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restoring your home after fire or smoke damage happens

Restoring a property after fire damage requires a systematic and comprehensive approach to ensure safety, mitigate further damage, and restore the property to its pre-loss condition. A thorough assessment of damage should be conducted. This includes assessing water damage from firefighting efforts, any structural damage, documenting heat or fire damage, and checking the extent of soot or smoke damage.

Soot and smoke can infiltrate your HVAC system, affect the safety of your electrical personal contents or home wiring components and even end up behind your drywall. Certain materials can be cleaned, but others must be replaced to effectively remove the smoke odor from your home. Your furnace and HVAC ducting should be inspected and cleaned even after minor smoke damage. Soot is classified as an IARC Group 1 known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization. Ensuring the proper removal of soot in all areas and working components of your home is important for your safety. Soot can also be electrically conductive, resulting in the potential for discharge or short circuit causing further damage or worse, the potential for another fire. It is important to have any compromised electrical components disconnected from power and inspected by a licensed electrician.

Smoke residue is acidic in nature and creates corrosion to metal, glass, plastics, and all types of materials. The heat of a fire opens the pores of materials and drives soot particles deep into the outer layers of the materials affected. Soot, when combined with water or high humidity is exponentially more acidic and the damage it causes is even more aggressive. After thoroughly cleaning or removing soot from the different components of your home, if odor persists an air scrubber, ozone generator or other deodorizing methods should be employed until the odor is gone.

Insurance policies often require the homeowner to take reasonable steps to prevent further damage after your home has been damaged. This is known as your duty to mitigate damages. Firefighting efforts may leave behind water damage and other types of damage to your home. Mitigation of the water damage should be completed immediately after the house has been cleared by the fire department for entry, preventing additional mold and water damage while the fire damage restoration process begins. Any holes in the roof, broken windows or doors should be tarped or boarded up immediately to secure the property.

Removal of the heat and smoke damaged materials could present conditions under which the local building inspector will require you to upgrade your home to current building code regulations. It’s important to be educated about what your insurance policy includes and to know whether you have Law & Ordinance coverage. Law & Ordinance coverage can pay the additional costs associated with required code upgrades. It is advisable to reach out to your insurance company to confirm coverage immediately after a loss.

Documentation is important throughout the restoration process and is something that is often required by your insurance company. A good restoration company will keep detailed records of your home’s damage and restoration progress including photographs, tests, readings, and communication. It is important to note that in Wisconsin there is currently no regulation of fire damage restoration. Making sure you hire a company that knows how to properly restore your home and document the process for your insurance company will help make the process of recovering from a fire less stressful.  

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