Angie's List | Restoring your home: Fire and water damage

Whether your home suffers a broken plumbing pipe or your clothes dryer catches fire – cleaning up water and smoke damage is important because if left untreated, the damage can become a bigger problem, costing more money to repair.

Cleanup and restoration requires hiring companies that specialize in remediation and restoration services. These companies are staffed with professional technicians and contractors that have extensive experience and heavy duty equipment to help remove mold, mildew, bacteria, smoke and odors that are prevalent in these environments. These companies understand the permits and inspections that are required in your area and will work in accordance to all building regulations and codes.

Homeowner Steve Westervelt says, “We had little bit of a rain back in May and during that time our sump pump failed and we had about four inches of water throughout the finished basement downstairs.”

The water damaged Steve Westervelt’s drywall and carpet.

“We had a couple different situations. Part of it was structural. We lost the carpet and drywall about two feet up due to the water and wicking of the water coming up in the drywall. From there it was mainly cosmetic type work. There were a few damaged items that we really didn’t care about and threw away. There were other items they replaced," Steve continues.

“When going through the items that you might have lost in the fire or flood, you first need to access what their value was, how much it would cost to replace them because that’s going to help you make some of these decisions a little easier. Obviously the sentimental things are going to be a lot tougher. But that sofa you paid $1,000 for, if it’s going to cost $800 to repair it, you might just want to go ahead and get a new one," suggests Angie Hicks.

“The restoration company that we worked with did an excellent job because they took pictures of everything they were going to take out for repair. That kind of helps because sometimes you just kind of forget what you had and what was taken," Steve advises.

Cleaning up water and smoke damage quickly is important because if left untreated, the damage can become a bigger problem, costing more money to repair.

Restoration company owner Kenny Cochran says, “It’s very important when you have a major fire or flood and your contents are being packed out of your home that the company doing it does complete photographic inventory, bar coding, scanning of all contents so it can be tracked from start to finish from the home to the restoration facility and back into the home.”

“A lot of times things are either burnt or flooded beyond repair, but homeowners will hire us to try to restore it because no matter what it turns out to be they still want it. So sometimes photographs will be wrinkled or stained, but we are able to clean them, deodorize them and dry them. They still might not be perfect but they are still usable and viewable. Photographs are one of the things that sometimes can’t be restored to their pre-loss condition, but can be restored enough to be duplicated and photographed again," Kenny points out.

Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated restoration companies about the services they offer.

 What happens after damage has occurred:

· Contractors walk disaster victims through filling out insurance statement of loss forms.

· Contractors and homeowners go room by room to tag items to save and those to scrap.

· Following tagging, a pack-out occurs. The companies remove salvageable items from the home and store them in locked storage pods. The company then swings into action to clean the items, which requires a labor-intensive process to wipe down each item by hand using various cleaning solutions if necessary.

· For water damage, items are moved to the exterior of the home so they can dry out as much as possible in order to prevent mold and mildew. A water extracting machine is used to remove water from carpeted floors.

Angie’s List Tips: Protecting your property

Home disasters are never planned so it’s important to plan accordingly. The following tips can help ensure important documents and personal possessions are safe.

· Keep important documents in a safe place: Always keep copies of receipts for major household items such as appliance, televisions, electronics and other items. These receipts should be kept in a fire safe, waterproof container or safety deposit box off site. Other documents that should be kept in these containers include copies of the birth certificates, social security cards, insurance policies, passports, bank account information and car insurance information.

· Take inventory of your belongings: Walk around your home and take photos of your possessions.

· Protect family heirlooms: Renting a security deposit box at a bank to hold family heirlooms and treasures is a small cost for protecting them from fire damage. Homeowners can contact a bank to rent one of these boxes.

· Have contact information ready and available:

Always keep contact information for your insurance company, utility companies, local human service organizations, bank and friends and relatives in a safe place. In the event of a fire, you could lose all financial records, important documents and contact information if they aren’t kept in a fire-safe container or safety deposit box.

Angie’s List Tips: Hiring a water and smoke damage specialist

Homeowners should use caution when hiring a smoke and water remediation service. A house fire can you leave you feeling desperate for help, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look around and compare estimates. You can check reviews on smoke and water damage specialists in your area on Angie’s List.

· Call your insurance agent: Call your insurance agent before hiring a contractor for water or smoke damage. Ask what your policy covers and what forms you need to fill out.

· Don’t rush your hiring decision: Homeowners should use caution when hiring any smoke and water damage specialist. A house fire or flood can you leave you feeling desperate for help, but it doesn’t mean you should hire the first person that comes along. Always do your homework and thoroughly vet your contractor to help ensure you are making a smart hiring decision.

· Are you licensed, bonded and insured? Check with your local licensing authority and, if applicable, ask for a copy of the license.

· Training and certification: Ask what training and certifications the company’s technicians hold through educational programs.

· Written Estimates: Get costs associated with your contract in writing. Make sure that estimates are detailed so that when you compare them against each other you are comparing apples to apples. Don’t sign anything until you’ve read through the details and understand what’s in the contrat.

· Ask about guarantees: Does the company provide a guarantee on the work completed? Be sure you have the details in writing.

· Maintain your home: Most people don’t plan for a disaster, such as a fire or flood, but you can take steps to help prevent one. Ensure your home’s electrical and plumbing are well maintained and inspected regularly to avoid emergencies.

· Plan ahead: To prepare for a disaster, do your homework early and have a number to call in the event of an emergency.

If you have a fire or flood in your home the first thing you want to do is access the damage and then determine what providers can help you fix and return your home back to normal.

A fire or flood can you leave you feeling desperate for help, but homeowners should still research contractors thoroughly and get estimates in writing.

Finding one before the problem arises is always a good idea because you want to make sure that you do all your vetting because a quick decision could result in more pain and headache down he road then spending a little extra time doing your research.

Most homeowners don’t plan for a disaster, but you should. Go room by room in your home and take photos of your possessions. Keep important documents and receipts in a fire safe, waterproof container.

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