How Long Does it Take to Repair a Home After a Fire?
The Fire Damage Repair Process
PHASE 1: MITIGATION AND DEMOLITION – 3 WEEKS
First, the mitigation vendor will come out to assess the level of damage in the home. The affected rooms will be tested for soot and smoke damage by using special sponges or gloves, and a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum and deodorizer will be used to clean the air. The mitigation vendor will also explain what the demolition and rebuild phase may consist of (if applicable) and determine whether it makes sense to do more complex tasks such as flood cutting, a process that determines the water accumulation in drywall, or tearing down walls and ceilings, and removing floors. These tasks may be necessary when a severe fire occurs as water damage can occur from extinguishing the fire. Lead and asbestos testing may also take place depending on the state the house is in and the year it was built.
PHASE 2: GENERAL CONTRACTOR AND SUBCONTRACTOR – 3-6 MONTHS
Once the home has been mitigated, the next step is called “build back” which encompasses the repairs required to return the home to pre-fire condition. The build back phase is when a general contractor comes in. He or she will assess the damage, write an estimate and send it to your insurance carrier adjuster (if you’re filing a claim). Keep in mind it can take some time to negotiate cost (up to 2-3 months), but once all parties agree and you sign a work authorization, work can begin.
The general contractor often takes on subcontractors to rebuild other parts of the home, such as installing flooring or drywall (or uses an architect for larger losses), so you can get the type of flooring, roofing, etc., you want in your newly restored home.
When all work is complete, you and your contractor will perform a final walk through to review the repairs and you will be asked to sign a Certificate of Satisfaction, which is documentation needed to close out the job.
The Amount of Time Depends on the Amount of Damage
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all time estimate for the restoration process. It depends on the size of the house, severity of damage and vendors involved. A small house with light damage could be fixed in a couple of days, whereas a larger job requiring a full gut (or complete rebuild) could take six months or more. It’s always helpful to ask for a scope of the work involved as well as an estimate, so you have a better sense of what to expect for your specific situation.
Here are some other things to consider when a home fire occurs:
- Permits can prevent demolition from happening. For example, you may have to hold off on a rebuild if the building fails lead or asbestos testing.
- Repairs can take time, but it’s also important to be aware of your timeline, especially if your insurance company is covering alternative living expenses (ALE). For example, if you’ve spent 5 months negotiating costs and only have 9 months of ALE, you would have already spent more than half of your ALE before the restoration process began.
- Hire a trustworthy mitigation vendor with proper credentials and good reviews. If the mitigation is not done well, it can create more work for the general contractor.
- Avoid cleaning prior to speaking with a professional company, as it could cause further damage.
- Collect all sentimental items to handle/clean yourself to avoid potential accidents while professionals are there.