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Fire damaged home - electrical cord under carpet (C) Daniel Friedman Fire Damaged Buildings
Fire damage assessment, repair & prevention for homes & other buildings

  • FIRE DAMAGED BUILDINGS: assessment, repair, prevention - CONTENTS: key articles on building fire damage assessment, repair priorities, and related topics.How to identify the scope of fire damage at a building, how to distinguish fire from mold damage; Photos & discussion of fire damage vs mold damage. Issues with seller failure to disclose prior fire damage. Issues with possible hidden mold damage in purchased home
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs on Distinguishing Between Fire & Mold Stains in Buildings
  • REFERENCES
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Building fire damage:

Fire damage assessment, fire damage repair priorities, fire damage minimization. This fire damage home page provides links to in-depth articles on a variety of building defects, systems, or components that are associated with extra risk of fire; we also discuss fire damage assessment.

This article also discusses how fire damage and mold damage might be recognized in a building and how we might distinguish between black stains and white sealant paints used in both fire damage repair and mold remediation projects.

In a separate section we discuss problems of wildfire damage risks to homes and how to minimize the risk of wildfire damage.



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Fire Damaged Buildings: assessment, safe building entry

Our photo at page top shows a Rhinebeck NY home that was destroyed by fire caused by an electrical cord that had been run beneath the carpeting.

Scope of Building Fire Damage, & Comparing Fire Damage to Buildings with Mold Damage

Chimney fire damage to a home (C) Daniel Friedman Photograph of  severe roof structure damage from an unattended roof valley leak in a historic home.

Our fire damage photographs above show two different extents of fire damage in the roof and attic of a New York home. below we discuss damage and mold contamination questions following a fire in different structure.

Structural Repairs Following a Fire Get Confused With Venting Trouble and Mold Contamination

House fire vs mold (C) Daniel FriedmanReader question: I found your website and found it extremely helpful. However I have a very particular situation and would like to have your suggestions and comments. Here are the series of facts leading to this e-mail to you.

Type of house: 1983 Canadian style with drooping front roof purchased January 2011

Information from seller: 2006 inside renovations (kitchen, living room and bathroom) 2008 new roof – completely redone. When asked if there had ever been water damage, problems or fires in the past the seller answered no to all questions.

Recent leak history: March 2011 – lots of snow and then + 5 degrees Celsius- our roof started leaking and water was leaking in our front door frame.

We went up in the attack and discovered that the air system did not have the protection to prevent fine snow to enter the roof area. There was a line of snow in the middle which probably melted.

After discovering this, I decided to have an engineer who work in construction problems, etc.

3rd April 2011 – Engineer visits and says there is an air problem in the roof top and all the wood seems to have been painted over and there seems to be dark black marks under the paint.

He also says the front part of the drooping roof does not have sufficient space to let air circulate and that this probably caused the water to run down the door frame inside. We are still waiting for the official report.

9th April 2011 – The seller informed us that there was a fire at the construction stage of the house 28 years ago and that is what the black is all about in the roof...They painted over it to seal in the smell.

So we have two different diagnoses of these black and painted areas: mold or fire. What do I do now?

  1. How can I check if I actually have a mold problem ?
  2. How do I fix the black fire appearance or mold traces in my attic ?
  3. How can I fix the insulation problem in my roof (cathedral part of the roof ? - C. & R.

Reply:

A competent onsite inspection by an expert - a real one who knows both mold and fire damage - usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem.

Also your photos are less than one one thousandth of what I'd look at if I were inspecting the building, so any opinion I give is of necessity incomplete..

That said, here are some things to consider:

House fire vs mold (C) Daniel Friedman

House fire vs mold (C) Daniel Friedman House fire vs mold (C) Daniel Friedman


House fire vs mold (C) Daniel Friedman

Given that the (apparently) vertical wall in this last photo is black with something, an astute home inspector who had access to this area during a pre-purchase home inspection would be expected to observe and comment on that anomaly and to warn you of its possible consequences.


Some Specific Suggestions for Handling Mold & Fire Traces in a Home

Fire damaged home (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo (left) illustrates extensive fire damage to a home at which the fire originated in a (probably creosote laden) metal chimney venting an overheated woodstove, spread to the building's roof and burned back down the building's wall.

A combination of weather conditions and speed with which demolition and repairs began seemed to avoid a concern for mold contamination associated with water used to extinguish this fire.

  1. How can I check if I actually have a mold problem in this house ? 

    An inspection by a expert who is familiar with mold contamination should include a look at the history of the extent of demolition and repair after the fire as well as looking carefully at the water path through the building.

    In addition to visual inspection for mold or mold-suspect materials, it makes sense to sample some surface areas especially ones where your engineer thinks that there is a mold problem . Surface sampling is in order; if you like you can also screen the building for mold using air and dust sampling but the visual inspection and surface samples are most important.

    Start by reading MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ?, and for further details on inspecting a building for mold

    see MOLD DETECTION & INSPECTION GUIDE
  2. How do I fix the black fire appearance or mold traces in my attic ? 

    Use sealant paints that are approved for fire restoration to cover or paint over unsightly fire blackened members, presuming that an expert has assured you that no further structural repairs are needed.

    Don't paint over mold: moldy surfaces and materials should be physically cleaned. If you want to use a fungicidal sealant afterwards, that's fine.
    See ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD

    and see MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS

  3. How can I fix the insulation problem in my roof (cathedral part of the roof ?

    Attic ventilation, to work effectively, needs continuous air intake at the eaves and outlet at the ridge. Insulation & ventilation contractors use baffles to provide an air path in through vented soffits and add a ridge vent. See our article series on attic ventilation beginning
    at ROOF VENTILATION SPECIFICATIONS

Also see Fire Retardant Treated FRT Roofing Plywood Failures inspection, detection, testing of defective FRT plywood roof sheathing and

see MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE to TEST CLEAN PREVENT

Wildfire Damage Prevention Advice for Homeowners

Recommendations about Trees, Shrubs, other Vegetation around the building to reduce wildfire damage risks

Fire-resistant roofing recommendations to reduce risk of wildfire damage to a home

Curling wood shingle roof (C) Daniel Friedman

Fire-resistant windows & doors for homes in wildfire-prone areas

If you have occasion to replace windows or doors on your home, when choosing new windows look for dual-glazed tempered glass glazing - a material that is more heat and ember resistant than single pane windows.

References for Prevention of Damage to Homes by Wildfires

Some references and resources that we like for wildfire damage prevention include

Fire-related Articles

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FIRE DAMAGED BUILDINGS, ASSESSMENT, REPAIR at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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