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  1. #1
    Kate Pole's Avatar
    Kate Pole Guest

    Default Smoke Damaged Walls and a Suspicious Contractor Decision

    Good afternoon, all,

    I recently had a fire in my basement, and the contractor and insurance adjustor decided the entire house needed to be gutted because the smoke damage was so severe. That includes eight floor joists on the main level, both the first- and second-level ceilings, and the downstairs and basement walls. Even the new attic insulation came out. And yet, the upstairs walls have remained. When I asked the contractor if the walls were still in because the insurance company was pressuring him to save some money, he gave me a very quick response (electronically). He said, "It should not be an issue to save the walls upstairs. We will be cleaning them as soon as the demo process is over. If there is still a lingering smoke odor after that, we would revisit that issue and would not leave you with any smoke odor after we are finished with the job." This response really concerns me. The house is in almost skeletal form since the smell was so bad. Moreover, it looks as though someone has thrown liquid smoke all over them, and initially, the contractor said they'd probably need to come out. Now he's changed his tune, claiming that cleaning them will be no issue. It's an older house (built in 1925), and he discovered plaster and lath under the dry wall. The insurance company has been wonderful so far, but I get the feeling they're trying to cut costs since that extra plaster and lath coverage is so expensive. I'm just not convinced that they can get the smell out; I think they can cover it up with all sorts of new smells, but I'm nervous that when they're all done, it will be too late to fix or that I'll be too tired of living somewhere else and will simply accept it as 'good enough.' Is it time for me to say 'halt' to the contractors until the insurance agent can give me a good explanation, or am I overreacting? My biggest fear is that I know so little about all of this that someone's going to take advantage. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Kate

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Memphis TN.
    Posts
    4,311

    Default Re: Smoke Damaged Walls and a Suspicious Contractor Decision

    Quote Originally Posted by Kate Pole View Post
    Good afternoon, all,

    I recently had a fire in my basement, and the contractor and insurance adjustor decided the entire house needed to be gutted because the smoke damage was so severe. That includes eight floor joists on the main level, both the first- and second-level ceilings, and the downstairs and basement walls. Even the new attic insulation came out. And yet, the upstairs walls have remained. When I asked the contractor if the walls were still in because the insurance company was pressuring him to save some money, he gave me a very quick response (electronically). He said, "It should not be an issue to save the walls upstairs. We will be cleaning them as soon as the demo process is over. If there is still a lingering smoke odor after that, we would revisit that issue and would not leave you with any smoke odor after we are finished with the job." This response really concerns me. The house is in almost skeletal form since the smell was so bad. Moreover, it looks as though someone has thrown liquid smoke all over them, and initially, the contractor said they'd probably need to come out. Now he's changed his tune, claiming that cleaning them will be no issue. It's an older house (built in 1925), and he discovered plaster and lath under the dry wall. The insurance company has been wonderful so far, but I get the feeling they're trying to cut costs since that extra plaster and lath coverage is so expensive. I'm just not convinced that they can get the smell out; I think they can cover it up with all sorts of new smells, but I'm nervous that when they're all done, it will be too late to fix or that I'll be too tired of living somewhere else and will simply accept it as 'good enough.' Is it time for me to say 'halt' to the contractors until the insurance agent can give me a good explanation, or am I overreacting? My biggest fear is that I know so little about all of this that someone's going to take advantage. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Kate
    .
    The Contractor is not who you should be speaking to.

    Contact your Insurance Policy's Adjustor ( keep in mind they do not work for you but the Insurance Company paying the claim.)

    If you feel things should be done differently you can hire an advocate public adjuster.Public adjuster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lake Barrington, IL
    Posts
    1,363

    Default Re: Smoke Damaged Walls and a Suspicious Contractor Decision

    Kate,

    Contact a certified indoor environmentalist through the iaqa.org website. Smells can be controlled but not if it's by an unqualified individual. Illinois does not regulate IAQ contractors so you need to exercise caution in screening out who you are going to use.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Chicago IL
    Posts
    1,984

    Default Re: Smoke Damaged Walls and a Suspicious Contractor Decision

    From my experience, the smoke smell will continue to linger in any walls that remain closed up. They can mask the smell and you probably won't notice it much in the long run. This obviously doesn't seem to be the option you want.
    There are other concerns beyond just the smoke smell you should be concerned about.
    - If the walls that remain closed are insulated the smell will likely never go away.
    - Has someone evaluated fire travel and possible framing or substrate damage within those wall cavities?
    - Is this a balloon frame house? if so, smoke and flame travel could be greater than people realize
    - If these are exterior walls how will they be properly insulated as part of the rehab?
    - Since fires are usually put out with water, has water damage and mold growth in wall cavities been evaluated?
    - Is there a permit for the job? I an architect spec'ing the structural repairs or is the contractor just doing what he thinks is good.
    Yes talking with the contractor is good. However, you should be talking to your adjuster about what they are reimbursing, line by line; how money is being spent; how additional adjustments will be approved; who is specifying what, etc.
    If this is in the City of Chicago, plans and permits would be required for this type of repair.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Louisa County, Virginia
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: Smoke Damaged Walls and a Suspicious Contractor Decision

    Kate,
    Does your contractor specialize in fire and water restoration? If so, then they should be familiar with using an "Ozone Generator" to provide an Ozone shock treatment which deodorizes the smoke odor. If the contractor is not experienced in fire restoration and is not recommending an ozone treatment then you need to seek further advice from an expert.
    Good luck,
    Jim


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