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Smoke and Fire Damage Restoration Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve suffered a fire in your home or business, you probably have a lot of questions. We’ve answered some of the most common questions about fire damage and its restoration below.

What damage can fire cause?

Not all fires result in the same level of damage. The extent of fire damage varies greatly depending on a number of factors, including:

  • The source of the fire.
  • How hot the fire got, and the amount of smoke created.
  • How long the fire raged before intervention or firefighters stopped it.
  • The amount of water or substance needed to extinguish the fire.

The severity of the fire situation greatly impacts the extent of damage. This can range from minor smoke and soot contained to just a portion of the home, to extensive structural damage that must be rebuilt. Once your home or business is deemed safe for entry, SERVPRO technicians will inspect and assess the level of damage to help determine the plan of action. We will categorize your fire damage upon inspection into one of three categories.

  • Minor Fire Damage – Light to moderate smoke and soot was contained to just a portion of the building. Restoration needs include dry or wet cleaning and deodorization to walls, ceiling, floor and personal property, with little or no repainting. Very few items need replaced.
  • Medium Fire Damage – Moderate smoke and soot requiring more aggressive cleaning and deodorization techniques to remove residue. More areas need repainting. Heat has caused more extensive damage to surfaces and materials which may require more items to need repair or replacement.
  • Major Fire Damage – Severe fire damage to contents, finished surfaces and even structural framing. Smoke has infiltrated the majority of the building, and emergency intervention like board-up of windows and doors, or roof tarping, is required right away. Personal property items will likely need to be moved out of the structure for cleaning off-site. All remaining surfaces will be cleaned and deodorized in preparation for painting and repairs.
What items can survive a house fire?

Surprisingly, many items subjected to heat, smoke, and soot can be cleaned and restored to their original state. SERVPRO team members are specially trained in methods that effectively remove extensive smoke and soot residues. Depending on the severity, we may move some items off-site to ensure a thorough cleaning and restoration in our state-of-the-art facilities. SERVPRO also staffs and maintains close relationships with industry experts who specialize in electronics restoration, dry cleaning of delicate fabrics, furniture repair and refinishing, artwork, and document restoration. However, know that some items burned by direct flame may not be salvageable.

Can smoke damage be removed?
Yes! Smoke and soot damage can be stubborn, but SERVPRO employees are specially trained in the most effective residue removal methods. SERVPRO also has specialty cleaning tools and products that were developed exclusively for fire restoration. Anytime an item is deemed salvageable, we will work to clean it ourselves or coordinate with a vendor who performs specialty cleaning for that specific item type.
How do you know if you have smoke damage?
What you smell, see, and even feel on surfaces can be an indication that smoke and soot have affected your property. Your property may not have even been directly affected by flames, such as homes near a wildfire. Simply knowing that contaminates may be present is not enough. SERVPRO technicians conduct a thorough inspection and pre-testing of surfaces to allow you to better understand what surfaces are affected, the degree of damage, and map out where the smoke and soot have migrated throughout your home. This is the only way to know the presence and potential extent of the damage.
How is fire damage to a home repaired?

There are five different services involved when a home or business is damaged by fire. Our technicians are specially trained to handle this complex process that aims to get you back in your property as soon as possible.

  1. Mitigation – We’ll secure your property to prevent further damage. Any openings to the home will be boarded up, bulk debris removed, and corrosion mitigation begun in order to increase the likelihood of restoration of sensitive surfaces. If water damage from firefighting efforts has occurred, we’ll work to remove water and begin the drying process.
  2. Structural Cleaning and Damaged Material Removal – Non-salvageable surfaces and materials will be carefully removed and disposed. Smoke residues will be removed from salvageable walls, ceilings, and structural components of the property.
  3. Contents Cleaning – Your personal property will receive expert focus, with cleaning taking place right there or off-site, depending on the situation.
  4. Specialty Restoration Services – If there is anything that requires special attention (electronics, art, furniture refinishing), we’ll ensure a specialist is tasked to complete the work.
  5. Reconstruction – Sometimes, we have to build back areas that were too damaged to restore.
How much does it cost to fix a fire damaged house?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost for a structure fire was $25,545 in 2019. The cost to fix a fire damaged property varies greatly and depends on the severity of fire and its effect on surfaces and materials, the size of the structure, and amount of contents affected. SERVPRO uses the most widely accepted industry-standard pricing for services provided.
Who is liable for fire damage?

Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover fire damage, including repairs to your home and its contents through dwelling and personal property coverage. You should also check your policy for personal liability or personal umbrella insurance, which may help cover a situation where a fire in your home spread to a neighboring residence.

SERVPRO will work closely with you and your insurance company to navigate through the claims process, helping to take the stress away from you as a property owner in this situation.

How much damage do grease fires cause annually?
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and injuries. From 2014-2016, there were 188,800 cooking fires in residential buildings that caused $463 million in property loss. Unattended equipment was a major cause for these fires starting, which resulted in 3,800 injuries and 195 deaths.
How to clean after fire damage?
The majority of cleaning after a fire is working to soot residues from the structure and contents of the home or business. We have a specific process we follow, which is tailored to each fire damage situation.
How to prevent fire damage?

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that cooking, followed by heating, are the top two leading causes of home fires. You can help prevent fire damage by:

  • Installing smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside bedrooms.
  • Staying in the kitchen when cooking, or by the grill when grilling.
  • Turning oven burners off and making sure the stove area is clear of other materials.
  • Keeping anything that can burn at least three feet away from fireplaces, heaters, etc.
  • Unplug or turn heaters off when you’re not in the room.
  • Have heating systems and chimneys inspected regularly.
What is the first thing I should do after a fire?
Experiencing a fire to your home or business can be traumatic and stressful, and knowing what to do after a fire can seem overwhelming. First, contact a local disaster relief agency and your insurance company for immediate assistance, especially if you’ve been displaced. Try to locate any necessary documents you’ll need, like a driver’s license and other records, but don’t enter the structure unless the fire department has deemed it safe for you to do so, first.
Can fire damage concrete?
Fire can damage concrete due to the high temperatures involved. Older concrete that gets exposed to extreme temperatures becomes dehydrated, as the water inside it turns to vapor, but is still trapped inside. When the water vapor can no longer expand, pressure builds up and concrete can explode.

Because of this phenomenon, you should never build a fire pit using concrete materials as it could be incredibly dangerous.
How do I secure my property after the fire?
Don’t go back into your home unless the fire department has told you it’s safe to do so. It’s a good idea to contact your city police department to let them know what has happened, and that you’ll be away. Board up any broken windows or open doorways if needed, or call SERVPRO to help with this task.
Can I inspect my house after the fire?
Your home may not be safe to re-enter. If the fire department has given you permission to do so, you can go in and retrieve vital items. However, depending on the level of damage, it’s best to allow a professional inspector to determine the structure is safe, first.
Do I really need professional cleanup if the fire was small?
Most likely, yes. Smoke and soot residues from a small fire, or even from a neighboring fire, can cause extensive damage to walls, ceilings and contents in a home. This residue will need to be professionally removed or damage and odor can worsen over time.
What should I do with all the water that was used to put out the fire?
Water leftover from firefighting activities should be removed by professionals. SERVPRO technicians are specially trained in both fire and water damage restoration, using specialized equipment, tools and products. Our experts can properly remove the water and dry the home so that no further damage is caused by the standing water, like mold.
Can I stay in my home during the fire damage restoration process?
Depending on the severity of the fire and how your home is configured, it may be possible to stay in your home. If smoke and soot damage is contained to one portion of the building only, this sometimes allows for occupants to remain. However, many times this is not the case, as smoke generally creeps all throughout the structure. Your insurance agent can explain what hotel/off-site provisions your policy allows, which may be more comfortable for you during this process.
How long will the fire restoration process take?
The timeline for a fire restoration varies greatly, and depends on the severity of fire, smoke and soot damage. The size of the building and the amount of contents also helps determine the length of time for restoration. SERVPRO technicians will complete a full scope of work at the beginning of the project and will provide you with an estimated timeline so you know what to expect.

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*#1 Choice in cleanup & restoration based on Commercial and Residential Attitude & Usage Tracking studies. Polling 816 commercial business decision-makers and 1,550 homeowner decision-makers on first choice for future needs related to cleanup & restoration work. Studies conducted by C&R Research: Oct 2019 and Decision Analyst: Oct 2019.