Fire Damage Restoration 101: The Basics of Cleaning Up Flame Damage and Smoke Damage After a Fire
Fires are often traumatic and stressful events that can cause extensive flame and smoke damage. When it comes to fire damage restoration, it’s important to begin the cleanup process as soon as you are cleared to re-enter your property. Our fire damage restoration 101 guide will prepare you to clean up after a fire and help you limit the damage.
Steps to the Fire Damage Restoration Process
The first step to fire damage restoration is to secure your property and prevent additional damage. Depending on the severity of the fire damage, you may need to tarp damaged roofs or board up windows and doors. This will keep animals and intruders out and prevent the elements from causing additional damage.
You should always make sure that the fire is completely out and all surfaces are cool to the touch before tarping and boarding-up your property. Plywood and plastic tarps are likely to reignite the fire if apply them too quickly.
When tarping the roof, firmly secure it to your home to prevent the wind from blowing it away. If you need to board up your home, use at least 3/4 inch thick exterior or marine-grade plywood. Instead of securing the plywood with exterior screws, you should use interior clamps to prevent looters or vandals from entering your property.
2. Dry Out Wet Areas from Firefighting Efforts
Once your home is secure, it’s time to address water from firefighting efforts. The longer water sits, the more damage it can cause. This includes ruining carpeting, drywall, and cabinets, as well as potentially causing mold. If there is not water, you can skip this step.
Start by extracting standing water. If there is a significant amount of water, use a pump or bucket to remove it quickly. For situations involving less water, use a mop or towels to soak up water.
After you have removed the standing water, use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up as much water from carpeting, flooring, and other materials. Divide the room into sections and go over areas repeatedly until they are just damp. Empty your wet/dry vacuum as necessary.
Once you have extracted as much water as possible, use fans or high-powered air movers to dry materials out as quickly as possible. When drying carpeting, it helps to separate it from the flooring and carpet padding. Make sure materials are thoroughly dry before turning off the drying equipment.
3. Remove Fire Damaged Materials
The next step in the fire damage restoration process is removing damaged materials. Whether items have been damaged by fire or water, remove anything that cannot be salvaged or refinished. This includes flooring, walls, ceilings, cabinets, and countertops, as well as furniture and other personal items.
For fire damaged items, you should remove anything that has more than surface flame damage. For water-damaged items, remove any material that shows signs of deterioration, including swelling and crumbling. This is especially true of structural items like wooden studs and floor beams and drywall.
You should also remove any item that has both flame damage and water damage. The combination of flames and water is likely to leave it in an extremely weakened state. Long term, it can lead to structural instability of your home.
4. Clean Smoke, Soot, and Ash
Smoke, soot, and ash are highly acidic and will begin to permanently stain surfaces after just a few hours of exposure. For that reason, you should begin cleaning them up as soon as possible. Depending on the extent of damage due to flames, you may want to clean them up before removing fire damaged materials.
Smoke, soot, and ash can travel much further than flames, so you will likely need to clean rooms throughout your home. While you might not see damage today, smoke and soot can cause walls and other surfaces to look dingy or dirty over time.
When it comes to cleaning up ash, use a shop vacuum or other type of high-capacity vacuum to suck up as much material as possible. Smoke and soot tend to be oily, so they are easier to clean with a vinegar and water solution. Start cleaning at the origin of the fire, then move on to other areas.
Smoke and soot are also likely to get into your heating and cooling ducts. To prevent smoke and soot from blowing through your home, cover vents with damp cheesecloth. Make sure to keep them wet and replace the cheesecloth once it becomes saturated.
You should also replace the air filter on your heating and cooling system immediately after a fire and then again after your finish fire damage restoration. This will help capture more smoke and soot and decrease the chances of smokey odors lingering.
5. Ventilate the Area to Reduce Smokey Smells
After you have cleaned up smoke, soot, and ash, you should begin ventilating the area to reduce smoke odors. Avoid doing this while you are still cleaning, as air movement will help smoke and soot to spread even further.
Open windows and use fans to circulate fresh air. The amount of time required to remove the smoke odors depends on the severity of the fire damage. A few hours may be enough for small fires, while it may take several days to ventilate after larger fires.
For more severe or extremely smoker fires, it may be necessary to use professional deodorization techniques. While there are deodorizing chemicals, the most common method is using an ozone machine.
You can typically rent an ozone machine from an equipment rental company, but already read the safety instructions before using it. Due to the ozone cleaning process, you will need to vacate the area while the machine is running, as they are toxic to humans and pets.
6. Cleaning Carpeting, Upholstery, and Fabric
Depending on the severity of the fire and smoke damage, it may be necessary to clean or even replace carpeting. If there is smoke or soot damage, you can shampoo or steam clean your carpet to prevent permanent damage. If your carpeting is singed or burned, it will likely need to be replaced.
For smoke damaged upholstery and furniture, you may be able to use carpet cleaning equipment. Ask when renting a carpet cleaner or when hiring a professional. Fabrics, like clothing and curtains, will need to be professionally dry cleaned. Look for a dry cleaner that specializes in smoke removal and deodorization.
7. Sanitize to Prevent Mold
If there was water from firefighting efforts, we recommend that you use a medical grade sanitizer to prevent mold and other bacteria from growing. Always follow the application instructions for your sanitizer.
In most cases, you will need to spray or otherwise apply the sanitizer to surfaces and allow to dry completely. Some surfaces or materials may need multiple applications to ensure complete decontamination.
While bleach is effective at killing bacteria, it is not effective at killing mold. Using bleach to treat mold will temporarily clean surface mold, it does not permanently solve the problem.8. Restoring Your Property
The final step in fire damage restoration is to rebuild the damaged areas of your home. While the restoration process will vary based upon the damage, it typically involves hanging new drywall, installing carpeting, refinishing hardwoods, or replacing cabinets and countertops. When replacing carpeting, you should also replace the carpet padding as it can hold in smoke odors.
Filling an Insurance Claim for Fire Damage Restoration
Most insurance companies will cover the cost of fire damage restoration. However, your insurance is likely to reject the claim if the fire was caused by negligence. This includes not making repairs that could have prevented the fire or taking risky actions that caused it.
Two cases when your insurance is likely to outright deny your claim is if the cause was arson or if the property was vacant. In both cases, your insurance company will assume you are trying to defraud them.
If you are concerned about your insurance claim, the trained fire restoration professionals in the Restoration Local are experienced in working with insurance companies. We can help you navigate your claim to ensure you don’t say something that results in your claim being denied.
Call Now for Professional Fire Damage Restoration Services
Fires can be stressful events that cause significant damage to your property. As the #1 network of restoration contractors, Restoration Local will connect you with a professionally trained fire damage cleanup company near you.
Regardless of the source or cause of your fire, the local fire damage restoration crews in are network will clean and restore your property. Fire restoration begins with tarping and board-up. They then extract water from firefighting efforts and remove fire damage materials.
Next, the fire damage cleanup contractor will clean smoke, soot, and ash, as well as professionally deodorize the area to remove smokey odors. If necessary, they will sanitize to prevent mold and bacteria growth. Finally, they restore your home or business to its original condition.
Whether it’s a residential or commercial fire, the local fire damage restoration specialists in the Restoration Local will clean up smoke and fire damage. Find a fire damage cleanup company near you now or call 1-888-443-3110 for emergency fire damage restoration services.