Odor After Kitchen Fire

speckmoApril 15, 2013

Had a kitchen fire February, 2012. Reconstruction and restoration of contents and structure took place and was complete April, 2012 at which time we moved back in. Shortly thereafter, as the weather began to heat up (in midwest) My husband and I began to smell an acrid odor in the house.

Entire interior of home cleaned, primed/sealed, and painted - two coats. Carpet and padding replaced. All contents cleaned (washed, dry cleaned, ozone treatment) or disposed of.

Cleaning came back out and sprayed the ozone stuff a couple of times...also in the attic.

We were told the carpet padding and other chemicals and "new smells" would be present for a while. It is now one year later and it's just as strong as it's ever been when it gets warm out.

My husband and I suspect the odor is coming from insulation in the attic when it heats up. This is not a "smoke" smell as if from burning wood, or a camp fire. It is the same acrid, sour smell I smelled in my home a few days after the fire when we toured the home with our insurance adjuster.

I suspect our insurance is going to argue with us. A few times it has been posed to us that people often have smell a "phantom" fire odor after going through such an experience.

Advice or suggestions?

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Ask friends who visit if they smell anything.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 2:13PM
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While it is true that people tend to have a heightened awareness of odors after a fire, there is a good chance if you smell something, it’s because you have an issue.

I think the odor you are describing is from a protein fire. These odors can be that rancid smell that smells nothing like burning wood in a fireplace. Protein fires can also leave residue that isn’t as visible and much harder to clean with a nasty film that smears easily. Protein fires usually are kitchen fires!!!

When there is a fire in a contained space or a smoldering fire, the fire can pressurize the building and push smoke through electric outlets, cracks, floor boards, holes around pipes and just about any void.

I have seen many circumstances where the entire property needed the drywall or plaster stripped down to the framing due to pressurization. With the walls stripped, the smoke residue could be cleaned and those areas sealed.

If you had smoke residue visible around electric outlets or cracks in other areas (and they didn’t remove those wall finishes) you likely have the odor source behind your walls.

I have also had new batt insulation give off the nastiest of odors a year or more after installation (on warm days) that you would swear it was a sewage problem.

There are so many variables here but the odds are, if this is the same odor you smelled before the restoration even started, something was likely missed in the demolition, cleaning and sealing process. If something was missed, the odor will return on warmer, humid days for many years to come.

I wouldn’t rely on ozone that much either. While ozone has it’s uses, it’s not going to resolve smoke damage that requires demolition, cleaning and sealing. Too many inexperienced companies use ozone for the wrong reasons. They plug in an ozone machine and think they are restorers.

Don’t allow them to come in now and use deodorizers either. Those products just temporarily mask the problem and make it harder to find the source. Not to mention, people can be chemically sensitive to those products which only compounds the issues. If you don’t have an odor source, you don’t need a deodorizer.

Most insurance adjusters know just enough to be dangerous. Don’t let them sell you any BS as their primary job is to limit the repair costs to the insurance company, not repair your home properly. If this was their repair contractor that caused the problem, the adjuster will fight very hard not to open this claim back up. Don't let them bully you if you feel the problem is legit.

If this was a restoration contractor that you chose, you will likely need to go after the contractor and the insurance company won't touch it.

Not so sure about having the original restoration company return to fix the problem either. If they couldnt do it right the first time, I wouldnt give them the opportunity to create more headaches for you.

For now, the solution to pollution is dilution. Opening up the house and getting as much fresh air in as possible will help. Unfortunately, that’s just a temporary fix.

If you need more advice, send me an email and we can talk offline. Good luck!

This post was edited by mepop on Mon, Apr 22, 13 at 17:52

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 4:57PM
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A little more info about what was involved and consumed in the fire might be useful.

To speak nothing of the extent of the original damage.

A house near me just had a fire in a kitchen and the result was building a new house on the land after demo.

I have done fire restoration work, and it can be very difficult to eliminate lingering odors.

More than once the only thing that worked was basically a total gut of the house.

Even then framing needed to be sealed to eliminate residual odors.

One of the serious problems that occurs with many odors is that our sense of smell can easily become saturated after a brief exposure.

Any particular person can then no longer detect the odor.

It makes the stopping point in renovation hard to determine.

I used to wait overnight, then use a paint brush with simple tempura water paints to mark areas the next day as quickly as possible for that days work.

Then have one of my female employees repeat the marking.

As areas are sealed (mostly with shellac) fewer and fewer paint marks appeared each day from ether of us.

Then we run up the heat to about 80 degrees and make another set of passes.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:11PM
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