Soot Damage is generally referred to as Furnace "Puffback". Most people have never heard of a puffback. A puffback, or delayed ignition, occurs when your furnace or oil burner malfunctions. Atomized oil is delivered to the combustion chamber but is not immediately ignited. In the more severe cases, when the oil finally does ignite, it causes an "explosion" in the firebox, which rapidly fills up your basement with smoke. The color of the smoke can range from dark gray to black, depending on how much soot has been shaken loose from the burner. If it is not attended to quickly, the smoke and soot can spread throughout your entire home or building. More often than not, however, a puffback occurs gradually, over time, before you ever realize your furnace or burner is malfunctioning.
Determining if a puffback has occurred:
A puffback can display itself in various ways – some are easier to detect than others. In the more serious cases, soot will cover a majority or all of your home or business and may range from light to very heavy. If the soot is light and fine, you may at first think it is just ordinary dust. However, this "dust" reappears hours after being cleaned. Or you may notice "soot webs" - these look a lot like cobwebs, but are darker in color. And there may be a strong odor of oil present. In other instances, the contamination may be very subtle and occur over an extended period of time. These types of puffbacks are not immediately detectable. You may start to notice soot on your hands after touching walls or flat surfaces, or see streaking after cleaning an area. Either way, the longer the soot is left on surfaces or furnishings, the greater the damage, resulting in a more expensive insurance claim and more extensive clean-up procedures.