When 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.
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 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.
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