TAMPA - Whether your home has suffered a tiny bit of smoke damage or complete fire and water destruction, the cleanup process can leave you overwhelmed.
Hiring professionals to clean and your restore your home and its belongings can help. "If you have a fire or flood in your home the first thing you want to do is access the damage," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. "And then determine what providers can help you fix and return your home back to normal."
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.
Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, asked highly rated restoration companies about the services they offer:
- 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
"When going through the items that you might have lost in the fire or flood, you first need to access what their value was and how much it would cost to replace them. 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," Hicks said.
Kenny Cochran owns a restoration company and said homeowners should realize there are limits to what they can do. "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."
Cochran suggests homeowners do complete photographic inventory of all your belongings. That will make replacing what you lost a lot easier. "Having some documentation, be it a photograph, receipts, inventory is very important because when you have a major fire or flood and half your stuff is gone it's very difficult to remember what you actually owned."
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.
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.