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What unknown risks lurk in your property, in the ceilings, walls, attic or basement?

When you are buying a home there are always unknown or hidden risks, that’s why people hire a home inspector. Even a home inspection can miss mold and fire damage.

We came across a nice home that someone was buying. Everything looked brand new. Well, the house was purchase by a builder. The house had a fire a few years back and the contractor saw an opportunity to fix it up and resell it. The contractor gutted the house of all sheet rock and insulation, they then installed new sheet rock and painted. It looked great but after further investigation there was still an odor from the fire and also mold.

IRS-Restoration does fire damage, water damage and mold remediation services. The buyer asked us to assess the home to determine if it can be cleaned up. We initially were focused on the smoke odor but then the home inspector found mold in the basement.

These issues were brought to the sellers attention. The buyer wanted credit for the cleanup. The builder really didn’t want to give credit, they said they would hire a mold contractor to spray for mold in the basement and didn’t do anything for the smoke odor.

Fire/Smoke Odor

There was smoke odor in the center part of the house, the primary location of the fire. The odor was strong on the first floor and in the attic. In the attic there was some charred wood and insulation; these are primary reservoirs of smoke odors.

fire and smoke damage fire and smoke damage

Fire Damage and Smoke Odor Cleanup Procedures:

  1. Remove source materials such as impacted drywall and insulation
  2. Address charred wood by scraping, sanding or bead-blasting
  3. Cleaning: HEPA vacuuming, hand cleaning with detergents or chem sponges
  4. Deodorize: use ionizing devices such as Hydroxyl or Ozone machines, sometimes fogging
  5. Seal Surfaces: apply a smoke counteractant sealer or coatings formulated for smoke damage

IRS cleaned the attic; we sent in a crew to put down plywood and lights, removed remaining insulation, HEPA vacuumed, sanded charred wood, cleaned and then sealed the wood with an odor encapsulant.

fire damage remediation 

Sanding the charred wood & vacuuming the attic

fire damage remediation 

After cleanup and encapsulated

** The smoke odor cleaning procedures mentioned above work well when you have access to all surfaces but if there are surfaces that were covered with new materials, the smoke odor can linger for months or years. Typically, the odors will be more prevalent when it gets warm and humid and can return if there are hidden sources. We recommend a follow up visit during the summer months to assess for any lingering odors.

Mold and Fire Damage

When there is a fire there is always water damage. If the fire is significant and the house gets boarded up with no power or no mitigation performed, the wet building will get moldy. In this case the builder stated that they gutted the home of all drywall and insulation, installed new framing; but did not remove and replace the sub-flooring. They did not clean, they just installed new drywall on the ceiling, not seeing the mold that was there.

mold growth in basement mold growth in basement

Heavy mold growth in the ceilings of the basement

The builder/seller was informed of the mold in the ceilings before closing the deal. The buyer requested that the mold be remediated. The builder hired a company, a so-called mold remediation company to treat the mold. The company came in and fogged the ceiling cavities with a chemical.

That’s it and they said it was treated. The mold was still there after the treatment. Looked exactly the same as before. You call that mold remediation, I don’t.

We explained that that is not the proper mold remediation methods. They should have cleaned this mold before they installed the new drywall because that drywall needs to come out so it can be properly cleaned. You can’t just fog it.

Here is how mold should be remediated:

Standard Mold Remediation Procedures

  1. Dust Control/Contain the work area, use plastic barriers to isolate areas
  2. Install HEPA air filtration device to exhaust air out of the work area, creating an air flow so that dust or mold does not leave the work area. This cleans the air and controls the dust
  3. Protect floor and contents with plastic
  4. Remove the drywall to access the ceiling, bag and dispose of waste debris
  5. Cleaning Step1: detailed HEPA vacuum all accessible surfaces to remove gross debris and mold
  6. Cleaning Step2: apply antimicrobial cleaning agent, scrub and wipe down surfaces
  7. Let areas dry, inspect and repeated Cleaning Steps 1&2 as needed.
  8. Clean all surfaces in work area, wipe down plastic and clean floor
  9. Encapsulate the exposed wood with antimicrobial coating to lock down and protect the wood.
    ** Encapsulant/coatings aren’t always needed but its good protection for mold in humid areas like basements or crawlspaces.

basement before basement before

Basement before remediation – remember there is a lot of mold in those ceilings

basement before basement after

Basement before & after (white encapsulated)

stairs before stairs after

Mold under stairs before (exposed wood) & after (white encapsulated)

Oh, yeah we found some mold hidden in the walls of the basement stairs. The drywall around the stairs got wet from the fire. The builder said he replaced all the drywall. Well, he didn’t.

mold and fire restoration


What are you buying with your house?

Ask questions and do your due diligence;

What’s the history of the house house? Was there any renovations? How old is the house?

Is there any asbestos or lead paint (pre 1980 homes)?

Was there any water damage or flooding events?

Is there an oil tank or was there fuel oil used in the past? There may be a tank or contamination in the ground.

Get a good home inspection and get a mold expert to follow-up inspection and testing.

You may need a remediation contractor to get estimates for costs before closing the deal.

At IRS, we don’t do the testing but we can help with most cleanup work, such as odor removal, mold remediation and underground tank removals.

Just ask, if we can’t do it, we have resources and know how to get help.

Being in business for over 35 years, we have seen a lot of things and helped a lot of people.

Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff. Services include mold removal, water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, flood damage cleanup, smoke damage remediation, and biohazard remediation. Insurance Restoration Specialists is led by Certified Industrial Hygienist Thomas Peter.