Returning Home: Your Fire Damage Checklist

by Guest Author

Assessing fire damage can be an overwhelming experience for homeowners, even for those whose homes came through a wildfire event relatively unscathed. Use this list to make sure you’re addressing all possible areas of fire damage in your home.

Before You Start

Photos: Make sure you have a camera or smartphone on hand when you return home. Before you settle in, take photos of all areas inside and outside that were affected by the wildfires, even if the damages seem minor. Photos will be essential later when filing claims with your insurance company or in any legal disputes that arise.

Exterior Areas

Roof: Inspect your roof to see if there’s any damage from heat or embers. Gutters may be clogged with soot or debris. If your roof is composed of wood shake, you may want to consider upgrading to a more fire-resistant material. Bring in a roof inspector if you suspect damage.

Stucco, siding and concrete: Smoke residue can stain exterior surfaces and excessive heat can cause structural fissures. Determine which areas can be cleaned and repaired and which areas need to be replaced.

Windows: Begin by boarding up any damaged windows. The high temperatures of the wildfires may have caused windows to warp or sustain seal damage. Inspect the window screens as well and clear away any lingering ash or soot.

Foundation and retaining walls: These areas are usually built with concrete, which undergoes dramatic changes when exposed to very high temperatures. A foundation contractor can help determine if any serious damage has occurred to your foundations or retaining walls.

Swimming pools: Determine if any damage has occurred to the concrete or tilework and test all pool equipment to see if it still works. Even pools far from the wildfires should have their filters replaced. A swimming pool contractor can help determine the extent of the damage.

Landscaping: Plants, trees or grasses that were not burnt by the wildfires may still have been harmed by heat, smoke or ash. If you live on a sloped property, make sure all retaining walls are still functional. Bring in an arborist to assess the health of any large trees that sustained damage.

Interior Areas

Attics, crawl spaces and insulation: As smoke rises, soot and ash can build up in these areas during a fire. Do a careful inspection and determine if any insulation or framing needs to be replaced due to smoke damage. Hire a quality attic cleaning service to complete the work.

Carpets, drapes and upholstery: Determine if any smoke damage occurred to your home furnishings. Smoke and soot that has settled into carpeting, window covers or upholstery can be especially difficult to remove. Contact a professional restoration company if DIY remedies fail to address the damage.

Electronics: Smoke can condense and seep into the hardware of electronic equipment like televisions, computers or gaming consoles. Do not attempt to turn on any obviously damaged electronics. Clean the soot and smoke residue as safely as you can and hire a data recovery professional if necessary.

HVAC system: Smoke particles can linger in a home’s ventilation system for months after a fire. The fine particles can corrode metal ductwork and leave a lingering odor in your home. Contact an HVAC technician to clean and assess your system if your home sustained significant smoke exposure.