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One of the most important foundational elements of a successful fire damage restoration project is the philosophical approach the restorer takes in addressing the damage. Years ago the typical practice was to add oderants (smelly stuff) and try to cover smoke residues with encapsulants (e.g.KILZ). The professional restorer today concentrates on source odor removal, that is, removing the smoke residues as completely as possible rather than trying to overpower them with other "better" smells and covering them up with some sort of "sealer". This is more labor intensive, but is fundamental to restoring the property to a true pre-loss condition and maintaining the property's value. The best bet for successfully identifying what can be successfully salvaged is finding a competent restorer advisor that you trust- this is not really a do it yourself skill. set.
There are two types of people that are qualified to help in this case:
1) PUBLIC ADJUSTERS are hired by you to assess damages for the preparation of an insurance claim. If the damage is extensive or complicated, potentially running into tens of thousands of dollars requiring multiple contractors, this is your best bet.
2) RESTORATION CONTRACTORS are General Contractors that specialize in assessing damages and coordinating the actual trades of these types of restoration projects. They may or may not intrface with your insurance company depending on their business model.
Both are your advocate, but like any service person you hire, it is prudent for you to vet them thoroughly before entering into a contract. Either should offer a free no-obligation assessment prior to contract signing.
I would definitely look at reviews on Angie's List and GuildQuality. With these any contractor should be licensed and fully insured. We are a fence contractor and we focus on customer service and high quality. Be sure to ask them how they ensure quality.
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