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firefighters fighting house fire

Repair & Reconstruction After a House Fire

Table of Contents

No one expects a fire to wreak havoc on their home, but for thousands of homeowners each year, a house fire is an unfortunate reality. Recently in Colorado, high winds and an extremely dry winter season fueled a fire that consumed nearly 1,000 residential homes throughout unincorporated Boulder County, Louisville, and Superior. Some of our clients were victims of this Marshall Fire disaster.

Marshall Fire, Louisville, Colorado, by WxChasing/Brandon Clement
Marshall Fire, Louisville, Colorado. Photo by WxChasing/Brandon Clement, Dec. 31, 2021.

We’ve been asked by many, “What will happen to houses that were burned?” In this unfortunate case where damage has been complete and no structures remain, insurance comes into play and provides homeowner funding for a new property or to put towards a scrape and complete rebuild. If damages hadn’t been so extensive, there would have been a possibility that homes could have been repaired.

We’ve also been asked, “What happens to homes that experienced damage from the smoke and ash?” With structures intact, smoke damage is usually remedied by replacing the fabrics, carpets, and other scent-absorbent materials.

If you have experienced damage from a structure fire, these are the steps to repair or reconstruct your damaged home:

Verify Your Insurance Coverage

Call your insurance company as soon as possible after a fire event to start a claim. Discuss exactly what your policy covers and talk through options with your agent. Before starting any repairs or hiring any contractors, make sure you fully understand what your policy will reimburse.

man on his cellphone making a call

There may be some out-of-pocket expenses when rebuilding your home depending on your coverage. If a wildfire caused your home to catch fire, you may qualify for additional assistance through FEMA. As you move forward with restoring your home, be sure to document everything. You will want to be as thorough as possible when submitting your claim.

Complete an Inspection

Immediately after a house fire, do not let your emotions impact your judgment. It may be tempting to enter your home to retrieve sentimental items, but before doing so, you must assess any major damage and determine if the structure is safe.

A house fire of any size can compromise the structural integrity of a house. If any structural elements such as joists, headers, load-bearing walls, or foundation walls have been damaged, it is not safe to enter. Contact a structural engineer or a qualified general contractor to help determine if your home is structurally sound.

Damage & Debris Removal

Before you can begin rebuilding, everything that was damaged or compromised by the fire must go. In some cases, this means working with a professional fire restoration company to strip your home of any evidence that there ever was a fire in the first place. Some general contractors will also take on this work coupled with rebuilding your home.

firefighter walking out of a partially damaged brick house

The demolition work will involve removing items damaged by the fire itself along with items damaged by smoke and water that was used to extinguish the fire. Your contractor will remove drywall, flooring, carpets, doors, windows, etc. while also cleaning up soot and debris. Additionally, your HVAC system will need to be cleaned and serviced.

Start to Repair or Rebuild

After any remnants of your house fire have been removed, you can start the rebuilding process. Work with a professional general contractor to determine the scope of the project and agree on pricing. Be sure to share each bid with your insurance company and come to an agreement on the best path forward.

construction worker framing a house wall

In some cases, homeowners will decide to make the most out of a negative situation by incorporating upgrades to their home while rebuilding. Your insurance company will only reimburse you to replace exactly (or equivalent to) what was in your home prior to the fire, but while you have a contractor on-site, it may be advantageous to expand your kitchen or create that new bathroom you have always wanted.

Prepare for the Future

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. Regardless, you should make sure you are adequately prepared should another house fire or disaster occur. If your insurance did not fully cover the costs to repair your home after the fire, consider increasing your coverage.

Furthermore, consider the materials your home is constructed of and how they will combat a fire. Fire retardant building materials such as fire-rated glass, treated lumber, and certain types of drywall can help slow the spread of a fire throughout your home. Simple preventative measures include keeping your exterior vegetation trimmed and ensuring your smoke alarms are always working.

laptop coffee cellphone notepad sitting on desk

Resources

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reported 379,500 structure fires affecting a variety of residential homes in 2020. For individuals impacted by house fires, restoring the damage is not easy, but is one step in the right direction towards healing.

If you know someone affected by the Marshall Fire, consider donating clothes, food, shelter, or funds to aid individuals and families in rebuilding their lives.

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