Chapter 7: Fire Damage Restoration Steps for Restoring the Property
You should never try to remediate your property on your own after a fire. A fire damage restoration professional has the experience needed to observe the proper fire restoration process to make your home safe again.
There are certain processes professionals use when rebuilding a house after a fire and repairing fire damage, and as a homeowner, knowing what these processes look like is helpful.
1. Confirm the Property Is Stabilized and Is Safe to Enter
The first step of a remediation professional is to confirm that the property is safe to enter. They’ll check for signs of structural damage that compromises the home and carefully inspect the property from the outside before opening the door.
If you are concerned, you should wait for an inspector to deem the property safe before you enter.
2. Minimize Damage
Smoke and soot can cause damage even after the fire has been extinguished. You and the professionals working in your home should be cautious of soot staining, mold and mildew, rust and corrosion and the air quality in the home.
Soot staining occurs when the soot in the air adheres to surfaces and causes discoloration. Depending on the surface material and the time elapsed, the soot staining may still be completely removable. In other cases, it will leave behind a permanent discoloration. Some sensitive materials include metals, plastics, grout, carpeting, textiles and wood.
Professionals will look at these materials in the home and properly clean them to reduce damage.
Mold and mildew becomes a problem after a wildfire because of the fire extinguishing process. Mold and mildew can form quickly, so you should look for any signs of water damage even if you don’t see mold or mildew present yet. If water damage is suspected, the proper restoration and mold and mildew removal processes should begin as soon as possible to minimize further damage.
Rust and corrosion is a risk for any metals that become oxidized. Water interacting with metal can cause the metal to corrode or rust. This is true for any metal, but it’s especially important to be aware of for small electronics that contain metal. If the components and conductors in the electronics corrode, the item is often irreparable, and the risk of electrical shock is increased.
Air quality is a major concern after a fire and should be one of the areas a professional should focus on if you detect any lingering odors. Cleaning up smoke damage begins by using air scrubber and air mover to clean the air. Smoke-damage cleaning products should be used on any surfaces that have absorbed the smoke. If there is any smoke-damaged furniture that might be saved or you hope to save, professionals should begin the smoke-damage restoration process on them immediately to increase the chance for a complete restoration.
3. Remove Soot and Debris
Before any water damage or fire damage restoration processes can begin, all debris and soot must be removed from the home. The soot can cause more damage the longer it remains on a surface, while the debris is only going to get in the way the restoration process.
Removing the soot and debris will also help improve the air quality and reduce airborne odors. A vacuum can help remove some of the remaining soot — it can be swept up or wiped down.
4. Remove Personal Possessions Too Damaged to Restore
Any items that are too damaged to repair should be removed from the home. Take extra caution in
touching electrical machines or appliances because they can store electricity even after they’re unplugged.
It may be necessary to remove items that don’t appear to be damaged by the fire from the home as well. This will prevent the items from being contaminated any further. A professional can clean these items and prepare them for re-entry once the home is restored.
5. Eliminate Excess Water and Dry Wet Surfaces
Professionals should clean up any standing water as soon as possible before running other water restoration equipment. Since water can soak into walls, flooring and even subflooring, they will need air movers and commercial dehumidifiers to dry everything out properly.
6. Begin Deodorizing, Deep Cleaning and Removing Stains
It’s important to consider what items should be deep cleaned and restored and what items are too damaged and should be replaced instead. Professionals may use specific cleaning products depending on the product being cleaned or deodorized. They’ll consider the type of material and how much mold, mildew or smoke has penetrated the surface when determining which cleaning product to use. They should consult you to determine any priority items.
Carpets, curtains and other fabrics usually need special attention because they are easily ruined. In some cases, carpets can be shampooed and restored, while fabrics can be washed or cleaned. You should be able to tell if an item is far too damaged with a quick inspection.
Throughout the process, you should be updated by the professionals as they determine what is salvageable.