Soot is a mixture of very fine black particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. Soot is different from charcoal and other by-products of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles.
What Are the Types of Soot Damage?
Soot composition can vary depending on the underlying causes. All types of soot cause at least some darkening, and in severe cases, any type of soot can look completely black. Though most soot looks similar, some types of soot can be harder to clean or more likely to cause intense odors. Dry Soot Dry soot is caused by very hot fires burning natural ingredients swiftly. It has a dry, dusty texture and almost no smell. Dry soot is often easier to manage than mold or storm damage. In many cases, removing it is as simple as using a vacuum with a HEPA filter on all surfaces. Wet Soot If a fire smoulders for a while on low heat and burns high moisture items, wet soot may be created. This is essentially dry soot that has mingled with steam to create a sort of soggy, sooty mess. Cleaning up wet soot requires a combination of fire damage and water damage strategies. Oily Soot When plastics, rubbers, and other products containing oil are burned, soot can turn into a sticky, greasy substance. If you try to wipe it up, it will just smear instead of going away. Also, because it contains oil, it will be resistant to water-based cleaning products. Unlike dry soot, oily soot will cling to any surface, even vertical areas. Protein Soot Protein-based soot is a particular type of greasy soot that tends to occur as the build-up in kitchens or the product of a kitchen fire. It involves overcooked proteins that turn to soot, and it has a very pungent odor. This type of soot is quite hard to get rid of, and the odor may linger if it is not cleaned up properly.
What Should You Do About Soot Damage?
Soot damage to your home or business can be overwhelming to clean on your own. You may also find that you do not have the right cleaning solutions for removing soot from certain types of surfaces without damaging them. SERVPRO of West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills has the specialized equipment required to thoroughly remove soot from your home or business.
When Temperatures Plummet
When temperatures plummet, the risk of your pipes freezing and bursting skyrockets. In fact, burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands in water damage—easily $5,000 or more, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
The pipes most at risk are those in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics, and garages. But even pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls can freeze. The good news is there are some simple things you can do to keep your water running and your house dry.
“Pipe insulation can cost as little as 50 cents per linear foot at your local hardware store,” says Susan Millerick, IBHS spokeswoman. “So for not much more than the cost of the aspirin you’d need, you can avoid the headaches of cleanup, loss of precious keepsakes, and the cost of your insurance deductible.” Use the pipe insulation liberally to protect any vulnerable pipes.
Both the IBHS and the American Red Cross, which is in the business of emergency preparedness, have useful advice on how to prevent your pipes from freezing, as well as how to thaw them if they do. SERVPRO of West Kirkwood/Sunset Hills is available 24/7/365 if you have suffered damage due to a frozen pipe. 314-858-1688
What is Microbial Contamination?
What is Microbial Contamination? Where does mold come from? Is microbial contamination a health concern issue? How do you properly get rid of a microbial contamination?
Microbial contamination refers to a variety of microorganisms, including mold, bacteria, viruses and protozoa; and fungi, which includes molds, yeasts, and their by products and toxins. All of these can affect the health of a building and its occupants.
As a starting point the proper job sequencing for a typical microbial-remediation project includes but it not limited to: identifying and stopping the source of moisture; setting up containment; establishing negative air; removing contaminated building materials; cleaning surfaces; drying the affected areas; conducting a post remediation evaluation.
Mold spores are a major concern for our project managers. Because of their very small size, mold spores can be anywhere there is air, including under carpet, inside wall cavities, under kitchen cabinets, virtually everywhere. Molds are usually not a problem unless mold spores land on a damp spot and begin growing. They digest whatever organic material they grow on in order to survive. Some molds grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods and insulation, while other molds feast on the everyday dust and dirt that gather in the moist regions of a building. Generally mold spores are hydrophobic. This means that spores do not like water itself. While mold spores need water to colonize (germinate and grow), they like wet organic substances, not a puddle of standing water.
Two Drying Methods
After making the decision of whether or not to dry a material, Project managers begin evaluating how to begin the restoration work. Many methods are available - each applying a different combination of humidity control, temperature, airflow and physical manipulation of the material (e.g., injection of airflow, perforation, removing finish materials).
Our Project Managers use the information obtained during evaluation of materials to help select the best drying method for the job. Generally there are two primary methods to promote drying of affected structures: 1) disruptive methods and 2) aggressive methods.
Disruptive Drying Methods
Disruptive drying methods involve removing wet items, injecting air to speed drying, or perforating surfaces to allow water to evaporate. The term disruptive is used because repairs will have to be done after the structure has been dried. Use disruptive methods when contamination, damage, cost or customer concerns require removal or manipulation of the affected material.
Aggressive Drying Methods
Aggressive or "in-place" drying methods involve leaving wet items in the structure and drying them in-place using warm, dry direct airflow. Aggressive methods are used when contamination and damage are not concerns, and when it is cost effective to dry an item instead of replacing it.
Project Managers will use aggressive drying methods when all of the following are true:
- The water intrusion came from a sanitary source (Category 1).
- Drying carpet and underlay (pad, cushion) in place will not cause structural damage to subfloor (especially hardwood).
- Adequate dehumidification is available and usable on site.
- Deep extraction tools are available.
The success of each decision made during the restorative drying process depends on the information upon which the decision was based. A skilled technician with quality meters will make the proper decision at each phase of the project.
Removing Moisture from Materials
The rate at which moisture moves through materials depends upon two primary factors: the type of material affected and the degree of wetness. The type of material affected will vary in permeability (ability for water to pass through the material), hygroscopicity (ability to absorb water), thickness, density, temperature and "R" factor (resistance to heat transfer).
Each of these characteristics will influence the way in which water travel through the material. The degree of wetness will influence the moisture movement, in combination with other material characteristics, by indicating the type of water being addressed. Water will be present in one, two or three forms:
- Surface Water
- Free Water
- Bound Water
Surface water is readily available at the surface of a material. It is liquid, visible and will evaporate readily. All materials are capable of supporting surface water. Surface water is best removed physically using mechanical extraction equipment or other physical means. Minute amounts of remaining surface water are readily evaporated using large amounts of airflow and moderate temperature and humidity.
Free water is present within a material but is not bonded. It exists in cavities, open pores and other air spaces within the material. It is liquid, generally visible by a darkening of the material (e.g., wood) and can evaporate readily. Most materials are capable of supporting (containing) free water. Materials not capable of retaining measurable amounts of free water are non-permeable, non-porous materials such as vinyl, vinyl composite, steel, rubber and some other solid, synthetic materials.
Bound water is absorbed by the material and held captive by chemical bonds. It is similar to vapor in that it is not fluid, yet similar to a solid/liquid in that it is bonded to other molecules. Because it is bound to other molecules, it must first be freed before it can be removed.
Hazard Awareness and Risk Assessment
The first line of defense against safety hazards is awareness. A hazard inspection checks for any work-site situation that potentially poses danger to life or property. Project managers must then perform a risk assessment on all potential hazards found on the work site. The assessment evaluates the risk or likelihood a particular hazard will cause harm. Due to the unsafe nature of most water damaged structures, hazard inspections and risk assessments are essential for protecting workers.
The initial hazard inspection and risk assessment of a water damaged facility would involve three important aspects. The first step is to identify hazards that could give reason not to enter the building, such as wet electrical panels and collapsing ceilings. The second step is to identify the presence of regulated building materials such as asbestos, lead or PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls). Government-regulated substances may require testing or inspection services from specialized. Third-party experts to assess health and safety issues. Finally, a competent technician conducts a risk assessment and installs or implements the necessary hazard controls for any identified hazards.
HVAC Systems: Affected by a Fire
HVAC systems condition the air within occupied interior spaces. They ventilate and supply warm or cool air through an air conveyance systems referred to as ductwork. HVAC systems typically have a cold side, or return air, and a hot side, the supply air. An air filter system is normally strategically located on the return side, somewhere before the blower motor compartment. Most air filters are engineered to capture smaller airborne contaminants in order to protect the blower compartment components.
Although HVAC systems all have the same purpose, they vary greatly in design. Soot and smoke odor removal is relatively easy in some types, especially metal ducts. However, following a structural fire, soot contaminates coat most interior fiberglass surfaces. Fiberglass duct insulation is easily contaminated due to the volume of air spaces within the insulation matting. When ducting becomes exposed to smoke odor gases and particulates, PICs penetrate deep within the fiberglass fibers used to insulate the ducting. An HVAC system that was operating during a fire will certainly be more heavily contaminated than one that was turned off;however, systems become contaminated even when they were not operating during the fire.
An inspection of the HVAC system will determine when the complete system requires cleaning. In heavy soot contamination situations, restorable mechanical components within the HVAC system should be disassembled, cleaned and deodorized in accordance with published NADCA standards. NADCA stand for National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
Installation of Air Movers
Air Movers specifically placed to ensure proper circulation of air throughout the affected area.
Air movers are placed in the environment to ensure rapid evaporation across all affected surfaces. The number of air movers necessary depends upon the number of wet surfaces, the amount of water present, and the ability for air to reach each wet material (e.g., wall cavities, behind cabinets, and under contents).
The IICRC S500 Standard recommends that air mover installation quantities should be based on the amount of wet surface area in affected spaces. For the initial phases of drying, air movers should produce continuous airflow across affected material surfaces. A step-by-step process for determining the proper number of air movers is:
- Place one air mover for each affected area.
- Add one air mover for every 50 to 70 sqft. of affected floor area.
- Add one air mover for every 100 to 150 sqft. of affected wall surfaces (above 2') and ceiling surfaces.
- Add one air mover for every room offset or inset greater than 18 inches.
This calculation should provide an appropriate amount of air movement for most water intrusions, but can vary depending of the situation and type of materials affected.
Once the number of air movers to be installed has been determined, several factors will influence their actual placement. These factors include: the type of material affected, the degree of saturation, the accessibility of the actual wet surface, power availability and equipment availability. Below are some general guidelines for installation of air movers:
- Air movers are directed toward the wall at a 5 to 45 degree angle, depending on the type of air mover.
- The air mover's snout will almost touch the wall, within in 1 to 2 inches.
- All air movers in each area will face the same direction to ensure that air movers are not pushing against each other.
- When placing air movers, we need to consider the need for circulation throughout the affected area.
- Specialty air movers may be necessary if building cavities require air flow.
Board-Up: Securing your home or business
Fitted insert board-up
If doors or windows have been damaged or destroyed in a fire, rain and wind may enter the building and cause further damage. Also, curious onlookers or vandals may attempt to enter a damaged building. To help prevent these problems, it may be necessary to "board-up" the property.
The board-up procedures should provide durable protection for the damaged structure and cause minimal additional damage to building surfaces. Board-up methods include:
- Fitted inserts
- Bolt tension
- Tarps and shrink wrap systems
The cover-over system is easy to install and probably most applicable on roofs. Large expanses of roof can be covered quickly with heavy-duty tarps. Fitted insert board-ups are more difficult to install but are more weather tight than the cover-over system.
Bolt tension methods are relatively easy to install and have the advantage of being weather resistant and difficult for intruders to disengage. Placing carpet or carpet pad on the interior brace will prevent additional damage to wall surfaces.
Mitigation services help prevent additional damages. Loss mitigation services include winterization to prevent freezing, controlling corrosion, and cleaning surfaces to prevent staining.
As soot combines with atmospheric water vapor, it becomes acidic. Neutralization of acid smoke residue is a fundamental part of the initial stages of corrosion prevention. In most cases, alkaline solutions are used to help remove and neutralize the acid smoke residue.
After removing the smoke residue from metallic and plastic laminate surfaces, apply an oil-based coating (Many restoration professionals use a common lubricant like WD-40). This treatment will slow down and/or inhibit corrosion and discoloration by airborne smoke particles that remain after the Project Manger completes the emergency service visit. This simple, but often overlooked, step can help to reduce overall replacement costs.