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Fire Damage Cleanup: 15 Do’s and Don’ts Every Homeowner Needs to Know

If you’re like most homeowners, you trust your smoke alarms. Many houses are protected by smart home security systems. You probably have a solid evacuation plan in place and emergency numbers in your contacts.

We all do our best to be ready for the worst. Still, it’s hard to be prepared for a home fire.

The aftereffects leave you wondering: What happens next? How do you put things back together again? Where do you start with cleanup and recovery?

Our Chicago restoration professionals can help. Based on our years of experience, we’ve developed this 15-point guide for navigating the aftermath of a fire at your home. 

Read on so that you’ll know what to do if it happens to you.

Why Post-Fire Cleanup Is Critical

While a property fire results in obvious damage, it’s also a source of multiple invisible hazards.

Smoke and soot stains that darken interiors also deposit corrosive compounds deep into surfaces. Acidic particulates cling to everything, from walls and ceilings to furniture and personal belongings.

The toxic substances create a highly contaminated environment.

Cleaning up after a house fire isn’t a DIY project. There are things you should do right away, but post-fire cleanup requires specialized equipment and training. Stay safe by following these important do’s and don’ts.

15 Home Fire Damage Cleanup Do’s and Don’ts

Fire Damage Cleanup Do’s

1. Do Follow Firefighters’ Instructions

Once the blaze is extinguished, don’t try to reenter your home right away.

Talk to the firefighters about conditions inside. They may give you the all clear, but in most cases, homeowners are advised not to reenter the house for the first few days.

2. Do Arrange for a Place to Stay

Even a small fire can make a home unlivable until it’s been professionally cleaned and sanitized. Arrange to stay with friends or family or at a nearby hotel. 

Your insurance may cover out-of-pocket expenses for lodging.

3. Do Call Your Insurance Company

Give your insurance carrier as much information about the fire as you can. Schedule an adjuster’s inspection and damage assessment as soon as possible. 

Let your agent know where you’ll be staying and how to reach you.

4. Do Contact Restoration Professionals

Call a restoration company that specializes in home fire damage cleanup, like ServiceMaster of Lake Shore here in Chicago: (312) 707-8597. Our teams respond to this type of emergency 24/7.

We can be on the scene in less than 90 minutes, ready to start cleaning your fire-damaged home.

5. Do Follow Their Example

Once the restoration teams confirm that the house is structurally stable, you may want to see the damages for yourself.

Follow their example and stay safe by wearing OSHA-rated PPE, including heavy gloves, non-slip work boots, wrap-around goggles and a respirator.

6. Do Review Their Initial Assessment

As the restoration technicians assess your home’s fire damage, they develop an outline for cleanup and recovery. 

Review this plan with the teams so that you have a clear picture of what to expect over the next several days or weeks.

7. Do Consult Over Salvageable Contents

This is also an opportunity to identify which fire-damaged items can and cannot be salvaged.

Many homeowners are surprised to learn that industry-certified techs can often clean smoke- and soot-damaged furnishings, electronics and even restore photos and important papers.

8. Do Collect Proof of Losses

Make it easier to file your insurance claim by documenting the fire damage with pictures.

Start a file with the photos, and include notes tracking communications with your insurance company, information on replacement costs and receipts for ongoing expenses.

9. Do Be Patient

It can take longer to move back into the house than you expect. The insurance company may not process your fire damage claim as quickly as you’d like.

Be prepared for things to progress steadily but a little slower than planned. It’s important to understand that cleaning and restoring a fire-damaged property is a multi-step process.

Fire Damage Cleanup Don’ts

10. Don’t Use Appliances Yet

Once the electricity is back on, don’t count on appliances operating safely. 

Even if they appear to be undamaged by the fire, have large and small appliances inspected by a licensed electrician.

11. Don’t Keep Any Food Items

When smoke from a house fire fills cabinets and pantries, it leaves dangerous particles on packaged food and canned goods. 

When a fire compromises a home’s electrical system, the refrigerator and freezer stop working.

Don’t assume anything in the kitchen is still safe to eat.

12. Don’t Throw Away Fire-Damaged Contents

Don’t throw away fire-damaged furniture or belongings until the insurance adjuster performs an inspection. This gives him or her a complete picture of your losses.

Let your restoration technicians make the final call on what can and cannot be salvaged.

13. Don’t Think of Your Home as Asbestos-Free

Asbestos is still a component in residential construction, especially in roofing materials and insulation. 

After a fire, you can’t be sure your home’s interiors are free of damaged asbestos until our teams finish property-wide cleanup.

14. Don’t Spread the Damage

Be aware that your movements through the house can increase surface and airborne contamination. Our industry-certified technicians are highly trained in navigating this type of environment.

We ask that you move slowly and carefully to avoid scattering soot and ash particles.

15. Don’t Try to Do It Yourself

We understand how badly you want things back to normal. Often, homeowners want to help with the project, but fire damage cleanup is hazardous work involving caustic materials and multiple levels of contamination.

Don’t try to tackle it with DIY cleanup.

Advantages of Professional Fire Damage Cleanup

professional fire damage cleanup

Whether you need fire damage cleanup at the house or your business, it’s best to bring in a professional restoration company. 

These are just a few of the advantages of leaving the work to our industry-trained specialists.

  • Cleanup of all water damage resulting from fire extinguishing
  • Debris and unsalvageable material tear-out and disposal
  • Property-wide smoke and soot removal, decontamination and deodorizing
  • Cleaning and restoration for fire-damaged interiors and belongings
  • Our assistance filing your homeowners insurance claims

Need Fire Damage Cleanup in Chicago or the Suburbs? We Can Help!

It’s our goal to share information you can use, especially concerning home emergencies. We want you to stay safe. Still, the best fire protection plans can’t prevent the worst from happening.

If it does, you don’t have to deal with it by yourself. We’re just around the corner, with a 24/7 response.

You can count on ServiceMaster of Lake Shore. We’re always here and always ready for your call: 312-707-8597