Cleaning up fire damage in your home can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. During this confusing time, it’s important to know what to do and who to contact. This article contains some insight into what to expect when cleaning up after a house fire, a few DIY tips, and when to contact a professional.
After a house fire, there will be a variety of damage occurred to a property. Beyond items that have been burned and damaged by flames, the home will likely be damaged by water, smoke, and soot. Walls may also have been cut by firefighters to look for hidden flames. Carpets, flooring, dry wall, ceilings, cabinetry, and appliances may need to be dried out, removed, or repaired before your home returns to normal. Recovering from a house takes hard work and patience.
When Can You Enter Your Home?
After the flames have extinguished, it’s important to keep your family’s safety as a number one priority. If the fire damage was extensive, a building inspector may have posted a color-coded sign on your home. Do not enter your home until you fully understand the sign and have received instructions from officials. Even if your fire damage was minimal, toxins created by the fire may have made your home dangerous to live in before cleaned and disinfected. It’s best to have your family stay at a relative’s home until your home is completely cleaned. Most importantly, do not enter your home until authorities, like your local fire marshal, have said it’s okay.
Another immediate consideration after a home fire is contacting your insurance company. They may ask you to create an itemized list with everything that was damaged in the fire and the value of each item. Your insurance company may want pictures of the damage before anything has been moved, so don’t move anything until you have spoken to your insurance agent. If you are unable to stay in your home after the fire, ask what you can do to remove valuables from your property. You may also want to alert the police that your home is damaged and you will be staying away from your home.
Finally, be sure to ask your agent what they would like you to do next, including immediate needs like boarding up your home and pumping out water. Creating proper ventilation and drying out your home will prevent mold growth and other damage.
Before using electricity in your home, consider hiring a building inspector to be sure it’s safe use. If your electric has been damaged, all gas and electric sources should be disconnected until repairs have been made.
7 Tips When Cleaning Up After a House Fire
After authorities have given the go-ahead to enter your home, it’s up to you take the necessary steps to clean up. If you don’t think you have the time or ability to completely repair your home, it’s important to hire professionals to complete the cleanup. Ensuring your family a safe home is invaluable.
1) Trash Removal – Once your insurance company gives you the go-ahead to begin cleaning your home, begin with trash removal. If your fire damage was extensive and there will be a lot of trash, you may want to consider a dumpster delivery service. Remove any items that will attract mold growth, such as curtains, clothing, and other wet fabrics. Wash all items with a strong detergent. If it cannot be washed, it should be thrown away.
2) Protect Yourself – When cleaning up a house fire, it’s important to protect yourself from toxins created by the flames. Open all windows and doors when working. Wear sturdy work gloves and eye protection.
3) Food Disposal – Again, toxic chemicals linger in homes after a house fire and disposing of household items should be taken seriously, especially food. You shouldn’t eat or drink anything that has been near the flames, soot, or smoke. Anything that is in a cardboard box or that has been opened must be thrown out. Food in cans or freezer foods with ice crystals are salvageable.
4) Drying Out Floor– After valuables, trash, and salvageable items have been removed, it’s important to dry out flooring to prevent future damage, including mold growth. Create adequate ventilation by opening windows, doors, and turning on ceiling fans and vents. If you can access to a wet/dry vac, start by removing as much water as possible. Your goal for your flooring should be determining if water has seeped underneath the floorboards and carpet mats. If so, the flooring may need to be replaced. Restoration contractors are trained in fire/water cleanup and will be able to tell you if your flooring needs to be replaced.
5) Cleaning Soot – Spot cleaning items with soot residue from the fire with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner. Mix cleaner with water and apply to items with a sponge. TSP can be used to clean walls with soot residue. Apply with sponge and let wall dry. Cabinetry should be completely wiped down, inside and out, to remove odor. If smoke odor lingers, cabinets may need to be sanded and resealed.
6) Cleaning Fire Extinguisher Residue – Use a wet/dry vac to clean up residue left from a fire extinguisher. Follow up with TSP cleaning solution to clean up the soot residue.
7) Cleaning Walls and Ceiling – It’s important to be sure the structure of your home is protected from future damage, such as mold growth. As long as there is just minimal damage to your ceiling and walls, such as minor dampness and soot residue, you can complete cleaning with a solution of hot water and bleach. Mix 2 tablespoons of bleach into 1 gallon of hot water. Use this mixture to disinfect interior surfaces and prevent mildew growth. Ceilings should be washed last. If you plan on repainting surfaces, only do this once the surface is completely dry. If drywall or ceiling has been completely soaked through with water, professionals should be contacted to see if the structural integrity of your home can be maintained or if the drywall should be replaced.
When To Hire A Professional
Cleaning up after a house fire can be a daunting task, requiring an immediate response. Don’t let immobility, lack of experience, or a busy schedule prevent you from repairing your home. Fire damaged homes require extensive cleanup and need to be treated immediately. There are many companies specializing in fire damage clean up that can be at your service.
Carpets, ceilings, walls, and hardwood all require specialized cleaning after damage from a house fire. Accutech is a restoration and remodeling company specializing in water removal services, mold prevention, and fire damage services. We are passionate about restoring your home to a beautiful, livable condition as fast as possible. Accutech offers a variety of services to those facing fire damage, including structural cleaning, home cleaning, structural repairs, IICRC-certified water removal services, and wood floor restoration. We also offer boardup services, where a technician will be on-site within an hour to secure your property and belongings.
Fire disaster happens so infrequently that most of us aren’t prepared on the next steps to take. Accutech is prepared to walk you through the best options for you and your family. If you are facing the aftermath of a recent house fire or are struggling with mold growth from improper fire damage clean up, give us a call today. We look forward to supporting you during this stressful time and restoring your home.