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Tub Refinisher Causes Apartment Fire

You’re busy. You have another tub to get done today and you’re running late. What do you do? Maybe skip a safety measure or two to save a few minutes? Think again.

Recently in San Diego, a refinisher wasn’t using a fume exhaust system and caused an explosion, rocking an apartment building. The explosion and fire were caused by buildup of vapors ignited by the refinisher’s electrical equipment.  The 2-alarm file resulted in $300,000 in damages and displaced 20 – 25 residents of the apartment building. The refinisher went to the hospital with burns on his arms. A police officer was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation. A resident of the building also went to the hospital complaining of dizziness and shortness of breath. A total of 60 firefighters were sent to fight the fire.

Tub Refinisher Causes Fire

What caused this? Either the refinisher didn’t know about the potential dangers or he decided not to take appropriate precautions.  It is very important to learn about, and follow, all safety rules surrounding refinishing. Let’s review some basics.

Many of the chemicals involved in the refinishing business are flammable, even explosive. Sparks, pilot lights, cigarettes, even heat guns must be kept away from fumes. How do you do that? With a fume exhauster, properly placed outside of the room in which you are spraying. The motor on most exhausters is not explosion proof. That means placing it in a room full of solvent gas may cause a fire or explosion. It must be placed in another room.

I’ve had at least two experienced refinishers relay scary stories about fires. They were properly using a fume exhauster but introduced a heat source before the exhauster had enough time to clear the room of fumes. In both cases, the tub had just been wiped down with a hot solvent. One refinisher used a heat gun, the other an electric sander. In both cases…boom! A mini-explosion ensued. One actually cracked the bathroom window. Both refinishers suffered minor burns to their face and were very lucky they weren’t more seriously hurt.

The lesson is: always follow proper safety measures. All precautions are printed on the labels. I know it’s a lot to read, but it is worth it to make sure you are safe.

Purchase a Blowhard Complete Fume Exhauster from NAPCO here.

More information about the fire in San Diego can be found here.


Meet Mike Ripp, head of training at NAPCO As NAPCO’s head of training and tech support, Mike Ripp has taught one of the best hands-on classes on refinishing bathtubs for people in the trade. Having trained refinishers around the world for over 35 years, countless tradesmen who take Mike’s classes have watched their income grow dramatically.

Simon Newton

Simon Newton, head of training at NAPCO. Simon has been involved in the refinishing business for over 25 years and brings a wealth of experience to his position. During that time he trained franchise owners and employees, as well as providing technical support. He built a wealth of real-world experience managing refinishing crews that provided both residential and commercial services. Simon is knowledgeable about all aspects of the business including practical application, trouble shooting and running a refinishing business.

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