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Dry-Ice Blasting to Restore Fire Damage

Outdoor house fires account for more than $30 million in property damage each year. The leading cause is barbeque grills too close to the house. To simulate such a disaster, we torched our patio with war-grade flamethrowers.

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Our patio fire was ignited with a war-grade flamethrower. Because it was a very hot, quick burn, most of the patio’s beams and framework were not structurally compromised. Before you repair a structure that has acquired fire damage, you must have a professional assess what is restorable. They will check the framework and beams for heavy charring or cracks. If heavily damaged, these sections will need to be replaced.

When repairing interior fire damage, an ozone generator can be used to neutralize the smoke odor.

Fire restoration is one of the most difficult DIY fixes. Getting a structure to look and smell like it did pre-fire is a daunting task. Plus, trying to determine if a wood structure is sound can be almost impossible if it is heavily charred. One technique that can remove char while maintaining the substrate is called dry-ice blasting. It can only be done by professionals. To do this, they use recycled-industrial carbon-dioxide (known as RICE) pellets that are kept at a constant 115-degrees Fahrenheit. The pellets are fed into a hopper then an air compressor pushes the pellets out of a long barrel onto the damaged sections. The force of the pellets is similar to sand blasting. As the pellets hit the burnt areas they sublimate, turning from a solid to a gas and expanding about 800 times in volume acting like thousands of micro-explosions on the surface. This strips away the char while salvaging the underlying substrate.

After dry ice blasting, the burnt area can be evaluated and determined if it needs to be replaced or can be repaired. If it can be repaired, a fire restoration expert will paint the area with a primer/sealant. This will encapsulate and seal the smoke smell, while simultaneously acting as a primer that will allow new paint to be applied. An alternative to dry-ice blasting is sanding the damaged wood down to remove the char and then proceeding with a primer/sealant. However, sanding can be very time consuming and the structure still may need to be replaced.

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