Shellac as Wood Sealer After Fire


Probably should ask in .home.repair but I'm not sure they'd have much knowledge of shellac - so . . .
My neighbor, a single mother with three young daughters, had a fire in her home. No one was in the house at the time but they did lose a bird and two house cats required lots of cleaning. The structural damage was negligible, done by firemen, not the fire itself, which neighbors had put out with garden hoses prior to the firemen's arrival. Firemen ripped open a wall, tore down celing dry wall - dropping borax treated paper insulation into the 100+ gallons of water they used "just to make sure the fire was REALLY out - to make paper mache, and cut a hole in the roof - right next to a large whirly gig - "have to vent the smoke out of the attic you know. The smoke was all generated by the burning plastic of - wait for it - their computer (and printer). The power strip, which had a reset button circuit breaker, somehow shorted and caught the computer on fire - on an oak desk.
Anyway the smoke damage was major. Gritty thick black crud went everywhere - even in drawers and cabinets. ALL the interior dry wall must be removed and all the structural wood above the floor must be sealed prior to re-dry walling. Apparently the smokey smell even gets into the wood behind dry wall, and if not sealed off, will get back into the living area over time. Since the middle daughter is asthmatic, that wouldn't be a good thing.
The question is - would a one pound cut of shellac seal the would enough to stop future smokey smells? The wood in question is 50+ year old douglas fir which, today, would be considered furniture grade as it's mainly close to all quarter sawn, tight grown ringed stuff that's hard as a rock.
If there's another, less expensive way to seal the smoke in please feel free to provide that as well - specific product name if you can
Thanks
charlie b
If it weren't for bad luck, this poor family wouldn't have any luch at all. But, with help from friends a neigbors they'll get through this.
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before you hit it with shellac, consider putting a small ozone generator in the room for a couple days. The ozone may very well remove the smoke smell. After that, drywall as usual.
Michael

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Herman Family wrote:

Thanks for the idea but we're talking about a 1200 sf entire house AND attic. That's a pretty large volume for an ozone generator.
charlie b
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wrote:

Get in touch with a company that does disaster cleanup - like after-fire cleaning. I've had some dealing with them in the past and the ones I talked to were willing to give advice even if you didn't contract with them.They used a huge ozone generator that treated the entire house after all the seriously burned wood was removed. I believe that they still ended up sealing the studding with some type of commercial preparation in most of the house, but I can't recall what it was.
Oh, don't be too hard on the fire fighters. I've been one and the last thing you want to do is go away and then have the house flare up and burn to the ground. The neighbors may well have put it out - but they may have missed something too. It is quite possible for a fire to start *behind* drywall if there is sufficient heat on the face - nails or screws can conduct enough heat to start it if nothing else. Fire departments always operate on the "better safe than sorry" principle.
-- "We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and bring something to kill"
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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On Sun, 12 Jun 2005 12:33:26 -0700, Tim Douglass

I have all the respect in the world for firefighters, especially volunteers, who selflessly give time, and work with less training than pros. However, the guy who rented the other half of a duplex that I lived in started a fire. The firefighters broke glass in my apartment on doors that were BLOCKED OPEN. One of the doors they smashed was an antique leaded glass french door. Go figure. <G>
Barry
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On Sun, 12 Jun 2005 23:06:14 GMT, Ba r r y

Well, there's always someone who just likes to break things...
-- "We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and bring something to kill"
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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In a very limited situation, I used shellac to seal a burned stud in the wall. Worked OK there, but that is not a whole house.
Better idea. Do they have insurance? If so, the insurance company should pay for a service like Servicemaster that specializes in fire/smoke smell removal.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/



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<respectfully snipped>
Alcohol-based shellac works well; I've used "Bins" Brand in the past.
Oil-based and latex based, as well as Kilz only cover color to an extent.
have a nice day, woodstuff
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Ther's a more expensive way. Blast the burnt part off with soft media. Restoration companies compete for your business, often throwing in all kinds of extras to seal the job. Choose the company that's going to handle the charred wood in the best manner possible.
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I used some 2 lb cut to help seal the pet smell from the previous owners' dogs, when I redid subflooring last summer, and couldn't remove everything without pulling the whole wall system.
Then a quart of quick-drying, oil-based Minwax that was cluttering the shop shelf. And a gallon of Zinsser BIN white shellac sealer on the subflooring, after the new was installed.
It should work, charlie, but why not try some on scrap? There has to be some of that around.
As to the comment regarding their luck: They are lucky to have good neighbors. Not everyone is so blessed.
Patriarch
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wrote:

It'll probably work. A 2 lb. would be closer to BIN or Seal Coat.
Barry
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charlie b wrote: <snip>

As others have stated if the owner has insurance they should pay for professionals to seal the framing.
To answer your question about the use of shellac Zinsser has a web page dealing with using their products for this purpose. See:
http://www.zinsser.com/Newsletter/BEB2002FallFW.pdf
--
Jack Novak
Buffalo, NY - USA
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Some years ago I lived in a civil war era rowhouse when the house next door suffered a bad fire. We were fortunate that our house did not burn also, but we did have a lot of smoke damage. (Also the fire department found it necessary to cut a hole in our top floor ceiling "just to make sure" the fire hadn't spread to our house below the common roof line. Turned out that the brick walls extended all the way to the roof peak.)
My insurance company sent over a professional looking gentleman who represented a clean-up company, and a few day later the clean-up crew arrived. I kid you not, the "crew" was an older woman and 2 teenagers, turned out she was the grandmother of the 2 teens, (one boy & one girl) over the next 3 days, among other tasks, they scrubbed virtually every surface in the house with specially treated rags and sponges. I was very impressed with the quality & thoroughness of the work they did. As I recall the faint smoke smell that lingered after this cleanup dissapeared within a few weeks.
I mention this because I assume that your not thinking of just shellacking over overything without cleaning first, correct? If so, then maybe the shellac isn't even necesary if you use the right cleaning techniques. Also, does your neighbor (or her landlord) have insurance?
--

Larry Wasserman Baltimore, Maryland
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The problem is primarily smoke damage.
The goal is to clean all exposed surfaces inside the house AND the attic and seal all surfaces so the post fire smoke smell is eliminated (one of the kids has asthma AND allergies).
Zinnsser has a cleaning product called JOMAX House Cleaner and Mildew Killer which not only kills surface mildew on contact but removes dirt and soot without scrubbing. This sounds good for getting the walls, ceiling and exposed wood in the attic cleaned up as well as kitchen cabinets and perhaps - the floors? Not sure how it'd work on oak floors. Anyone have experience with this product?
Zinnser also have a product called B-I-N Primer, Sealer, Stain Killer which "blocks tge worst smoke and water stains" AND "seals fire odor permanently". Two coats, applied with a "low pressure sprayer" which I assume is an HVLP system, does the job. Of course they don't say if it was thinnned a lot OR what it was thinned with. I've got an HVLP set up with a quart presurized pot that might work - sound feasible?
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You're going to be filling that HVLP pot quite frequently. I'd consider an airless sprayer, even if you have to rent one. The thinner would be denatured alcohol, but I don't think, in my experience with the stuff, that you'd want to thin it for this application. It flows pretty easily.
B-I-N is exactly what I would use, by the way. I hope the cleaner is as good as it is claimed to be.
I don't need to remind you about the safety aspects of spraying shellac in a house, do I? No flames, ventilate well, the right masks, etc.?
See if you have a Kelly Moore store nearby, or an ICI-Dulux place. Go have a chat with the people that run the stores. You may get some good community involvement, and maybe a volunteer pro painter to advise and help. Most are pretty good people, in my experience.
A blessing be upon your head...
Patriarch
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You know, I see this sort of complaint about fire department actions rather often, and it's usually due to someone not understanding why the actions taken were necessary.
For instance:

They need to do that to find un-burned area. Keep pulling drywall past the point of no burning. Usually go one stud cavity beyond the scorch.

Borax treated paper insulation is fire _resistant_. It will burn quite happily, marketing demonstrations of new material notwithstanding. It only takes one particle of paper next to another particle of paper to smolder, sometimes for hours or days, to have the fire get many feet away from where it started. I've seen charred tunnels snake a long distance from the last visible fire damage - the only way you can find it is to remove the ceiling, and dig along that char tunnel, until you find no more extension - then go another foot or two, just to be sure.

No, they did that so there wouldn't be a rekindle, burning the house down entirely. They didn't do it to inconvenience anyone, much as some people would like to think.

Yes, you do have to vent the smoke out of the house. Not having been at that call, I'm not going to second-guess their choice of ventilation techniques. But a 4'x4' hole gets you a hell of a lot more ventilation than a "large whilry gig". If the smoke was as extensive as you say, then smoke control was definately a priority. A large hole works well for this, most likely in conjunction with positive pressure blower(s) at one or more entry doors.

Plastics generate very toxic smoke when they burn. Perhaps they were taking this into consideration when deciding how aggressively to ventilate.

Good thing they ventilated with a hole in the roof, rather than something else, then.

Yes, smoke will penetrate unless treated properly. There are companies who do post-fire restorations, perhaps they would be of some assistance. It's probably not an area to guess and experiment.

Please don't add to their problems by giving the mistaken impression that the fire department made more of a mess than they had to. It's not fair to the family, or to the fire department. They stopped the house from burning down due to an undetected rekindle.
Dave Hinz
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Check the Journal of Light Construction which had an article on fire restoration just a couple of months ago. Tried to find the issue, but am organizationally challenged.
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