If you're ever in the unfortunate position of suffering through a fire or other disaster that damages your home, you may be faced with significant repairs. It's not simply a matter of cleaning up and fixing what's been damaged. Here's a brief look at how to rebuild after a house fire (or another disaster).
This isn’t just a slogan. It is essential that you don’t enter your damaged home until you’ve been so instructed by the fire department. It’s not always obvious if structural damage has occurred. For more information on first steps after a home fire, download this PDF from FEMA.
Before you can think about rebuilding a house after a fire or after water damage, you need to be absolutely certain about the exact extent of the damage. That means before contacting a builder or remodeler to fix your home, you need a thorough inspection so you know what you’re dealing with. That should include an evaluation of things such as:
- Air quality in the house
- The roof
- Plumbing fixtures
- Wiring, electrical circuits, and switches
- Light fixtures
- Metal structures
- Concrete (including foundation)
- Siding, and/or stucco
- Interior walls
- HVAC systems
- Mechanical systems (furnace, water heater, sump pumps)
- Doors, windows, and frames
- Damage from fire, smoke, heat, or moisture
- Areas that may be susceptible to mold
Check Your Insurance Coverage
Before you make plans to repair, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what your home insurance will cover. You’ll want to talk to your insurance agent as quickly as possible so that they can start the process necessary to restore you home to order. Ask your insurance agent to send, e-mail or bring a copy to you as soon as possible. Then you’ll want to check the specifics of your policy to see what is covered and what is not. Before you take any action or accept any claim compensation, check with your agent. By the way, if the damage to your home is caused by a wildfire, you may be able to apply for assistance through FEMA—independent of your insurance company.
Hiring a Public Adjuster
A public insurance adjuster is an insurance professional that works on the policy holders behalf to settle a claim with the insurance company. They help to determine the value of the loss, including structural damage, damage to your items, and additional expenses that accrue after such an event. Additionally, they will help you review your policy, help you prepare your claim, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. More information regarding public adjusters can be found here.
Plan Your Remodel
After you've made sure that your home is safe and know exactly what your insurance will cover, you can begin making plans to rebuild/restore your home. And while nothing can take away the trauma of the damage that's been done, you will now have a chance to make your home better than ever. Early in the planning stage, it's good to get the opinion and advice of an experienced remodeler. Here are some suggestions for interviewing remodelers to make sure you end up with the right one for you. From structural damage to plumbing and electrics, working with an experienced team is the best way to restore your home in a safe, efficient manner. Take time to screen your potential contractor for the proper licensing, experience, and reputation.
It’s the time to explore making changes to the layout of your home that you might not have considered before. Don’t be in a hurry to restore everything to exactly the way it was—unless that’s what you really want. Let your remodeler offer suggestions about how to better take advantage of the space you have to make it more comfortable, convenient, and inviting.Click here for some thoughts to consider before you start rebuilding.
Buying a New Home after a Fire
After a house fire, it is imperative that you understand the full scope of your policy. You will need to start a claim and address your immediate needs. Often times, it is not as simple as the insurance company writing you a check for the amount of your home. Together, you and your insurance company must settle on a figure for how much it will cost to rebuild, or the cost of buying a new home completely.
It is recommended that you provide independent estimates on the scope of the loss, and the cost to replace your home. You can then use that information to negotiate with your insurance company for how much money you can use to buy a replacement home. It is imperative to check your homeowner's insurance policy, as they differ from company to company, and laws vary from state to state. For more information on purchasing a new home after a house fire, contact your insurance agency.
While we certainly hope you never need this information, we offer it with the conviction that it’s better to be prepared ahead of time.