No one wants to imagine the possibility of a fire damaging their home. But fires do happen, and they often leave major devastation in their wake.
A fire can quickly rip through a home, causing severe structural damage. After the initial shock of a fire wears off, it’s important to consider your next steps. Fortunately, you may be able to hire a fire damage restoration service to help you with repairs and clean-up.
Fire damage restoration services address the issues of fire and smoke damage. They are equipped to handle a variety of situations, although notably, not every company can deal with every type of situation. You’ll want to choose carefully when selecting a fire damage restoration service.
So how does it work? After performing an initial assessment, members of the company’s service team will divulge a plan to safely restore your living space. Some companies will even help you stow your undamaged items while clean-up takes place.
The BestReviews team has put together a detailed guide to help you through the process of cleaning and restoring your home post-fire. Below, you’ll find information on the restoration process itself, questions to ask when looking for a company to help you, and a variety of other helpful tips.
Don't attempt to use any appliances that may have been affected by the fire until a certified technician has checked them.
Fire damage clean-up and restoration is an intensive process that begins immediately after a blaze has occurred. Many restoration services will respond in tandem with your local fire department to ensure the process of picking up the pieces begins in a timely fashion.
After determining that the location is safe for workers, the initial phase of clean-up begins. The contents of the home are evaluated, and any items that haven’t been damaged are safely relocated. An assessment is done to determine the extent of the damage and what kinds of repairs and restoration services are needed.
Deep cleaning will likely be needed to deal with smoke damage and ash remnants. Smoke damage is difficult for laypersons to assess, but strong odors provide a clue as to how much smoke has infiltrated the home. Mandatory environmental testing is also a part of the process at this point.
Look for a fire damage and restoration company with IICRC certification. These companies will be the most qualified for the tasks at hand.
If you have been the victim of a fire, you’re probably in a hurry to hire a fire restoration company. That’s understandable and wise; it’s important to deal with this kind of situation promptly. But don’t forget to ask these important questions before hiring a provider.
Find out if the company has the appropriate certifications to be doing what they’re doing. Ask about the kinds of experiences they’ve had in the past with similar situations, and don’t be afraid to inquire about the knowledge and know-how the employees have.
Some companies have partnerships with local fire departments and will work with them to investigate the source of the fire. Other support services may include boarding up the property to protect it from looters and vandals.
In addition to support services, some companies happily offer to help you store your undamaged furniture and other goods. This ensures that your belongings are protected while the damage is addressed.
The length of the clean-up and restoration process depends on the extent of the damage involved. It also depends, to some degree, on the experience of the company’s crew. Ask about a timeframe. They may not be able to give you an exact date of completion, but a ballpark date may help you wrap your head around things during a stressful time.
Make sure the company you’re communicating with can handle the type of fire damage you’ve experienced, has an established clean-up process, and uses up-to-date methods to deal with smoke infiltration and odors.
After you and yours are safe, there are some steps you can take before hiring a fire damage service company or before a crew arrives.
Once you know it is safe to go inside your home, wipe off any houseplants on both sides of the leaves to remove any smoke or ash residue.
Most fire restoration companies are very knowledgeable when it comes to fires and how they start. Some companies will work directly with fire departments to pinpoint the fire’s cause.
The fire restoration company will determine how much damage has occurred before jumping into the clean-up and repair process. Assessing the amount of overall damage helps determine what steps should occur next.
Cost of Replacement vs. Cost of Restoration
The fire restoration company will weigh the pros and cons of replacement versus restoration. Replacing the items and materials in your home may be necessary if the damage is too severe to salvage them.
Sentimental Value of Items
A good company will work with you to ensure that items of sentimental value are taken care of. They will provide you with options for repair and restoration so you can potentially keep items of emotional value.
Usability of Items
Determining whether damaged items are still able to be used is another part of the evaluation process. A piece of burnt furniture will most certainly need to be replaced, but something that has only been singed may still be usable.
Extent of Smoke Damage
Evaluating the amount of smoke damage in a home is one of the most important parts of the process. Smoke damage is difficult for non-experts to assess, as it can infiltrate deep into the building materials of a home. More smoke damage necessitates a more intense cleaning process.
Even small localized fires can cause damage elsewhere in your home. Smoke can travel and embed itself away from the fire site.
The greater the level of damage, the longer the restoration process will take. More damage also means higher associated costs. A fire restoration service company will be able to evaluate and assess the total amount of smoke contamination, residue left by the fire, and whether your home’s structure has been compromised
In a home with minor fire damage, smoke contamination is limited, minimal cleaning is required (walls, ceilings, floors, etc.), and repainting is probably needed.
In a home with moderate fire damage, there is a moderate amount of smoke contamination and a fair amount of heat damage. Smoke odor permeates the home. Extensive odor neutralization and cleaning is required.
In a home with major fire damage, the structural damage and smoke contamination is severe. Odor neutralization is required, and the home will likely need to be boarded up.
When you do the laundry, don’t forget to clean your lint trap. Clothes dryers with clogged lint traps are a common source of home fires.
It’s likely that your selected fire restoration company will be able to help you with the insurance process. The best way to ensure your claim goes through without trouble is to alert your provider right away that a fire has occurred and document everything thoroughly. That said, you should be aware that not all fire damage may be covered under your insurance policy.
On the low end of the pricing scale, fire restoration can cost as little as $700, but that’s for minimal damage. Generally, the range is from $2,500 to $16,000. Restoration costs can rise as high as $80,000 for severe fire damage.
Waiting to deal with fire damage is a recipe for disaster. The sooner you start the restoration process, the less chance you’ll have of dealing with more problems down the road.
Here are a few things that could happen if you don’t deal with fire damage in a timely manner.
Sniff sniff. The faint odor of smoke may be a sign that your house has not been properly cleaned post-fire.
Some people make some big blunders after a fire that they later regret. For the best outcome, avoid the following mistakes when dealing with the aftermath of a fire.
What can you do to minimize your chances of a house or apartment fire? Follow these tips for smart fire prevention.
It’s a good idea to throw out any food items after a fire. Even canned goods can become damaged and unsafe to eat.
Q. What are some potential causes of fires?
A. There are a variety of ways that fires can start in your home. Knowing the potential sources of a blaze will help you recognize hazards before they become dangerous. Lit candles, children playing with matches, improperly extinguished cigarettes, and the improper storage of flammable materials could all lead to fire. Heating systems sometimes malfunction, causing a fire to break out. Kitchen fires are common, as they are electrically caused fires. And of course, there is the possibility of arson.
Q. What can I do to prevent a fire from occurring?
A. Be cautious about leaving burning candles, hot stovetops, and other flammables unattended. Clean your oven periodically, have your HVAC system serviced regularly, and use appliances like outdoor BBQs appropriately. Store matches and flammable materials out of reach of children, and make sure children understand the dangers of playing with these hazardous items.
Q. Will my insurance pay for fire damage repair services?
A. This depends on the insurance policy you hold. It’s always a good idea to be aware of the limitations and exclusions of your home insurance policy beforehand to avoid surprises. Call your provider now to find out whether you’re covered in the event of a fire, accidental or otherwise.
Q. Can I deal with fire damage without help?
A. This would be ill-advised, as it could be unsafe. There may be hazardous debris in your home after a fire. Your house may be structurally unsound, and there may be health risks associated with visiting the fire site.
Q. How quickly should I deal with fire damage?
A. Deal with fire damage as soon as possible. Like water infiltration, fire damage can have lasting effects that worsen over time.
Q. How long will it take to deal with fire damage?
A. The answer to this question depends heavily on your situation and the amount of overall damage sustained. Ask your chosen fire restoration service if they can give you a time frame of when the work will be completed.
Q. There’s not much damage at all. Should I still hire a cleaning service?
A. Yes. It’s likely that unseen smoke damage has permeated your home. A smoky smell is a definite sign that you need an inspection at the very least.
Q. Why do fire clean-up services also offer water clean-up after a fire?
A. Unfortunately, the act of putting out a fire may damage your property even further. Most good fire clean-up services will be able to deal with water damage as well.
It’s not a good idea to tackle fire restoration without the help of an expert. Fire is a force all on its own, and the damage left in its wake can be tricky to deal with. Smoke damage, ash, soot residue, and smoky odors are all difficult to get rid of without the proper equipment and expertise.
Professional fire damage service workers are equipped to evaluate the structural integrity of your home. They have the tools to measure air quality to ensure it’s safe to breathe inside.
There is also the fact that, after a fire in your home, you are likely to be feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Let the experts shoulder the burden of cleaning and restoring your home so you can tend to other matters.