View Full Version : Need help on smoke and soot damage
12-09-2011, 07:20 AM
I am in the process of building a Jericho Bay Lobster Skiff. The strips were on the hull and it had been faired and sanded. I had applied the first layer of cloth (actually using kevlar) that went on very good. The next layer of clear epoxy had been applied to start filling the weave.
I leave the heat off in my shop at night but turn it on early in the morning so it is warm when I start work around 8:30 a.m. I have been using a new kerosun heater as auxiliary heat and turned it on early. The epoxy on the skiff was still tacky but would probably be set enough for another coat by afternoon.
When I opened the shop door about 8:30 a.m. the shop was filled with thick, dense, black smoke. No sign of fire but the top had blown nearly off the kerosun heater and every nook and cranny including the inside of my cabinets were covered with this black soot, including the skiff.
The soot has covered the ceiling, walls and floor and everything in there. Detergent doesn't touch it and I had to use acetone to clean a pair of scissors that I needed. The insurance adjuster will be here this morning to view the damage and will probably recommend a professional cleaning service but we will see. I did just receive an estimate of repainting (after cleaning) of just under $5,000.
By now the epoxy coating is hard and set and the soot has probably adhered to the tacky epoxy. Any idea of how I can resume epoxy coats? It will be hard to sand with only one fill coat but how else to insure adhesion by the next few fill coats? I am also concerned with what the cleaners might use on the boat.
I would greatly appreciate any words of wisdom or suggestions from this wonderful forum.
12-09-2011, 07:39 AM
I have no first hand knowledge of this but I've read that you can't sand kevlar because it just "fuzzes". I would think that you could clean the soot with a mild detergent/ water rinse and keep on with the epoxy. Surely others will be along with there 2 cts.
I would contact the epoxy manufacturer. That's a very unusual situation and I would want input from the formulator of the epoxy before proceeding further. You have the potential for some differing chemicals coming together (I assume that soot is primarily carbon but may have unburnt volatiles in it).
12-09-2011, 09:22 AM
First see whether the soot will wash off with detergent or solvent.
If it doesn't, call your epoxy supplier's tech support.
I lived in Alaska nearly 30 years. I had a Succession of those Kerosine heaters by different Mfg's.
None of them lasted more than the first winter.
Most of the 'used' cheap one's had the wrong fuel in them.
Some said; "Nothing but clean Kerosine" others said; "Number one Diesel ONLY".
The Penalty was a Terrible case of Intermittent operational failures.
I'm just lucky that your situation didn't happen to me. I'd have lost a House and a nice big workshop.
The best suggestion is to contact the Mfg's Tech team.
12-15-2011, 03:25 PM
I would suggest you try using TSP. I use it to clean hulls prior to painting but my mother always used to use it to clean soot off of our fireplace mantle when I was a kid.
It shouldn't affect your epoxy as long as you give it a rinse and allow ample drying time.
12-15-2011, 03:45 PM
Thank you so very much. That is exactly what I will try. I hadn't even thought about it until you mentioned it but it is a splendid idea.
12-15-2011, 03:55 PM
another vote for TSP. Excellent degreaser, and I suspect the soot has a trace of kero in it.
12-15-2011, 05:24 PM
Kero heaters burn down houses here in N.E. Ohio every winter as sure as frostbite and potholes.
I'd recommend finding some other way to heat the shop after it's all cleaned up.
12-15-2011, 11:16 PM
I have some close personal experience with this problem and I'm afraid nothing I know about the situation is good. Many years ago my room mate burned up a TV and we spent a week trying to get the wood work (much less the walls) clean. Can't be done. Just had to paint over it. My parents had a fire in one of the bedrooms and everything on that floor and above got smoked. Most of the furniture was a total loss by smoke alone; we even had to get a new bath tub! This is an area where modern man is not triumphant. In my experience you need all the heavy duty help you can get immediately because it will be needed and likely none too helpful IAC. I'd try to use the insurance people to drill through to some real high-end restoration techs who have BTDT. Finding the skilled people may not be easy and you have only a few days during which the insurance people will be interested in (helping) you.
Soot is _extremely_ hard to remove. You also want to get it off as quickly as possible because the chemicals involved are often corrosive and act on and meld with the surface.
Here are some ideas if you run out. You could put oven cleaner on the radar. I think that _might_ work but didn't ever try it; might depend on getting it on/off in a certain limited time window to reduce damage to the under lying material. If hand washing doesn't work you might consider pressure washing.
Be sure not to sign any waivers or _anything_ which might preclude getting some reimbursement for your boat. Or better, getting the boat fully cleaned by high end professionals who will declare in writing exactly what processes and chemicals they use. Also, re. your building, _every_ surface which got soot and which contacts air you breath has to be sealed with a top quality sealer from Zin or Kilz. That includes all the trusses and surfaces above the shop, all storage, all crawl spaces, all exposed surfaces of any kind. If you don't open the walls, then you must seal (caulk) all air leaks in/out of the walls (because there is a very high probability that the soot got into the walls). The soot STINKS and if you don't seal everything totally, you'll smell it for 10 years; it's also not real healthy.
12-16-2011, 10:50 AM
I had this happen! But not as bad sounds like. Damn kerosene heater did not fully extinquish the wick the night before. Don't trust the extinquish mechanism on those things. It smoldered for a lot of the night and made a smoky mess. I didn't have much soot buildup so I didn't worry about it.
12-16-2011, 11:35 AM
This wasn't a kero fire, so this advice might not apply.
I was working for a dealer commissioning an early Hans Christian 36 on which we had a bilge fire. Soot damage and smell were awful. I dealt with the small bits of charred wood, and the owner of the dealership showed up when I was done with a fogger and a gallon bottle of chemical. When I finished, we cranked up the fogger, closed up the boat, and knocked off for the night.
In the morning, the smell was ALMOST gone, and the soot cleaned up easily with TSP. A second fogging, a good cleaning with scented detergent, and 2 weeks later the owner took delivery, none the wiser.
I'm sorry, I have no memory of what the chemical was and I have no idea if anything like this will help with a kerosene fire, but it might be worth a search.
12-16-2011, 12:41 PM
I'm not at work right now, so I can't go get the bottle and tell you exactly what the name is, but if you call your local firefighter's equipment supply house they will have the name.
We use a relatively mild chemical to clean our kevlar/thermoplastic helmets that the smoke just wipes clean. It takes a minute or two of saturation, but bear in mind the soot you're dealing with is low temp, moderate density and the stuff our helmets are exposed to ranges from light to extremely dense, and temps up to 500F. This is baked on, post cured smoke, and it comes right off.
"Spokaloo" sounds like he knows what he's talking about. TSP is a very good cleaner, and if the problem is residual hydrocarbon (kerosene) then perhaps naptha or benzene would work. In terms of degreasing, the best stuff in my experience is "Perc" dry cleaning fluid, which is also sold at auto parts store as "Brakleen" or "Electric cleaner." They are really good degreasers. All of those products are not i the least bit good for you-I think that they are actually known carcinogens, so take utmost precautions.
The advice to check with the Mfr sounds logical, although they sometimes seem to be either playing it very close to the chest, or adopting the "no worries, mate!" attitude.
I tend to rely on mechanical abrasion to deal with these problems. The contamination isn't likely to extend more than a couple of mils below the survace, and that is what god put 24 grit sanding discs on earth for...
that said, I'd apply some test blobs of epoxy onto the surfce, let them kick, and then see if they cure fully, and adhere properly.
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