Post-disaster restoration: Is doing it yourself an option?

by Steamatic Canada Inc

Disaster after a Fire

Budget constraints, inadequate insurance policies, a desire to protect belongings and the abhorrence of strangers in the house are some of the reasons many victims of flood or fire attempt restoration on their own. Unfortunately, people tackling such efforts often underestimate the extent of damage, and are confronted by insurmountable problems. Most often, victims of fire or flood lack technical expertise and proper equipment, two things crucial to successful cleaning and restoration. Below are five reasons you should contact a remediation specialist to restore your home following a fire or flood.


Equipment:

Fire and flood restoration require heavy duty equipment and specialized machinery, which all remediation specialists possess. Should you opt to tackle the restoration yourself, you need to rent or buy such equipment at considerable prices.  

Costs:

Costs related to time spent away from your regular job are likely to be higher than the cost of having a professional restore you home. Restoration requires a lot of man-hours to complete. Consider that if you are taking time off work to do the job yourself, you are most likely biting into your vacation time or simply not being paid for hours outside the office. Also, no matter how many hours invested into restoration, it takes a long time before seeing results, which may affect your health and take a toll on your family. Professional restoration companies work ten times faster and with greater results.

Surprises:

Following a fire, the biggest problems facing people attempting self restoration of their homes are invisible to the naked eye, like smoke damage for instance. Whenever there is a fire, parts of the house may look intact but have in fact sustained heavy damage from smoke emitted from the fire. There are four types of smoke damage; wet smoke, dry smoke, protein smoke, and fuel oil soot. Most homeowners fail to understand that each type of smoke requires a specific cleaning process in order to completely eliminate the smoke odour. Failing this, the smell of smoke persists, requiring further restoration operations.

When dealing with water restoration, keep in mind that there too, the worst damage is often unseen. After flood water disappears, damage is invisible. Microbes and fungi, including toxic mould carried by flood waters grow on moist surfaces. These contaminants cause illness, particularly in confined spaces with inadequate air circulation. A water restoration company has the tools and expertise to detect moisture levels in every area of your home and rid the property of potentially damaging moisture.

Insurance:

In addition to being the wisest decision, hiring a restoration company facilitates the insurance process. A fire damage contractor assigns an insurance specialist to your case. This insurance specialist works with your insurance provider to ensure a speedy claims process. Also, they make sure the insurance company covers all your restoration expenses. Do-it-yourself restoration projects often end in nightmare scenarios that result in the denial of insurance coverage or compensation that fails to meet the total cost of restoration. Hiring a contractor guarantees peace of mind in dealing with insurance companies as they work hand in hand, and quotes provided by licensed restoration companies are always accepted.

Stress:

Natural disasters leave a trail of destroyed property, often with thousands of victims in precarious emotional condition. In addition to restoring buildings and replacing material possessions, victims need to devote time to restoring body and mind. This is particularly important for children as they lack life experience. Focusing on the present helps people through disasters of all magnitude. Dwelling on the past only contributes to stress.

Regardless how good a handyman you are, always consider contacting a fire and water restoration specialist following a disaster, especially if your insurance company covers it. Most fire and water restoration companies guarantee that repair estimates are accepted by the insurance company, which means you have nothing to lose by hiring professionals. Should you have to pay out of your pocket, for reasons elaborated above, hiring a specialist often ends up costing less than doing the work yourself. The sooner you call, the less you lose.

Choosing the right disaster recovery company

As a responsible homeowner, you have taken every precaution to avoid fire and water damage to your home. You have installed the required smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, set up an evacuation plan and purchased the right insurance policy. Unfortunately, some disasters are beyond your control. For instance, your whole neighbourhood may have been flooded or a fire from next door spread to yours.

When disaster strikes, causing water or fire damage, you must act within 48 hours, especially in the case of a flood where mould can quickly develop in water-soaked areas. In case of a fire, the combination of fire and smoke damage makes restoration work extremely difficult and quite impossible to do on your own. This means you have to hire professionals to restore your property. It is crucial that you choose your restoration professional carefully. Water and fire damage restoration is a highly specialized field; choosing a company with a reputation for professionalism, efficiency and quick response is critical.

If your insurance company covers the expense, all you need to do is find a reputable company that you can trust. Most fire and water restoration companies guarantee that their repair estimates is accepted by the insurance company, which alleviates pressure off you. Should you have to pay out of your pocket, hiring a specialist often ends up costing you less than doing the work yourself. There are many restoration companies to choose from, but whether you are insured or not, you should look for the same features before hiring a restoration contractor. Here are basic questions to ask.

What is their response time?

Every restoration company, big or small, should return your emergency phone call within one hour, regardless of the time of day or night. They should have a 24/7, 365 days a year emergency hotline.

What is their level of credibility?

Search the Internet for relevant information about disaster recovery companies that work in your region. A lot of information to help guide your decision can be found on the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) website. Also, always look for a company that only hires properly trained technicians. A reputable restoration contractor should show lots of results.

What services do they offer?

Any serious restoration contractor must offer a complete range of services, from basic cleanup operations to complete restoration. They should also offer a mould remediation service to help prevent setting and spreading of mould, especially if your home has been hit by a flood or damaged by water hoses after a fire.

Is the restoration contractor properly insured?

No matter how reputable your restoration company, they should have adequate liability insurance. If not, hire someone else. Liability insurance covers damage done to your property. If your contractor has no liability insurance, any damage they accidentally cause to your home is not covered. Additionally, if an employee of the remediation contractor is hurt or disabled while working on your property and the contractor does not have workers compensation insurance, the employee can sue you for damages. Always insist on proof of current insurance from the remediation company and a phone number you can call to verify that payments are current.

What type of equipment do they use?

The type of equipment that your contractor uses significantly affects the length of time and amount of work needed to complete fire and water damage restoration. You should therefore look for a company that has all the sophisticated equipment (air movers, air scrubbers, HEPA vacuums , dehumidifiers, axial fans, etc.) necessary to complete the job in the fastest possible time. Remember that the longer the restoration takes, the more it is going to cost you or your insurance company. Furthermore, it is very likely that you and your family will have to make other living arrangements while your home is being cleaned and repaired, because a good portion of your home may be off limits or there may be safety issues to consider.

Do they have proper certification?

The industry has a number of regulatory associations that offer training and certification. In Canada, choose mould inspectors certified by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) or an equivalent industry organization for flood restoration and mould remediation. As for disasters caused by fire, your restoration contractor should also have all the necessary licenses and should be duly registered through FEMA. Their response team should also consist of technicians certified by the IICRC.

Do they have experience?

Every emergency is different and nothing beats experience when it comes to dealing with whatever comes up and getting it right the first time.

Do they have references?

Ask for names and numbers of satisfied clients so you can check up on them. Most contractors will provide references and testimonials when asked, but it never hurts to go the extra step of actually checking the references provided. Here are some questions to ask when contacting references:

  • Did the contractor keep you informed on the status of the project?
  • Did the contractor answer questions to your satisfaction?
  • Were they receptive to your input?
  • Did they show up on time and clean up the job site at the end of each day?
  • Was the project completed on time? Were there any unexpected delays?
  • Were you satisfied with the overall results?
  • Would you recommend the contractor? Would you call them again?

Heads up

Some people make the mistake of asking their insurance company for advice on which fire and water damage restoration company to trust. Insurance companies have a stake in this situation as they’re going to be paying, and would wish to keep costs as low as possible. Certain service providers in the industry actually represent these insurance companies, and strive to do only the minimum work to keep costs down. Watch out for such companies. Choose a fire and water damage contractor willing to cooperate with you in arranging your payment with your insurance company. A contractor who is on your side will do the best job possible.

Fire restoration dos and don'ts

Victims of a fire or flood know that the emotional and physical strain can scar for life. No one wants to be the helpless witness to flames scorching property and belongings, or flood waters ravaging all in its path.

To prevent further damage to your home, it is essential to begin the restoration process immediately following a fire. The first step is to contact a remediation specialist to assess the damage. For safety reasons, wait for them outside your home. Water, chemicals and smoke residues lingering on site can cause personal injury and considerable damage, and must be handled carefully. Depending on the extent of fire and water damage your home has sustained, the structure may be destroyed, presenting electrical hazards of grave danger to you and your family.

Before the restoration specialist arrives on site, there are things to do and avoid in preventing further destruction after water and fire damage. Below are some of the most important dos and don'ts:

Dos

  • Find temporary shelter for you and your family
  • Contact your contractor or your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property and conducting inventory
  • Check with the fire department before re-entering your property to make sure it is safe 
  • Make sure all electrical appliances, furnaces and air conditioners are turned off. Notify utility companies of the fire
  • If it is not too dangerous to enter you house, open as many windows and doors as you can to reduce smoke odour
  •  Do not touch electrical appliances, until it has been established that no wires have been exposed or melted. They are a potential electrocution hazard
  • If you have things of material and emotional value that are reachable, remove them and keep them in a safe place
  • Photograph and videotape as much of the property as you can
  • Save all receipts related to your loss. These may be needed for insurance reimbursement

Don’ts:

  • Do not enter you home immediately after the house fire
  • Do not leave your home unsecured and vulnerable to theft or further damage
  • Do not enter your home or business before the fire department gives the go ahead
  • Do not attempt to reconnect any utilities (gas, electric, water, etc.) yourself
  • Do not forget to pay your mortgage and other house bills. Be bills are forwarded to you. You are responsible for them even if the home is uninhabitable
  • Do not consume any food, drink or medication exposed to heat; discard these items

Heads up

Never enter your home directly after a fire as this can cause further damage and expose you and your family to danger. It is dangerous to attempt house fire restoration yourself. Such work requires professional-grade equipment most homeowners do not have, and expertise that only a professional fire restorer possesses. Avoid tampering with anything in or around your home after a fire as it may negatively affect your insurance company’s estimate if they are unable to examine everything in its original state.

House fire restoration is something you should always leave to a professional restoration company. They have the proper tools, expertise, and experience to handle any job. For more information about things you should and should not do after a house fire, it can be helpful to contact a professional restoration company.

It is extremely important that you contact your homeowners’ insurance agent directly after a house fire. Time is of the essence when dealing with fire and water damage. Mould and mildew can begin growing within 24 hours after a house fire, so it is essential to begin the house fire restoration process as soon as possible. It is always best to contact a professional restoration company that works directly with your insurance company. This ensures the two companies have a working relationship and are likely to come to a reasonable settlement, allowing you to pay as little as possible out of your pocket.. It also guarantees the company you hire employs reputable contractors that operate using solid business practices and do everything they can to work with your specific needs. Don’t ignore the insurance.

Insurance companies have guidelines for people making claims following fire damage and subsequent restoration.  To facilitate the claim, find out what needs must be met before undertaking any kind of restoration. Some of the things they may ask include providing evidence of the extent of the damage as well as receipts for temporary and permanent repairs.

Water restoration dos and don'ts

Just as in the event of a fire, water damage is a traumatic experience that can seriously alter a family’s quality of life. Since most people have no idea how to start the process of water damage restoration, and due to a lack of experience and expertise, it is always recommended to rely on the services of a water damage restoration company. Cleaning your home yourself is not recommended unless you have extensive experience in this particular field. If you haven’t been properly trained, you run the risk of further damaging your home, which can lower its property value and even pose health hazards for your family. Cleaning the home after water damage is a tough job. Not only can cleaning professionals help you clean the home itself, but they also have extensive knowledge of special chemicals such as disinfectants to prevent or eliminate mould. Water damage restoration companies offer different type of services to reduce damage, including water extraction, sewage clean up, structural drying, water damage restoration, disinfection and sanitization.
However, there are things you can do to help the cleaning process before remediation specialists arrive. Start by removing all your personal belongings (those that haven't sustained fire and water damage) from the scene. The longer these items stay in close contact with the water, the more damage they’ll sustain. Removing these items from the scene will also allow the air to circulate better and help the drying process. Don’t forget that dangerous mould only requires 24 to 48 hours to grow. Therefore, your window of opportunity for salvaging your belongings is quite small. Below are some of the most important dos and don'ts for helping the restoration process:

Dos:

  1. Find temporary shelter for you and your family
  2. Contact your contractor or your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property and conducting inventory
  3. Turn off main source of electric power before entering your home. If you keep electricity on, you risk getting an electrical shock or even being electrocuted
  4. Find out if the water that has penetrated your home is from a clean or contaminated water source and advise the cleaning specialist
  5. Remove as much excess water as possible by mopping and blotting
  6. Wipe excess water from furniture or fixtures after removing lamps and table-top items
  7. If possible, use fans, air conditioners or dehumidifiers to circulate the air and to assist in the drying process
  8. Move wet carpets and rugs to another location where they can be cleaned and dried
  9. Move valuable paintings and art objects to a secure and dry place
  10. Remove area rugs that have water damage and wash them thoroughly with clean water and detergent before hanging them dry
  11. Photograph and videotape as much of the property as you can
  12. Save all receipts related to your loss. These may be needed for insurance reimbursement

 Don’ts:

  1. Do not leave wet fabrics in place; dry them as soon as possible
  2. Do not leave books magazines or other items with colour on wet carpet or floors
  3. Do not use TVs, electronics or other household appliances while standing on wet carpet or surfaces, especially on wet concrete
  4. Do not use any electrical appliance or device if it is or has been wet
  5. Do not turn on lights or electrical appliance mounted on or plugged into a wet wall or ceiling
  6. When removing excess water from the floor, do not use an ordinary household vacuum cleaner. Use an industrial wet or dry vacuum instead
  7. Even if you are wearing rubber boots, do not use electrical appliances while you are standing on a wet carpet or a wet floor
  8. When starting your water damage cleanup, do not go into rooms that still have standing water if the electricity is still on. Be sure to turn the main electric switch off first
  9. Do not lift glued carpet without the help of a professional since lifting incorrectly can shrink the carpet
  10. Do not delay your water damage cleanup. Start the cleanup immediately once the source of water has been stopped. Prolonging the cleanup process can lead to the growth of moulds and other microorganisms, further deteriorating soaked material
  11. Finally, do not try to do the entire water damage cleanup by yourself. Some tasks are too complicated and need to be handled by certified professionals

Heads up

Never enter your home directly after a flood as this can cause further damage and expose you and your family to danger. It is dangerous to attempt water damage restoration yourself. Such work requires professional-grade equipment most homeowners do not have, and expertise that only a professional water remediation specialist possesses. Avoid tampering with anything in or around your home after a flood as it may negatively affect your insurance company’s estimate if they are unable to examine everything in its original state.

Water damage restoration is something you should always leave to a professional restoration company. They have the proper tools, expertise, and experience to handle any job. For more information about things you should and should not do after a flood, it can be helpful to contact a professional restoration company.

It is extremely important that you contact your homeowners’ insurance agent directly after a flood or major water damage. Time is of the essence when dealing with water damage. Mould and mildew can begin growing within 24 hours after a flood. It is essential to begin the water restoration process as soon as possible. It is always best to contact a professional restoration company that works directly with your insurance company. This ensures the two companies have a working relationship and are likely to come to a reasonable settlement, allowing you to pay as little as possible out of your pocket. It also guarantees the company you hire employs reputable contractors that operate using solid business practices and do everything they can to work with your specific needs. Don’t ignore the insurance.

Insurance companies have guidelines for people making claims following fire damage and subsequent restoration.  To facilitate the claim, find out what needs must be met before undertaking any kind of restoration. Some of the things they may ask include providing evidence of the extent of the damage as well as receipts for temporary and permanent repairs.

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