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
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.
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"
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>
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"
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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?
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...
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.
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
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.
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