Updated Oct 14, 2022
On average, a home catches fire somewhere in the United States every 90 seconds. Although not all are blazes that will burn the house to the ground, even a small fire can create a lot of damage to your home due to the heat, smoke, soot, and water that result from the fire and trying to put it out.
If your home catches on fire, you may face the task of fire damage restoration. Read on to find out what’s involved in restoring your property from fire damage, including costs, and steps you can take to prevent future fires.
Watching your home burn is an emotionally wrenching experience. Despite the trauma, you have to act quickly after the fire is out to prevent further damage to your house. Delays can lead to further damage—such as rainwater entering your home or mold growing—that could drive up the repair costs.
As soon as possible, contact your insurance company to report the fire and to see what steps they want you to take next. These could include protecting the property, making an inventory of the damage, and contacting a company that specializes in fire damage restoration.
When the insurance adjusters inspect your home for fire damage, make sure they perform a thorough inspection. You want all the damage to be discovered and covered by your initial claim for fire damage. Areas to be inspected should include the:
A fire damage restoration company specializes in helping people recover from fire damage. These companies offer a range of services, including:
While your insurance company may recommend restoration companies, select one you feel comfortable working with. Before signing a contract with a restoration company:
Soot, smoke, and water damage caused by fire can be pervasive, even if the fire was contained and quickly extinguished. It’s likely that every item in the affected rooms will need to be cleaned at a minimum. That includes walls, ceilings, flooring, furniture, and personal items.
After the soot has been removed and odors have been neutralized, items need to be cleaned. Draperies and upholstered furniture should be dry-cleaned, and some restoration companies can do that in your house. The carpets also need to be cleaned professionally.
If possible, it makes sense to hire a professional restoration company that has the expertise and tools needed to do the cleanup correctly. There are a few steps you can take to help:
The cost of fire damage restoration depends upon the size of the damaged area and the severity of the damage. Damage that requires you to replace expensive items such as kitchen cabinets and appliances can drive the price up quickly.
A 1,500 square-foot home that sustained a minor fire costs an average of about $16,000 for fire and smoke damage recovery and restoration, with cost estimates ranging from $7,166 to $25,000.
For a major fire in a 1,500 square-foot house, the average cost for fire or smoke damage recovery and restoration is $46,166, with quoted prices ranging from $21,666 to $70,666.
Before signing a contract with a restoration company, get an itemized list of everything that’s included and have a clear understanding of the scope of the work you’re committing to.
Standard homeowner’s policies include coverage for fire damage. Your policy should cover both structural damage and the cost of replacing personal property damaged in the fire. The terms of your policy will dictate whether you are reimbursed at replacement value—where the insurance company pays what it costs to replace the lost item with a comparable piece—or at actual cash value, which is the value the used item is worth now, or its depreciated value.
Some people buy fire damage insurance, which is an extra policy that covers the costs to replace or repair property above the amount you’ll get from your homeowner’s insurance. Your homeowner’s policy may place limits on what the insurer will reimburse for certain items. For example, there might be a $1,000 limit for reimbursement of electronics. If you had a lot of electronics that were destroyed in the fire, the fire damage insurance might cover the true costs of replacing them.
Be sure to keep receipts for all the money you spend on fire restoration or replacing items lost in the fire. The insurance company might ask to see these receipts to validate your claim.
While fires can be started by lightning, wildfire, and other natural causes, you can take many steps to prevent fires from starting in your home.
Smoke alarms are your best early-warning system should a fire break out. The alarm gives you time to get your family out of the house or to use a fire extinguisher on a small, contained fire.
Be sure to check the alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year unless your alarm is equipped with a non-replaceable 10-year battery.
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