After a Fire: 5 Common Homeowner Mistakes

In the aftermath of a house fire, most homeowners are too distraught to think clearly about what to do next such as secure the property, remove important documents and notify the mortgage company.

Wesley Phillips, president of Bryant-Phillips Associates, a North Carolina-based licensed general contractor, details five typical mistakes people make post-fire.

Not Hiring a Licensed General Contractor

Hiring a licensed general contractor, ideally one with experience in fire, water and smoke damage, is often the most crucial step toward being able to return home and regain a sense of normalcy.

“One big mistake is not choosing a general contractor quickly enough,” says Phillips, whose company specializes in fire, water and smoke damages restoration. “A general contractor should be able to assist you with securing your home, generating an estimate and doing all the repairs on the home. The faster the homeowner selects a qualified contractor, the faster repairs can be made and the family can return home.”

WHN Expert TIP – Don’t Cut Corners: Trying to save money by doing your own repairs or having someone “help” you who doesn’t have the necessary expertise or experience can lead to problems down the road, Phillips says.

Not Removing Possessions

Once the fire department has deemed the premises safe to enter, immediately remove valuables and furnishings, since the faster you get an item out, “the better chance you have of repairing and salvaging it. Even though the fire is out, water and smoke will continue to damage items left inside,” Phillips says.

As for food, err on the side of caution and toss it all. (Refer to the Food Safety Guide if you have questions.)

Keep track of what food was discarded — frozen, refrigerated and shelf-stable items — since the insurance company will reimburse you for everything you lose in a fire, including food.

Overestimating the Damage

Homeowners often assess damages at 100 percent when they are really only 25 percent — easy to overestimate because in some cases, it looks worse than it is. For example, sheetrock is designed to keep fire out and once the black and charred material is removed, it is often undamaged underneath. Almost anything can be repaired.

Settling for the Smoke Smell

It IS possible to get rid of the smoke smell! A reputable experienced company will guarantee to permanently eliminate the odor. If the smoke smell remains, request additional treatment.

WHN TIP – Advice from Experts: Listen to this podcast for tips on dealing with the aftermath of a fire.

Having Unrealistic Expectations

Homeowners need to prepare themselves for the fact that restoration can be time-consuming. Since restoration can involve stripping the house to the studs and rebuilding, homeowners need to think in terms of months, not days or weeks.