Grandma’s Heirlooms Are Damaged In House Fire, Then Kind Neighbor Totally Restores Them

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Fire is devastating, and often, it seems like there’s no way back once something is damaged from it. And even if something doesn’t get burned away, the thick, black, gritty layer of smoke residue makes many people think that a piece of smoke damaged furniture is beyond hope.

But if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease, you can take a blackened and sooty piece of wooden furniture, and restore it to its former glory, giving it a new lease on life.

In fact, it’s really amazing how many sad, falling-apart things can make a full recovery thanks to some intrepid people seeing the beauty hidden under the damage and grime.

While restoring furniture takes time and effort, but it also means that something gets a second chance, and gets saved from the landfill. And that means that one less thing goes to waste and becomes trash.

And sometimes it’s not just about saving an item, but saving a memory.

That was what inspired Instructables user Wells1784. His neighbor had a house fire and they sadly lost many possessions before the firefighters could put out the flames.

In addition, many other possessions were heavily damaged, including some old wooden furniture that had belonged to the woman’s grandmother.

Seeing her put these pieces out for trash collection, Wells1784 kindly offered to restore them for her, and let her grandmother’s furniture live on.

[H/T: Instructables]

smoke damaged nightstand

When Instrucatbles user wells1784 saw his neighbor hauling smoke-damaged furniture out to the trash following a house fire, he immediately wanted to help.

He knew these pieces, a buffet, a nightstand, and a dresser, had belonged to his neighbor’s grandmother, and that they had sentimental value.

So he did what good neighbors do: he offered to help.

smoke damaged dresser

After inspecting the furniture, he found that the damage was from smoke, not fire, which was good.

Smoke damage was ugly and smelly, but it meant that the furniture wouldn’t have any structural damage, and could be salvaged.

smoke damaged furniture

But it wasn’t going to be easy. The smoke damage was heavy.

On the buffet, you can see where objects on top had prevented the smoke damage from setting in underneath.

It also makes you really see just how heavy the smoke damage was.

smoke damaged furniture

And it wasn’t just the outside. The smoke managed to get inside the drawers, too.

This was going to be a big job.

restoring smoke damaged furniture materials

Wells1784 used furniture refinisher specifically for older wooden pieces, as well as steel wool, an orbital sander, and a heat gun for removing pieces of melted plastic.

He was also sure to use gloves and face protection, as the dust and fumes can be harmful.

smoke damaged furniture prep

After gearing up in protective gear, he soaked the steel wool in furniture refinisher fore a few minutes.

restoring smoke damaged furniture

And then it was time for the elbow grease. Lots of it.

While he had to rub a lot, wells1784 said that he didn’t have to rub very hard to start lifting the smoke stains out of the wood.

He rubbed with the grain to prevent scratching, and used a rag to mop up the black residue.

restoring smoke damaged furniture

When he was done with each piece, he let it air dry for about 15 minutes. You can already see the difference.

restoring smoke damaged furniture, waxing

After the smoke damage had been removed, wells1784 gave the furniture a coat of wax to bring out the color and luster of the wood, and to keep it safe.

smoke damaged nightstand, after

You would never know this nightstand had been through a house fire.

smoke damaged dresser, after

And the dresser looks great, too.

smoke damaged buffet, before and after

He’s still working on the buffet, which had the heaviest damage, but you can see how much progress has already been made.

Smoke damage looks terrible, but it’s not the end. With some work, and maybe the help of a kind neighbor, beloved pieces can get a second chance.

SHARE this restoration project with anyone who loves to see things get a new lease on life!