern after any fire (apart from human and animal wellbeing) is that the building hasn’t suffered any structural damage.

Sooty residues can hide the extent of certain damage, especially with load-bearing wooden beams. Our cleaning methods remove the staining and can also lift away any areas of loosened wood, so the property owner can see if the beam has hollowed out inside or has otherwise become too thin to bear its current load. Similarly, we can help those affected assess the damage around floor joists – the wooden parts themselves may be in good condition, but the areas of wall surrounding them may have sustained damage, rendering the floor potentially unsafe.

In terms of cleaning metal beams and structures, we are often called upon to expose weld points and joins in order for the damage to be assessed. We remove the soot deposits and any paint coatings that were present beforehand so the weld/lintel strength can be properly tested as necessary.

What can someone expect when engaging with SBL to clean up after a fire?

It starts off much like any other on-site blast cleaning enquiry; we’ll ask for photographs to be emailed over so we can get an idea of the work required. Then we’ll put together a rough quote, though we often arrange for a member of our team to visit the property to give a more exact idea of cost. While on site, we’ll also discuss any additional requirements or queries such as whether certain areas need to be sectioned off or discussing given surfaces that may need extra care. The quote we provide includes all set up, labour, and tidying away afterwards.

After this initial visit, we’ll arrange a suitable time to start work. We’ll arrive as early as possible on the agreed date to set up our machinery and prepare the affected areas so work can begin. This preparation stage usually includes sealing up doors and windows; covering floors and fittings; and setting up dust extraction methods.

Wherever possible, we request that there’s enough space to park an LWB hi-top van and trailer within 30 metres of the working area. We need the trailer in the vicinity at the very least because it contains the compressor for our blast cleaning machinery. We also ask that a covered skip is provided in order to dispose of spent media.

Due to the health and safety risks associated with the inhalation of spent blast media and the noise associated with our equipment, we request that we are the only contractors on site during the project. The areas being worked on are strictly off limits to anybody including residents/staff.

If you have any concerns about these requirements, please feel free to discuss them with us beforehand.

We sincerely hope that you’ll never suffer a fire at your premises but if you do, SBL are here to get things back to normal as soon as possible afterwards. Should you ever need our services, please call 0800 774 7632 for a chat.