The Fire Damage Assessment Process

A house fire is one of the most traumatic events a homeowner can experience. Fire damage is difficult to repair. The process is difficult and time consuming due to the complexities of the assessment and repairs. In the wake of a disaster, knowledge is power. It’s important that as a homeowner you familiarize yourself with the fire damage assessment process, in order to be prepared for it.

Initial structural assessment for safety

The first stage of assessing fire damage starts outside the home. The assessor has to be sure that your home is safe to enter. Existing damage is checked out as much as possible from the outside. This initial assessment can be frustrating for you, as the homeowner. However, your house might appear structurally sound to your untrained eye and still pose a safety hazard.

The inspector notes any non-structural damage while they’re outside the home. External damage to the yard, outbuildings, and so forth is also assessed at this time. Once the inspector is certain it’s safe to enter, the assessment moves on.

Start looking for fire damage in the basement

The basement is the first interior room your inspector looks at. In homes without basements, this step is replaced by checking the exterior and interior foundation. The basement provides access to the foundation. This will give you either good or bad news right from the start of the inspection. If the foundation is cracked, broken, or swamped you know that you have a long restoration process ahead of you. On the other hand, a sound foundation means that the structural damage to your home is less severe. Less severe damage leads to quick repairs and less expense.

Check for structural integrity throughout

The final leg of structural integrity inspection leads throughout the whole house. Load bearing walls have to be inspected for cracks, slippage, and even soot damage. Walls that are finished with a porous material could house stains, odors, and even moisture longer. This leads to bacteria and mold that weakens structural supports over time. It’s not uncommon for some walls to need replacement even if they weren’t destroyed completely during the fire.

Assessment of superficial damage

Superficial damage assessment begins only after the entire house has been searched for structural damage. Once the structural damage has been addressed, restoration crews get to work on the rest of the house. Documentation makes the process of assessing fire damage to personal property take even longer. If you intend to file a claim to cover the replacement of personal possessions, you’re going to have to document the cleanup with both video and pictures. This part of the inspection is often the hardest, emotionally speaking. Finding out which possessions were lost and which can be restored is difficult. For the professionals, this stage of fire damage assessment is easier as there are lower stakes.

Fire damage assessment can be split into stages that start with external damage and end with superficial damage. The longest part of the process is making sure your home is safe and structurally sound. Once that is known, the real cleanup process can begin.

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