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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

What is a Furnace Puffback, Anyway?

1/29/2019 (Permalink)

When fumes build up in a furnace due to a malfunction, a puffback can occur, which can leave a fine layer of soot throughout your Newtown home.

Many people have not heard of the term puffback until they have experienced one, as was the case with a recent job at a Bethel home that we restored.

The homeowner came home from shopping and noticed what appeared to be black grease on her countertops. It didn't take long for her to realize that there was a major problem in the home. There was a fine layer of black soot on her floors, cabinets and walls throughout several rooms of the house. A trip to the basement confirmed that the problem originated at the furnace. The homeowner called in her service professional, who informed her she had experienced a furnace puffback. 

What is a puffback and why does it happen?

A puffback occurs when the oil burner malfunctions. This can be because the burner doesn’t ignite immediately and a buildup of fumes causes an explosion similar to that of a car backfiring.  Puff backs can also happen when debris builds up and causes an explosion when the boiler turns on.   In either case, the explosion sends soot and debris through the furnace or boilers exhaust system and into your home. In our experience, the soot tends to be more widespread in forced hot air systems as the heating ducts spread the soot with same efficiency that they spread air throughout the home.

A puffback leaves a fine layer of oil based soot on all of the surfaces of a home. This includes hard surfaces such as floors, walls and furniture as well as soft furnishings such as curtains, bedding, clothing and carpeting. In fact, because it is literally blasted throughout your house, the soot manages to find its way into every nook and cranny.

What are the signs that you've had a puffback?

You may first notice a black sticky film on your countertops and then realize that it is widespread throughout your home. Some homeowners will see what appears to be black spiderwebs in the corners of your rooms - this is a common way the soot collects and settles.

How are puffbacks cleaned up?

Attempts to remove the soot will prove futile and possibly make the damage worse. Because of its oil based nature, the residue left after a puffback requires professional restoration. The SERVPRO of Newtown and Southern Litchfield County team is experienced, trained and equipped to properly clean your home and it’s contents of oil and soot. The good news is that puffbacks are typically covered under your homeowners insurance policy. When you experience a puffback, call your oil burner specialist, your insurance agent and our office at (203) 743-5362 for immediate service.

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