In the first blog of this two-part series, we shared with you some practical fire safety tips that can help you make it out of your home unscathed and even minimize property damage.
With this, the reality is that retreating to a safe place and having firefighters put out the fire does not mean the end of your tasks. Dealing with the aftermath of a house fire and getting your life back to normal can be emotionally and financially stressful.
We understand that residential fire damage restoration is an overwhelming task, so we’ve devised this fire and smoke damage cleanup checklist for you. The following points help you know where and how to kickstart the restoration process — and regain a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.
Contact Your Insurance Agent
As a property owner, it’s natural to want to sift through your affected belongings and clean up your home right away. But before you start moving things around inside your house, make sure to get in touch with your insurance agent first and report your loss. While it can be heartbreaking, you’ll need to take pictures of all the damages to your property as well.
Documenting your fire damage thoroughly and working with your insurance representative can help you secure the financial resources you need to restore your possessions and rebuild your home.
Inspect the Home for Structural Damage
Observe your property and keep an eye out for damaged components before you enter your home to clean up or make any repairs. This is crucial for everyone’s safety, since the fire may have compromised your home’s electrical wiring, foundation, wall supports, roof, and other structures. Setting foot in an unsafe room or unstable floor can cause further injuries and property damage. Since this involves your and your family’s lives, it’s best to leave the inspection to qualified professionals.
Once you’re cleared to go inside, wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved work shirts, long pants, and steel-toe boots to protect yourself from possible electrical or chemical burns, scratches, and direct exposure to soot. Gloves can also help keep you safe from cuts, punctures, and thermal burns while you salvage your possessions.
Remove the Water and Dry Up the Room
After the firefighters extinguish the flames, you may also find your home-affected house with varying levels of water damage. Removing this standing water as quickly as possible is crucial in preventing further property damage and the possibility of microbial growth.
But, you’ll also need to consider working with a residential fire damage restoration team that also offers water extraction and drying services. These companies have the proper equipment to address the excess moisture that might have penetrated your flooring, drywall, and ceilings and, ultimately, reduce the chance of mold growing in your home.
Sort Through Your Possessions
Identifying which items to save and which ones to discard can be stressful, but it’s a task that must be done for you to proceed in the cleanup and restoration process. Your fire restoration professionals should be able to guide you in telling salvageable items apart from the rest, but here are a few materials that must be disposed of in most cases:
- Electrical equipment – Appliances and other devices affected by heat and water may start another fire, so it’s better to throw them away if you’re unsure about their condition. Note that some electrical equipment can be cleaned if they were mainly affected with smoke instead of heat, or flames.
- Burned clothes – Cleaning burned clothes is possible, but those soaked in the water used to extinguish the fire or damaged by smoke and soot can cause skin irritations and other health issues.
- Furniture and mattresses – Just like in burned clothes, smells and chemicals in fabric furniture pieces and beds can be difficult or even impossible to clean out.
- Cosmetics – Makeup contains chemicals that can be negatively affected by high temperatures. On top of that, the water used to extinguish the fire may have picked up has toxins and contaminants that can alter the composition of your cosmetic products. Your safest bet is to discard and replace these items with new ones.
- Medicine – Medicines must be stored in a cool, dry place for a reason — high temperatures can negatively impact their potency and effects. As such, it’s best to discard any medicine that’s been affected by heat, as well as smoke, soot, and water.
- Food items – While sealed and canned goods may look okay, it pays to keep in mind that the high temperatures during a blaze can activate bacteria and make them unsafe for consumption. The chemicals used to put out the fire can also contaminate the food.
Clean and Sanitize Salvageable Items
Now that you know which items to save and discard, it’s time to clean and sanitize your salvageable belongings.
Porous items that can still be saved will often require the expertise of a contents restoration and packout professional. This is because they need to be specially cleaned and dried thoroughly to not only remove smoke and soot, but also to prevent microbial growth.
On the other hand, non-porous objects and surfaces such as the following items are easier to save but should be still cleaned by specialists:
- Glass items can be cleaned using vinegar and dish soap.
- Metal objects can be restored by washing vinegar and dish soap and then sanding and painting afterward.
- Salvageable hardwood floors can be cleaned with oil soap and renewed by sanding and refinishing.
Rebuild and Restore Your Property
This is the final and most extensive part of your fire damage cleanup process and must therefore be performed by experienced, licensed professionals.
Restoring your home involves replacing your damaged drywall, installing new carpets, treating your house for odor and contamination, and restoring your HVAC system, among many others. Considering these, you need fire and smoke damage experts to ensure your home will be healthy from the inside out.
Begin a New Chapter in Your Life As Painlessly as Possible
No matter how big or small your property fire may have been, getting back on your feet after the event is not easy. Getting your house back to its pre-damaged state can be equally challenging. So while we’ve shared with you these fire safety and restoration tips, know that you also have the option of taking advantage of the professionals.
Entrust your home to a professional fire damage restoration company like Restoration 1, so you can give yourself all the time you need to process your emotions and open this new chapter in your life as painlessly as possible.