Restoring your home after fire damage
The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that over 20,000 civilians are injured or killed by fires each year, with about 80 percent of those fires occurring in private residences. The resulting fire damage to property is measured in the tens of billions of dollars, leaving the victims with the burden of rebuilding and restoring damaged property. Fire damage restoration can be a long and involved process, but consulting the right sources beforehand is the key to minimizing your losses.
Assessing the Damage
Fires at homes and businesses are usually caused by flammable materials, gas leaks or faulty electrical wiring. Smoke and heat can worsen the damage by leaving odors, stains and warped furniture, while water damage typically occurs when the fire is put out. The type and severity of the fire will determine whether the damage is limited to the property inside the building or whether its structure is also affected.
The fire department will decide if the building is stable enough to allow entry for recovery of possessions, and they'll also perform a more detailed home inspection. Fire inspections may also be performed by insurance agents or hired fire restoration companies, and these professionals will assess the extent of the damage and determine whether or not the property can be salvaged. Many fire restoration companies offer to complete damage reports, take photos and prepare all correspondence materials for the insurance company as part of their services, which is extremely beneficial when filing claims.
The Restoration Process
If paying for a complete fire restoration is too expensive, it is possible to undertake a portion of the cleanup on your own. You should always consult a professional as a starting point, though, to ensure you know exactly how property has been affected and how best to clean up. The first task is to remove any standing water that's collected to prevent the growth of mold. You can rent special vacuum cleaners to assist you with this. Before you start, it is also important to turn your home's gas lines off as an added precaution.
Smoke and heat affect the various materials in your home differently, and they will suffer further damage if handled improperly. Soft materials such as rugs, curtains, clothing and upholstery absorb odors and collect soot, which should be cleared away before cleaning begins. There are many commercial products specifically designed for fire damage restoration, such as chemical deodorants and steam-cleaning detergents.
For slightly porous materials like sealed wood, water and basic cleansers may suffice. Hard, porous surfaces, such as walls, can be wiped down with a dry chemical sponge, treated with disinfectant and left to air out. While professional fire damage repair may include ozone generators or thermal fogging to permanently remove odors, you may not be able to remove smoke odors completely using your own ventilation methods.
A quality restoration company will work to remove mildew and dangerous bacteria left behind after the fire. If you're doing your own fire restoration, take special care to ensure you completely and safely remove all bacteria and mildew. Also, be sure to have all wastes and hazardous materials removed immediately and disposed of properly to reduce safety risks. You can store salvaged items away from the accident site or make arrangements for the restoration company to do so. The most important thing is to correct the hazards that led to the fire in the first place so you're protected in the future.