When a fire occurs in a home, the aftermath can seem overwhelming, and if fire restoration is postponed, the destruction from smoke damage can become even worse. The longer you wait to address the damage, the more repairs you’ll have to fix – which means you’ll most likely have a larger bill for damages when all is said and done. You can avoid costly repairs and long-term issues if you make fire damage restoration a priority and follow the steps you’ll need to get your home back to normal as soon as possible.
Contact a Fire Damage Restoration Service
First, and foremost – and this is the most important step – find a fire restoration contractor who can assess the damage, give you an estimate on costs and start the cleanup process. Contact your home insurance company to make them aware of the fire and ask them for referrals for reliable businesses in your area. It’s essential that you enlist the help of a licensed and insured fire damage restoration company to reduce the risk of further damage to your home. They are trained to handle this type of damage and many will perform some of the following steps to help get you through the initial fire cleanup:
- Smoke and fire damage restoration services will try to save as many of your home and personal belongings (such as appliances, furniture and clothing) as they can.
- Document everything they remove from your home by taking pictures and/or keeping written records.
- Return any salvageable furniture and appliances back to your home, after the fire restoration is complete.
- Work quickly and carefully to get you back in your home as soon as possible, and stay in contact with you to make sure the repairs were done correctly and your home isn’t experiencing any other problems.
Be sure to go through your home insurance company when hiring a fire damage restoration service, or do a thorough background check if you choose one on your own to make sure they are licensed and insured. Be wary of “fire chasing” contractors who target victims of house fires and pressure them into signing expensive repair contracts, perform extremely low-quality repair work and might not be licensed or insured.
Start Fire Cleanup Right Away
While it’s best to have a qualified fire restoration company handle the smoke damage restoration, there are some small tasks you can do to help minimize the initial damage before the professionals come in to do the major cleanup. Remember that safety comes first, so if there’s no way to safely gain access into your home, then stay out until the professionals arrive. If it is possible to enter your house, make sure you’re wearing work gloves, long sleeves/pants, and proper respiratory protection, such as a mask because exposure to soot can cause respiratory problems and other medical issues.
- VENTILATION – Open all the windows and air out the house as much (and as often) as possible. Use box fans to force out dust and contaminated air. Fire damage restoration professionals will use industrial-strength fans and other air-moving equipment to help reduce the smoke damage your home has been subjected to, but in the meantime, proper ventilation is key to helping remove a lot of the polluted (and unsafe) air.
- CLEANING – Scrub all surfaces (and inside cabinets and drawers) with soap and water. You can also use an alkaline cleaner, which neutralizes the acid that’s found in soot to help cut down on the smoky smell. Counteractants—chemicals used to break up smoke molecules to eliminate odors—may be used, but it’s best left to the professionals to handle such products.
- LAUNDRY – Wash all bedding, clothing, curtains and items that can be machine washed with an alkaline cleaner (you may have to wash items more than once). Delicate fabrics will need to be professionally dry cleaned by someone who is familiar with articles that have smoke damage. Only use washers and dryers that haven’t been exposed to smoke or experienced significant fire damage.
Professional smoke removal and restoration companies will perform a thorough cleanup using industrial-grade products and equipment, such as dry cleaning soot sponges to remove loose soot and specialized vacuum filters to clean carpet and upholstery.
Prolonged Smoke Damage
Fire damage is tricky because some signs are apparent—such as discoloration on walls and ceilings and dark stains from smoke on surfaces—but others are not, such as odors trapped in hidden places. Air conditioner vents, the space behind walls and the outside walls of your home are all areas where ash and soot can be deposited and continue to cause damage if they aren’t taken care of in a timely manner.
Make sure to have the HVAC system, attic/roof, and exterior walls inspected and properly cleaned, too, because your home will continue to suffer from smoke damage until the soot is completely removed by a fire damage restoration service.