clean/repair fire damaged frames????


Feb 20, 2003
A client asked me if I could clean and/or repair some slightly damaged wood frames. Small house fire; soot and a bit of melted wax? It is not in her budget to replace the frames. Any suggestions for cleaning methods or products? (of course I told her that I would consult with other industry professionals before I started on the project ... just in case the project seemed tooooo much hassle!)
If they are not char-broiled, just sooty and such, I would just wipe them down with Old English, Red (scratch hiding). Get at grocery stores every where.

Have a few antique dealers who refer to it as Baer's Magic Oil. $10 per frame, and don't forget to charge for an "un-fitting" and a "fitting".
Is the customer asking for an estimate? If so watch out, I got sucked into this little scam several years ago.

I investing a couple of hours inspecting fire damaged photo albums and delivering a written estimate for copy and restoration services. Grateful customer but no sale!

Turns out that its common for people to run up the damages from a fire so the insurance pays more.

You should get paid for providing an insurance estimate, you can always refund the amount if you get the job.

My first question to the customer would have been, "If replacement of the frames isn't in your 'budget', how much do you have in your 'budget' for repairs?" I don't know of anyone who plans fire damage into any budget. Maybe that was a loose term used to identify her finances at this time, eh? That would be good information to have before investing your&nbsptime in a comprehensive estimate.

Good luck and watch your back on this one.

We worked with a fire clean up person to open some frames and see if we could salvage any of them. The good old sun is the only thing to get rid of the smell.

We thought we had cleaned them good but the color of wood mouldings just never actually came back. Most of them have sat in storage for several years. The cleaning time if we had charged for it properly would have been more than a new frame. It is just not worth it.

I suppose if you are a smoker you won't mind the smell as much. This reformed smoker can't stand it.
I've always welcomed fire restoration jobs if it is through a fire restoration company. It can be very (and I do mean "very") profitable.

Each job is a little different depending on the damage and what is being repaired. Mostly it is cleaning of oils, re-varnishing, wiping down the frames with various products, reframing severely damaged frames, fitting, refitting, new mats, etc. Usually 10 - 50 pieces.

I like the idea of charging for an estimate fully applicable to the work if working with an individual. If you work with a fire restoration company and develop an on-going relationship, estimates are not necessary. Insurance generally pays the bill and the fire restoration company pays you upon pick-up or delivery.

Don't refuse the good work, just realize that there can be quite a bit of soot, smell, etc. and you must prep your shop for the dirt and clean up afterwards. Of course this is billable time too.

Dave Makielski