How to Repair Your House After a Fire

With an estimated average of 346,800 house fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, house fires are a common occurrence. House fires can cause anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in damages and in the worst-case scenario, the home needs to be razed and rebuilt.

[Read: How Much Does a Radon Mitigation System Cost?]

However, with the help of fire damage restoration professionals, homeowners can repair any damages caused by a house fire and work on future fire prevention in the home.

— Common repairs after a house fire.

— How much does fire damage restoration cost?

— Will homeowners insurance help cover costs?

— How to get rid of fire smoke smell in a house.

— Tips for future fire prevention in the home.

Common Repairs After a House Fire

Repairs after a fire will depend on the level of damage to the house. “Essentially, any surfaces or materials that cannot be cleaned and deodorized will likely require repair or replacement,” explains David Ragsdale, production manager at SERVPRO, a commercial and residential cleaning and restoration company based in Gallatin, Tennessee. Ragsdale is also an Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification instructor, a water restoration technician and a fire and smoke damage restoration technician.

“As restoration professionals, our first priority in restoration is to determine what surfaces are restorable via cleaning and which will require removal and replacement,” Ragsdale adds.

Ragsdale says that common repairs after significant fire damage include:

— Boarding up broken doors and windows.

— Covering roof penetrations with a tarp.

— Bulk debris removal.

— Installation of temporary power for lighting, ventilation or drying equipment.

How Much Does Fire Damage Restoration Cost?

How much you pay in fire damage restoration depends on the types of surfaces and materials that were affected by the fire, the extent of the damage and how much of your personal property was involved. “In my experience, pricing could be as little as a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands or more,” Ragsdale says.

The national average for fire and smoke damage restoration is $17,598 for a full repair, according to HomeAdvisor, but homeowners typically pay between $2,867 and $33,966.

[READ: How to Renovate a House.]

Will Homeowners Insurance Help Cover Costs?

Fire and smoke damage restoration can get expensive, but homeowners insurance typically offers protection for your property and its contents.

“The insurance industry has a phrase in most policies that states coverage will be offered if the loss is ‘sudden and accidental.’ Most house fires are exactly that and so coverage is typically offered,” Ragsdale says. “The main problem most homeowners face is not whether the damage is covered but whether they have enough coverage.”

How to Get Rid of Fire Smoke Smell in a House

According to Ragsdale, deodorization is typically the most difficult part of fire damage restoration. The fire smoke smell can linger even if you don’t remove the smallest of sources.

Deodorization has four basic steps:

1. Remove the source. Ragsdale says to remove any charred structural materials before deodorizing. Any debris contaminated with smoke residue can continue to give off an odor if not removed from the home.

2. Clean all restorable surfaces. If not cleaned thoroughly, small particles will continue to produce a smell. “For example, in a grease fire, you may need to clean significant concentrations of residue from the stove, countertops, vent hood, vent filter, cabinets, walls and ceilings to stop odor problems. Sometimes the entire structure and its contents may need to be cleaned to remove smoke odors,” Ragsdale says.

3. Re-create the conditions that caused odor penetration. Ragsdale advises distributing a deodorizer to the surface in a manner similar to the way that odor-causing substances penetrated the surface. “For example, if smoke created the problem, a deodorizing ‘smoke’ or fog may be most effective in following odors to their source,” he says.

4. Seal surfaces exposed to malodors. Sealing isn’t always required, but it may help in more severe situations.

While you might not need to perform every basic step to remove odor, you should always remove the source of the odor and clean the odor-causing residues from each surface.

To make sure the fire smoke smell is gone, be sure to ventilate the area. If the odor isn’t gone, then re-create odor penetration conditions and, if necessary, seal surfaces, Ragsdale says.

[READ: What to Consider Before Getting Your Roof Repaired.]

Tips for Future Fire Prevention in the Home

One of the first steps toward fire safety in the home is prevention. According to Ragsdale, the kitchen is the most common areas for fires, and they’re typically caused by leaving a cooking dish unattended or flammable material, such as a pot holder or dish towel, too close to the cooking element.

“Be aware of what items are surrounding the area where you are cooking, and don’t leave pots and pans unattended,” Ragsdale says. “The kitchen, as well as other areas of the home, should have a readily accessible fire extinguisher.”

The second leading cause of house fires is an electrical system or appliance malfunction. Prevention of these types of fires involves a keen eye and sense of smell.

“If you notice a strange burning smell, discoloration around outlets, light fixtures or breaker panels, then have a qualified electrician inspect the system to determine if a malfunction has occurred,” Ragsdale says.

It’s also important to have your appliances periodically inspected to ensure power cords are in good condition. “Pay attention when using an appliance, such as a microwave. If the appliance is making odd or unique sounds or is emitting a burning odor, have the appliance inspected by a qualified person prior to continued use,” Ragsdale says.

Overloaded extension cords are another common cause of fire damage. Ragsdale adds: “The rule of thumb is the extension cord being used should exceed the American Wire Gauge of the cord attached to the device.”

For example, if an oscillating fan has a 16 AWG cord attached and an extension cord is used, the extension cord should be a minimum of 16 AWG or larger. Ragsdale says that the AWG sizing works in reverse, meaning the lower the AWG number, the larger the wire diameter.

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