Hiring a professional fire damage restoration company is essential in helping your property quickly dry out and be restored to pre-fire condition. Here are some quick tips from the team at Alpha Omega Restoration on what you should look for when hiring a smoke & fire damage cleanup contractor.
The loss of a family residence to fire is an emotionally charged event. To help reduce the stress, begin your restoration process by calling a reputable contractor and get started ASAP. A qualified professional will start the remediation process with a thorough inspection. Some damage may be superficial while other aspects could require more comprehensive work. Your contractor should provide you with a complete written estimate listing the various services and the corresponding cost involved for your approval prior to any work being performed.
Fire Damage Remediation Contractor Checklist
Before making a decision on which restoration company to hire, go through this quick checklist: Licensing & Insurability – First, verify that your selected contractor displays their certification (i.e., state contractor’s license number or certification as an IICRC certified member) and insurance information. Membership in a professional trade association is another good indicator of quality. A few examples would be the California Fire Sprinkler Association (CAL-FSA), International Code Council (ICC), International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), and the Institute of Inspection Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Business License – Check if your contractor has a current business license issued by the City of Modesto with a valid BID#. Working on Your Property – Work on your property should only occur after you have received all necessary permits from the appropriate agencies such as: Costanoa Regional Water Quality Control Board;
Modesto Irrigation District; and the City of Modesto. Contractor’s Qualifications – Your contractor should have various qualifications including: experience, education (i.e., training certificates from IICRC), and professional affiliations (i.e., CAL-FSA).
Restoration costs can vary greatly based on the extent of work required for your property, which will be determined during the inspection process by a qualified restoration company. Ask about insurance coverage before hiring any contractor. Common exclusions on residential fire damage policies include such items as sprinkler systems, electrical wiring, carpeting & rugs, drapes & upholstery and electronics equipment that is plugged into an electrical outlet or surge protector.
Know Before You Hire
Some restoration companies may attempt to sell you services that are not necessary or require a large down payment. A licensed contractor will provide you with an estimate of the work and cost involved before any work is performed. Remember, only sign paperwork authorizing work after receiving a complete description of all services and costs written in your contract, which can always be changed upon mutual agreement between yourself and the contractor.
References from previous clients (i.e., name & phone number) can verify your contractors’ professionalism and build trust; make sure they check out as well or better than they sound when speaking with them over the phone. Your selected company should be eager to give you references when asked before committing to any service.
State-of-the-Art Cleaning Equipment
Have you noticed the large construction vehicles with huge water tanks outside of your property? These are called a fire trucks and they contain special cleaning equipment that is designed to remove smoke, soot, and other compounds without damaging your property. When working in homes after a fire, professional restoration companies have specialized tools such as HEPA (High Effective Particulate Arrestance) filters, foggers, scrubbers & vacuums. These assist in removing fire residue from building materials while maintaining quality air inside your home or business.
Restoration companies that have been around for awhile and employ certified professionals are generally more reliable than newly formed ventures. Although new businesses may have less overhead, there are generally fewer experienced employees and little time to build a reputation. Always remember that an old restoration company may not be able to handle today’s larger fires, which can require special equipment like high pressure water hoses for firefighting.
Ceiling Fan Damage
Have you noticed your ceiling or wall fans are no longer spinning? This is another indication of smoke and soot damage. Restoration companies that have proper cleaning equipment will be able to remove the soot from your ceiling fan blades so they can resume working properly after repairs are made by your insurance adjuster.
Payment options for fire damage services vary greatly among restoration companies; some will accept payment in full before any work is performed on your property, while others will require payment only after the job is complete. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with any payment arrangement before signing a contract.
Hiring the Right Company
Having some idea about the extent of damage prior to hiring a contractor will save you time and help ensure that your selected company can meet your needs; do not wait until after scheduling an appointment to learn more about smoke & soot damage from your insurance adjuster or fire official. Never accept an estimate based on a limited inspection alone; make sure restoration companies perform a thorough walk-through per their contract, which should be detailed in writing! Always ask for references when considering hiring a contractor for your home or business (especially if there are no previous clients) — reference checks will help determine if the contractor has any history of customer satisfaction, professionalism and quality service.
Restoration companies can be divided into two general categories: those that specialize in restoration services only (i.e., no construction) and others that provide a little bit of everything. The full-service companies will typically have set schedules; they often work on weekdays during daylight hours, so plan your meetings accordingly if you need immediate attention. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing different companies:
Are you fully licensed, bonded & insured? — Restoration contractors must complete specific training before being eligible for licensing as a fire damage repair company from the state Fire Marshal’s Office; check with them to verify license information over the phone or online. In addition, restoration companies must be bonded and insured just like any other contractor in California (look for the CA State license number 0E01787 on all state contracts). Failure to carry insurance can result in denial of claims, lawsuits, fines & even jail time!
What types of services do you offer?
Restoration contractors should have experience performing all phases of fire damage clean up; these include emergency repair work (i.e., patching holes), lead-based paint abatement (if required) as well as construction tasks such as installing new drywall and painting after repairs are completed. Some full service restoration companies may also assist with temporary living accommodations if needed while your home is being restored (this is usually done by a separate division of the company).
Do you have experience with this type of fire damage?
As mentioned previously, since fires can vary greatly in nature so too are restoration procedures. Smoke & soot may require specialized cleaning materials such as thermal fogging equipment that help remove contaminants trapped deep within walls & ceilings; some restorers may not be equipped to handle these types of situations, and it’s important to know before signing any contracts!
Does your contract specifically state what work will be performed? Restoration companies should spell out service details clearly in writing (specifically environmental cleaning). Having a specific written agreement is especially important if your home has already been deodorized or fumigated; certain chemicals used during these procedures (e.g., ozone machines) should not be used again for various safety and health reasons.
The cost of fire damage remediation varies greatly; the type of property & extent of damage will determine if only minor repairs are needed or a complete rebuild is required. Some restoration companies provide flat rate estimates for certain services (usually minor repairs), while others offer detailed hourly rates based on the expected level of difficulty involved in completing your job; ask specific questions over the phone to determine which applies to you! If provided, do not sign a contract until you completely understand any payment arrangements because this can affect your insurance claim.
Restoration companies should give you two different contracts: one is considered their “verbal” contract and the other is their “written” contract. The verbal agreement should list all services being provided as well as payment arrangements (flat rate, hourly or a combination). All prices quoted to you should be guaranteed for that period; make sure it’s documented! If this sounds too good to be true, than it probably is.
The written contract contains company details as well as specific services being performed and how much each one will cost. Many restoration contractors provide FREE estimates so take advantage of this opportunity if possible. Once signed by both parties, the written agreement can only be modified by mutual consent of both parties. Make sure there is some sort of warranty on work done; even if it’s considered a minor repair sometimes additional costs can be incurred during a house restoration.
Know your rights
If you feel that the contractor is not performing as promised, or in some cases they have overcharged you for services; rest assured there are laws in place to protect you! Ask questions and make sure all work is performed according to the contract; if not, contact your state’s consumer protection agency (e.g., Better Business Bureau). You should also contact your insurance agent/company directly with any complaints; they can mediate between parties involved and provide information regarding legal obligations.
Follow Up Care
In most cases, fire damage service agreements will last 1-2 years once completed by restoration contractors; be sure it’s insured against flood damage & has current proof of liability insurance. If you ever have questions or concerns, contact your restoration company immediately; they should be willing to give you their direct business number in case of an emergency.
Start this process as soon as possible; it’s easy to become overwhelmed when dealing with fire damage and the after-effects that follow! It’s better to know all the facts beforehand than get involved in any disputes at a later date (e.g., paying for work not covered by insurance).
So remember: ask specific questions over the phone about contracts before signing anything! Rest assured there are laws in place protecting you from dishonest contractors who may take advantage of any situation just to make a fast buck! And never pay anything up front unless already agreed upon before signing a contract; always get at least two estimates when dealing with fire damage clean up!
Hopefully this article will assist you in deciding which restoration company is right for your situation. If so, be sure to bookmark it or add it to your favorites list for future reference. There are many companies out there willing to help you during what can be a very stressful time — such as the one’s mentioned above. Good luck and go get em!