Experiencing a house fire can be difficult at best and terrifying at worst.
You may lose belongings, be displaced from your home while repairs are being made, or your home may be a lost cause altogether so you have to start over with somewhere new to live.
However, there are steps you can take to be prepared in case of a house fire and professionals like smoke and fire damage restoration technicians and public adjusters who are ready and capable of helping you clean up, file smoke damage insurance claims, and more.
What Happens to Your Home During a House Fire?
During a house fire, your home and much of what’s inside may not only be burned by the fire, it may be damaged by heat, smoke, and water from putting out the fire.
What’s more, the firefighters might have had to break windows and cut holes in the roof and walls in order to quell the flames and ensure that there are no embers or fires still burning in hidden areas.
Depending on the severity of the fire, the property may be a total loss if the fire manages to move through the home quickly.
If the home is not completely destroyed, you will likely still need to hire professional restorers to clean the house, remove any smoke or chemical residue, and clean up any water damage, patch up any holes, and fix broken windows that may have been the result of the firefighters doing their jobs.
House fires are more common in dry areas and areas prone to wildfires; that said, they can happen anywhere and for a variety of reasons – everything from leaving a candle or cigarette lit somewhere to an electrical or gas problem that can cause a home to catch on fire.
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How Does Smoke Damage Affect Your Property?
Smoke can leave stains on the walls and ceilings, rust and corrosion on metal appliances and hardware, and destroy fabric items like furniture and curtains.
Fire and smoke can also damage vehicles housed on the property and landscaping like trees, shrubs, grass, and other plants situated near the house.
Be aware that smoke damage is not always obvious – smoke residue can linger inside the walls or ceilings, in the HVAC vents, and in any number of other places you won’t see right away.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not safe to stay in or sleep in a house that has suffered from smoke damage until it has been professionally cleaned, properly ventilated, and declared not to be a health risk.
Smoke particles can be suspended in the air for a significant amount of time; besides, smoke damage can take several days or longer to show up on the walls, curtains, ceilings, and appliances in the form of discoloration, rust, and corrosion.
How to Be Ready for a House Fire
While you can never be totally prepared for every possibility, there are steps you can take to ensure that you, your family, and your property are more likely to be able to deal with a house fire with minimal effects.
The first step towards being ready for a house fire is having smoke alarms installed on every level of your house, inside the bedrooms, near or in the kitchen, and outside the sleeping areas.
Test the batteries monthly (set up a calendar alert to remind yourself) to make sure they are active and ready to alert you in case of a fire.
What’s more, you should have a fire escape plan prepared and make sure everyone in your family knows how to execute it (or help others escape in the case of small children or the elderly, or anyone who might need assistance).
Your escape plan should also include pets if applicable, and having any important documents in one spot and handy and scanned into a secure account in the cloud or on a hard drive or both is always a good idea.
What Happens After a House Fire?
Of course, the most important thing to do after a house fire is to ensure that you and your family (including pets) are safe and have been checked out by healthcare professionals.
Never enter a house or other structure that has not been given the “all clear” by the local fire department, and you should never sleep in a house after even a minor fire that was contained to just one room since dangerous smoke particles can spread throughout the house and linger for a while.
Rather, let the house air out and have the property confirmed to be safe by professionals.
If your property is not a total loss, you may be able to salvage it.
That said, while some items can be cleaned after a house fire (usually metal items like pots and pans and silverware), some things like furniture (especially upholstered items), clothing, curtains, bedding, and similar things are likely a lost cause.
In general, anything that smells like smoke or soot, has smoke discoloration, or is covered in dust from fire extinguishers should be tossed out since those dangerous chemicals can linger.
Anything that doesn’t appear to be damaged and doesn’t smell like smoke or chemicals can potentially be disinfected, but it is likely best to leave that to the experts who specialize in fire and smoke clean-up.
You will also want to call your utility providers and have water, gas, electricity, and other services shut off; also, you should contact your insurance company and a public adjuster as soon as possible.
Read on to learn more about that process.
When Should You Call in A Smoke and Fire Damage Repair Professional?
Usually referred to as fire and smoke damage restorers or restoration technicians, these experts can help you safely clean up after a house fire.
They perform such tasks as repairing both fire and water damage, removing soot and protein fire residue from walls and ceilings, and deep cleaning upholstery and carpets.
Cleaning up properly after a house fire involves more than just washing things down – you’ll likely need to disinfect various items to remove any lingering smoke residue or chemicals used to put out the fire.
You will also need to check for soot and smoke residue that’s not visible – e.g. hidden in the walls, in the HVAC system, in the attic or crawl spaces, and other spots you may not think to look yourself.
Smoke and fire damage restoration teams can also help mend holes and broken windows and clean up water damage caused by the firefighters who worked to stop the fire.
After all, sometimes a portion of the damage from a house fire comes from putting it out, not the fire itself.
Will Your Homeowners’ Insurance Cover Fire and Smoke Damage?
Generally, if you lose your home entirely to a house fire, your homeowners’ insurance policy will cover the costs of your belongings and moving to a new property.
That said, typically a homeowners’ insurance will cover the depreciated actual value of your house and the items inside, not the original cost – but always check the wording on your actual policy.
Also, homeowners’ insurance may cover the expense of hiring professional fire and smoke damage restorers to help you clean your home and recover what you can.
There is also “loss of use” coverage to consider, which tends to apply if you are only temporarily displaced while your home is being fixed and your property inside is being replaced.
What Is Loss of Use Insurance Coverage?
Loss of use or “additional living expenses” insurance coverage is defined as the costs of living in a rental apartment or hotel, costs of transportation, and replacing necessary belongings when an event covered by your insurance occurs.
For instance, loss of use coverage for a house fire would include your living expenses including rent or hotel fees incurred while your property is being cleaned and repaired, the cost of alternate transportation if necessary, and things like food, new clothing, replacing medication, and other necessities.
Loss of use coverage may already be included in your homeowners’ insurance policy, but as always, we suggest that you check your specific policy documents to verify that additional living expenses are included.
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With years of experience and expert training, our public adjusting staff fight for you, making sure your insurance company pays for the damage to your property to be repaired the right way.
What is a Public Adjuster?
A public adjuster is your advocate and intermediary between you and the insurance company when you are filing a claim after a house fire or similar disastrous event.
While an insurance company adjuster evaluates the damage on behalf of the insurance firm, a public adjuster evaluates the damage on behalf of you, the policyholder, and works independently of the insurance company to help file a claim and make sure that you get the maximum amount you deserve based on your individual policy and the extent of the damage.
Public adjusters almost always work on a contingent basis, meaning that you don’t pay them upfront; instead, they take a percentage of your insurance claim payout once it is received.
This is often between 5% to 20%, but this can be negotiable and some states place caps on the amounts that public adjusters can earn.
Therefore, they are extra motivated to get the best possible outcome for your insurance claim.
How to File an Insurance Claim after a House Fire
Hopefully, you have your insurance policy handy, along with a list of valuables that were lost in the fire and any policy or fire marshal reports – all of this will help you and your public adjuster can file a smoke soot damage electronics insurance claim.
If anyone was injured in the fire, the report and their medical information should be included as well.
Essentially, the more detailed you can be, the better for everyone involved.
During the aftermath of a house fire, the stress of dealing with your insurance company is probably the last thing you want to do – which is where working with a public adjuster comes in.
They will work with your insurance company on your behalf to make sure you get the payout that you deserve and your property – and your life – will be restored to its original state, or at the very least you’ll be able to return to a new version of your previous life with minimal financial hardship. call to action here
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Midwestern Adjusters Was Fantastic
Midwestern Adjusters was fantastic and really easy to work with. Very kind and respectful people that walked through every single detail with us regarding all possible options. Highly recommend going through them for anyone dealing with storm-related damages.
-Jazib G Homeowner
- Evaluate the Impact Our experts perform a thorough evaluation, assessing the total damage to your home.
- Examine Your Policy Determine whether your insurance policy is responsible to cover the restoration work needed.
- Submit Your Claim Our professional adjusters will submit your claim with all supporting documents quickly and correctly.
- Negotiate Your Settlement Using our expertise, we represent you in the negotiation of your settlement.
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