Good Questions: What To Do After a Fire?

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Hello AT,

Recently, friends of ours fell victim to an apartment fire. Their apartment isn't totally destroyed, but it is seriously smoke & water damaged.

Their insurance company has contracted with a cleaning company, but they are interested in exploring other options...

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There is a lot of built-in cabinetry and tilework in their apartment. Lingering smoke smell after the cleaning is a big worry, and quite frankly - is not an option.

Have any of your readers had experience with cleaners who come in after a fire? If so, we would love to know.

Thanks -Chris

Dear Chris,

When we were in high school our house caught on fire and everything was smoke and water damaged. It was awful. No one was home (my brother and I were in boarding school), but our mother came home to find a policeman standing in front of her axe-butchered front door and fire blackened house, who asked her is she was Mrs. Ryan. When she said she was, he thanked her and politely walked away. His job was to wait until the owner returned.

Not much more help came after that until she got the paperwork finished with the insurance company and hired a cleaning company and a contractor. She lived with friends and in a rented apartment for over two years. But that is all another story.

To answer your question, we don't know of any other option other than cleaning what you can and throwing the rest out. Smoke damage is very very pernicious. We were able to keep books (the bindings are still very dark), furniture and some personal items. All clothing, bedding, cabinetry and even wallpaper all had to go out.

This may not be much help, and we would LOVE to hear any other more hopeful options that folks may have. The one good thing that came out of all this was that it forced our family to purge a great, great deal and my mother then completely redid the house afterwards, making over the home that had suited a family with small children and suited her life then and for the future.

Aside from the heartache of cleaning and rebuilding, it is to this day, sort of a gift in disguise.

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.

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