The Critical Path of a Fire Restoration Job

house fireWhen faced with the total loss of your home or business from a fire, the ability to manage your own expectations will make the harrowing cleanup & rebuild much more manageable. Understanding the critical path of a fire restoration job will help you tremendously in this regard.

Once the fire is out there will be a pressing need to get your family a place to sleep, the property sealed up and valuable items secured and safeguarded. We’d recommend you reach out to your insurance broker to start an insurance claim and ask for a referral of an experienced large loss fire damage restoration contractor. Once that contractor is signed, they will coordinate the board up and safeguarding of your valuables and will work rapidly to get approvals of all the other specialty contractors needed to cleanup and salvage as much of the structure & contents possible. Now you can then work on getting your family settled with a new living space, likely a hotel for a few nights until a more semi-permanent residence can be setup. Next step is to slow down, this is the 1st step in managing your own expectations. This whole process is intricate & will only get more difficult if you relax and let the process play out. You might not want to hear it but sadly for you, the cleanup & rebuild will take many, many months and there really isn’t much you can do to make it go faster.

There will be many contractors out front, climbing all over you to get your business. Hopefully you listened to your insurance agent and signed up with their referred fire restoration contractor, if you did, tell those sharks / vultures to all go home. That will help you be calmer & be able to think things through. Please resist the temptation to hire a Public Adjuster. We know the promises they make about securing a huge payout for your claim and how great this will be for you. Honestly, it is great…. for them, that’s how they make their money. They will dramatically slow down your project as they fight & battle the adjusters by wearing them down in the hopes of securing that huge payout which ultimately benefits them as their fee is a percentage of the whole claim payout. Worse yet, they supplant you as the decision maker on the policy. You cannot even speak to the adjusters or your insurance agent about the claim after they are signed up.

Now the process begins. Your restoration contractor will liaison with your carriers’ adjusters. Yes, there are multiple adjusters working on your claim, one for the structure, another for contents. Your damage restoration contractor will get approvals on a scope of work to agree on what can be salvaged and what would need to be demolished & discarded. Any contents that cannot be salvaged will need be accounted for and viewed by the adjusters so don’t throw anything out just yet. Once the approvals are secured work will commence. Below is a step by step overview of the critical path of a fire restoration job.

Step1: Getting clearance from the fire marshal to enter dwelling.

Step 2: Board Up, safeguarding of valuables, winterizing of house (if applicable).

Step 3: Getting approval from your carriers’ cause & origin team. They are looking to see if there was a defective appliance or some other device that they can “pin the blame on” in the hopes of subrogating a claim against the manufacturer to help offset their losses.

packing salvageable items
Textiles (soft goods like clothing, blankets, curtains, throw rugs, shoes, etc) will be evaluated by specialized textile cleaning contractors.

Step 4: Getting salvageable contents out of the structure is the next step. Textiles (soft goods like clothing, blankets, curtains, throw rugs, shoes, etc) will be evaluated by specialized textile cleaning contractors. The items that can be cleaned and restored will be pulled offsite for cleaning & storage. They often turnaround your normally worn clothing rapidly so you can have some clothes to wear rather than having to buy new items. Your full-service fire damage restoration contractor will likely pull out all salvageable furniture and other contents back to their warehouse for cleaning & storage.

Step 5: Documenting, counting, and quantifying all the other unsalvageable contents is next. Often there are a HUGE amount of these items, and this can take a few weeks to accurately account for each & every item. You don’t want to rush this aspect as it will impact the amount of recoverable cost you can receive for these items. The more you miss, the less money you get. We recommend you ask your restoration contractor to bring in “your guy” to do this. If you don’t, the carrier will bring a contractor in that might not be as thorough. Once everything is counted, these contents would then get discarded.

gutting house
Your restoration contractor wants a total gut approved as they know that they are responsible to make your structure have no residual smoke odor.

Step 6: Demolition, dry down & smoke odor neutralization of the structure is next, which typically includes a total gut of the structure as smoke from the fire coupled with water from the fire hoses penetrates every surface and even the framing members & insulation behind the sheetrock. Your restoration contractor wants a total gut approved as they know that they are responsible to make your structure have no residual smoke odor. When sheetrock is left intact and not removed, there is a higher likelihood of having smoke odor particles imbedded into the unseen framing members and insulation behind the sheetrock. This can cause a lingering smoke smell well after the project is completed. The insurance carrier is trying to minimize their rebuild costs and they typically push to try to save as much of the interior finishes as possible. We recommend you join forces with restoration contractor and speak in one voice to get a total gut approved. You are the policy holder, you paid the premiums, they owe you the right cleanup.

Step 7: Repair estimating, which will be done by the carriers’ adjuster, which means you do not necessarily need to get contractors involved just yet. Hopefully you hired a full-service restoration contractor for the cleanup, if you did, they will likely offer you complete repairs services as well. We’d recommend you ask YOUR hired restoration contractor to do a competitive, comparative estimate to rebut the adjusters estimate. Their experience in estimating with the same database as the adjusters will help you get the best, most accurate payout of like, kind, and quality finishes that you had in your structure prior to the fire. They can also help coordinate securing any needed structural plans, Town permits, inspections as well as guiding you in your purchases of major purchase items like cabinetry, flooring, tile, etc.

Most insureds don’t have the ability to “self-fund” a repair and need the insurance monies. The quicker you can get your repair claim payout settled, the quicker you can get your repair monies and start your rebuild. Note: If you still have a mortgage on your property, the repair payout will likely list the mortgager as a payee. We recommend you find out ASAP as to what your lenders policy on releasing these funds once the check is received. The lenders policy can be time consuming and might leave you with a funding gap during the rebuild.

home construction
We recommend you hire one contractor to coordinate most, if not all of this rebuild. Your time is best spent shopping for your replacement products, which can be timely & exhausting by itself.

Step 8: Now you can start the Repairs & rebuild back to pre-loss condition. You can use any contractor you want. You can act as your own general contractor and hire your own subcontractors or do some of the work yourself. You get the repair monies & contents payout monies and can call your own shots.We recommend you hire one contractor to coordinate most, if not all of this rebuild. Your time is best spent shopping for your replacement products, which can be timely & exhausting by itself. The best restoration contractors will do the repairs for the exact payout from the carrier. There will be a temptation to try to “net out” monies by hiring cheaper contractors and to try to manage your own project. You will sorely regret that decision when your project takes forever to get done and you have cost overruns do your inexperience negating the imagined savings you had in your head.

Your contents payout, if assisted by the unsalvageable contents contractor you hired, will likely be sizable enough to get you the extra monies needed to cover your deductible cost.

We hope this blog helps you or someone you know who had a large loss fire in their home or business. For more information on damage restoration related topics, please visit our website blog at www.truerestorations.com/blogKind Regards,

The True Restorations Team

Proposed Blog on Puff Backs

Understanding Puff Backs and what to do?
A “puff back” occurs when an improperly running heating system misfires spewing out damaging smoke and soot. Most puff backs happen in oil fired boilers and furnaces. When starting the heating appliance, unburned fuel ignites, forcing the soot or smoke through the heater’s exhaust system into the home. This explosion can be large, creating extensive and expensive damage or small, creating minor damage. However, smaller ignitions usually occur several times causing the soot to accumulate throughout the home. If the puff back’s heating flue vent bursts or is dislodged, there is a risk of fire or release of dangerous carbon monoxide. The most damaging puff backs occur in forced air systems as their ductwork allows the soot to travel throughout the entire premise. The heating system itself can be severely damaged when a puff back occurs.

What preventive signs to look for?

  • Look for visible oil stains on the floor.
  • A small bang or puff sound when you start the heater.
  • A strange noise after you shut the heater off.
  • Do you notice a small amount of soot in the furnace room?
  • Is there a gaseous odor in the furnace room?

How to prevent Puff Backs from happening?
One word sums up the best way to prevent puff backs. MAINTENANCE. Have your heating system regularly serviced by a professional technician. Have them clean the soot that naturally builds up during the heating season, change your oil spray nozzle if it is dirty or clogged, check your entire heating system for any sign of potential puff backs.

Puff backs can cause severe physical damage to your home or business. They are also very costly and time consuming to repair.
Puff back on Puff Backs

Smoke damage looks bad and smells bad too!

smoke-damage-restorationsSmoke damage isn’t just the visible soot on ceilings and walls the real damage is the lingering smell that is trapped in nearly every part of a smoke affected structure. This lingering smoke smell is generated by the smallest of smoke particles, invisible to the naked eye, that can and will penetrate all porous surfaces.

Understanding the composition, travel path, and proper cleaning techniques of smoke  is best left to professionally trained smoke damage cleanup companies. Attempting to provide smoke damage restoration as a layman will exacerbate and frustrate most homeowners. Worst,, all that work will need to be duplicated or more expensive solutions deployed to rectify the lingering smoke smell from a structure.

The best smoke smell removal companies deploy carbon filtered HEPA air scrubbers to filter the air immediately after a fire or profound smoke condition within a structure. They know that microscopic smoke particles will stay airborne for days & days after a fire. Unless these particles are filtered out of the air, they will be breathed in by occupants and will settle down on EVERY surface and be absorbed into textiles (clothes, blankets, towels & linens). Improperly cleaning these items may cause these toxic particles to be further embedded into these porous surfaces, locking in that nasty smoke smell.

Why Hire A Smoke Cleanup Company?

Smoke can be hazardous to your health, worsening asthma and causing respiratory conditions. Don’t underestimate its power and have any smoke-related damage taken care of right away. True Restoration, a smoke damage restoration company, will help you go through a full smoke removal, smoke cleanup & deodorizing procedure in the event of a smoke damage emergency.

If you have ever experienced a small fire or smoke condition in your home or your business, you probably can remember how the smell penetrated everywhere throughout the structure. Perhaps you attempted to provide your own smoke cleanup, a puff back cleanup or soot cleanup from a fire. Maybe you attempted to mask the smell of the smoke by deodorizing on your own. I would be willing to bet that the smell never really went away. There is a very good reason for the lack of success in attempting a smoke cleanup on your own….it’s a tricky & laborious process that requires a lot of knowledge & expertise as well as specialized equipment.

Trained smoke & fire restoration contractors possess specialized equipment & training for cleaning & deodorizing a structure. It would be highly advisable to seek out help from one of these contractors right from the onset of a smoke condition.  These contractors are not only highly trained in cleaning & deodorizing, they also are very familiar with dealing with insurance companies in navigating the insurance claims process. They can be a tremendous asset & advocate in assuring that the proper cleanup is done, as well as securing a proper payout from the insurance company, minimizing or eliminating out of pocket expenses for their clients. Understanding some of the dynamics of a smoke condition can help one understand the level & type of cleaning & deodorizing needed for any particular smoke cleanup project.

What causes smoke?

When a liquid or a solid (oil, wood, plastic, etc) is heated up, it changes states to a gaseous form. As this change of state occurs, this new gas created is also oxidizing (combining with oxygen). You can see this rapid oxidation process, which would be visually represented by a flame. High heat is the byproduct of rapid oxidation, this high heat, in turn, heats up the solid/liquid even more & creates a feedback loop which in turn causes more vaporizing along with more oxidation and so on. The smoke that you see is the gaseous form of that solid/liquid that has not completely oxidized (a.k.a., unoxidized, unburnt fuel). The smoke particles that are within the smoke will vary in size, the size will vary based on the type of material being vaporized & amount of heat generated by the oxidation process. A high heat fire creates very small diameter smoke particles, so miniscule in nature that a lot of them cannot be seen by the naked eye. This vaporizing & oxidizing process also creates highly pressurized conditions within a structure, which causes the penetration of smoke particles to virtually every part of the structure. The size of the particles will affect how deeply they can penetrate into surfaces & materials contained within a structure. Also, the smaller the size, the less visible they are the more likely for them to stay airborne & unsettled. These particles are an extreme inhalation risk for inhabitants and should be collected & scrubbed from the air ASAP.

We all know that heat rises, the same goes for the heated smoke particles. Highly heated, pressurized smoke particles are searching for a way to vent out of the structure. They will go out open windows, or more likely, will travel vertically through a structure and collect at the highest levels and then mushroom out searching for a way out from the highly pressure environment they are in. Understanding the travel path of smoke is the key to knowing where the smoke particles will be potentially trapped and linger & remain as a smelly reminder well after the fire. Getting at these odor causing particles & neutralizing them takes specialized equipment & techniques.

An untrained, unequipped homeowner attempting a smoke restoration or soot cleanup may unwittingly cause more damage to surfaces and finishes during cleanup by driving smoke particles deeper into surfaces during the cleanup process. Not having access to an industrial strength air scrubber with carbon filtering could mean that recently cleaned surfaces can be re-contaminated with smoke particles that can stay airborne for up to 10 days. Also, the unwitting homeowner may not realize that smoke particles have penetrated behind the walls, behind paneling, or have worked their way into the cracks where the trim meets the walls & floors, or realizing that odor causing smoke particles have been trapped in insulation, or have penetrated into the pours of soft framing lumber hidden from view. All this can mean that a deodorization can never be achieved without the use of specialized equipment & techniques that can penetrate & neutralize these trapped odor producing particles. In short, it is unwise for a novice to attempt a smoke or soot cleanup.

If you sustain any kind of smoke condition at your home or business, immediately call True Restorations at 631-757-0212 for a free consultation and assistance with cleanup & processing of any insurance claim.

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