What Is Needed for Fire Damage Restoration

November 7, 2018

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Proper fire damage restoration of a home means more than just cleaning smoke and soot stains from a ceiling and walls. Flames are not the only part of a fire that can destroy a house, as the heat of a fire and the water and chemicals used to extinguish such a blaze can all cause structural damage to a home. Long after the flames have been put out, the burning, acrid smell left behind from a fire can also linger.

Proper Fire Damage Restoration includes a full assessment of every area of the house that was affected by the blaze, sealing off the damaged areas of the home so that the damage doesn't get worse, removing structurally unsound materials, and cleaning and restoring building materials and surfaces. Sanitization and odor removal services are also typically included for a home or other structure, as well as a checkup for potential mold growth.

To know what to expect from a fire damage restoration service, and why it's vital that you call a professional restoration company after any fire in your house, note what is included in this restoration process and why it's so important in the first place. You might then consider a few critical steps that are needed to properly restore a house or business after a fire of any size. Firefighters do not stick around after extinguishing a fire to help you clean up the resultant mess! A home or business that has been through any fire will suffer structural damage from the flames themselves, but note a few other reasons why a house or commercial building may require actual restoration services:

    • The copious amounts of water used to put out a fire can pool in certain areas inside a structure, creating outright floods in some areas.
    • Water and chemicals used to put out a fire are often absorbed by a building's structural materials, which then get soft and soggy and potentially unstable and unsafe.
    • Smoke can also work its way through walls and get absorbed by carpets, drapes, and other such materials. This smoke may not come clean with a standard wall or floor washing solvents, or from putting curtains and other linens in your home's washing machine.
  • Soot stains can discolor ceilings and walls as well as flooring tiles, cabinets, and other such surfaces, and these also may not come clean with a standard washing.

Fire cleanup and restoring refers to repairing your home of all this damage so that it's structurally sound and looks and smells fresh and clean. If your home has only had a small fire and there is little risk of structural damage, you might start by ventilating the space as much as possible. Open all windows in the home and aim fans out those windows. Have curtains and other materials dry cleaned by a professional rather than washing them yourself. Depending on the extent of the blaze and the damage caused to a structure, it may not be advisable for a homeowner to attempt to clean up after a fire. Smoke, intense heat, and the water needed to put out a fire can damage walls, subfloors, and ceilings, making them soft and crumbly. In turn, a floor might collapse under you, or a ceiling could crack and come tumbling down while you're trying to clean it.

Carpeting and a home's wood framework can absorb the water used to extinguish a fire. This water needs to be extracted appropriately, so a home's structure doesn't become soft and structurally unsound, and so that mold and mildew doesn't grow behind the walls and under a home's carpeting.

Use baking soda or a detergent meant for cleaning soot to scrub stained walls, cupboards, and the like. You can also rent a commercial vacuum cleaner and extract smoke and ash from carpets and floor tiles. If this doesn't get a home properly cleaned, then you need to rely on a restoration or fire cleanup expert to address the damage. For homes and businesses damaged by significant fires, you need to rely on fire damage restoration experts. Their first step is typically an assessment of the area, which includes more than just a visual examination:

    • A contractor might pull up carpeting, to examine the home's subfloor. He or she will also assess the carpet itself for water damage, and to note if the padding has absorbed water and should be cleaned or replaced.
    • Cutting out drywall will allow someone to assess the home's framework behind those walls.
  • Electrical systems in the home or other building are given a thorough inspection. An electrician might replace wiring damaged by the fire or water used to extinguish the blaze. This step will prevent electrical fires, shorts, and other such future problems.

]A fire restoration assessment may reveal that there are open areas of the home that need immediate sealing off. Tarps may be put over holes in the roof or along damaged walls in the home's upper stories. Plywood might be used to cover holes in the walls on the first floor. If any floors in the house are unsafe for walking, those rooms may be sealed off with a tarp or plastic sheeting and even caution tape.

A fire cleanup expert may wrap damaged pipes in tape or another temporary material. This quick fix will stop water leaks and ensure pipes don't fall from connectors or put pressure on adjoining plumbing pieces while the restoration process is underway.  A restoration expert might also set up equipment that measures the amount of moisture and humidity in the air. This moisture or humidity is measured throughout the restoration process and checked again, to ensure the home is thoroughly dried. Once damaged areas of a home are sealed off, the next step in restoration begins:

    • Heavy-duty vacuums and other such equipment are used to remove standing pools of water. Sump pumps might also be set up in basements and other rooms so that they can keep pumping water out of the house while the restoration process continues.
    • Debris that has piled up in the middle of a room is taken out. Damaged sections of drywall and ceiling tiles may be cut out and put in the rubbish.
    • Sections of charred carpeting may be cut out and removed, along with the padding underneath the rug itself.
    • A restorer will remove damaged plumbing fixtures and home appliances that are no longer operational or salvageable.
  • Roof rafters and joists are inspected and replaced. A roofer may install new shingles, tiles, flashing, and other roofing materials as needed.

Building materials and surfaces that are salvageable are cleaned rather than removed. Specialty solvents are used to clean soot stains on walls and ceilings, and carpets are shampooed. Curtains and linens may be removed and taken to a cleaner who specializes in restoring such items after they've suffered fire damage.

Sanitizing surfaces and materials is also an essential part of this cleaning process. Water used for extinguishing a fire can contain many irritants and hazards, while residual soot and smoke can also become airborne and irritate your eyes, sinuses, and skin. A thorough sanitizing of the surfaces that have been affected by the fire will ensure your house is safe for your return. The last stages of fire restoration address a home's outward appearance. Paint or wallpaper is applied, as needed. New carpeting and flooring tiles are installed, as well as new cabinets in the kitchen and elsewhere. A property cleaner might wash the windows, inside and out, as well as the home's exterior brick and siding.

Before the restoration process is considered complete, your fire damage restoration services professional will want to check the humidity and moisture levels, as mentioned. If there is still too much moisture in the air, a fire cleanup expert may keep a space sectioned off with a tarp or plastic sheeting, and leave heavy-duty dehumidifiers in place for several days to remove that excess humidity. A fire restoration expert may still want to arrange a follow-up visit a few weeks in the future after the restoration is complete. He or she may want to inspect the house for any signs of developing mold, and check if there are any traces of soot and smoke in the home. A fire cleanup expert might also want to check the structural stability of the home.

Even if the fire restoration companies or expert you hired doesn't arrange a follow-up visit, it can be good to have a mold remediation expert visit your home sometime after a fire damage restoration service is complete. He or she can perform this inspection and ensure there are no traces of excess water and humidity in the house, and that mold isn't growing behind walls, under carpeting, and elsewhere.

A fire damage restoration inspector can also check if all odors have been removed from the home after a fire, as it's easy for homeowners to become "nose blind" and not realize that their house still smells of fire and smoke. This follow-up visit can then ensure the house is structurally sound and in good repair, and adequately restored after a fire.

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