Hiding the Smell of Fire
Q: How can I get rid of that charred smell in our old house?
After a fire in our 1889 home, the insurance company told us to gut the house. I'd like to keep the original framing. Is there a way to seal the wood so that there won't be any lingering odor?
—Aneta Buffington, Monroeville, Ind.
Kevin O'Connor replies: About 10 years ago, TOH magazine ran a story about a fire-damaged old house. In that case, developer Chubb Whitten and gave the burned wood a three-step treatment. "We removed as much of the char as we could with wire brushes and scrapers," says Whitten. Then they lightly sandblasted the damaged areas. All structurally compromised lumber was replaced, but they sprayed shellac on any blackened wood to encapsulate the sooty odor.
Whitten lived in the house for eight years after the rehabilitation and says he never smelled smoke during that time. That's a pretty good recommendation for the method he used.