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What to do if Your Home is Fire Damaged



The catastrophic Wine Country fires are affecting us all. Whether we sustained personal loss or just live nearby, we're living with “Fire Fatigue”.

Before the next disaster hits, here are some early safeguards.

Hopefully you’ve had the foresight to collect all your essentials in one place or visit your safe deposit-box. Consider a household “stash closet” that’s fire resistant and private for personal items.

Re-evaluate your insurance policy limits every year, updating for increased replacement values. Insurance agents typically don’t push you to increase your limits, but you should be knowledgeable of home replacement costs and code upgrade requirements.

With your iphone, record and verbally describe everything in each room once a year, especially if you are moving art around or redecorating.

I can’t say enough about following Wildland Urban Interface, WUI, recommendations for maintaining safe vegetation and fire-resistant structural exteriors to protect life and property from wildfires. This applies to all of us, even in higher density suburban neighborhoods.

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/wui_toolkit/wui_codes.html

Should disaster hit, here are some key issues to address:

1. Immediately contact your insurance company and review your policy. Hopefully, you did not take out the minimum required insurance.

2. Just like you did before the disaster, take pictures and/or videos to document everything. You will need to compare the before and after.

3. Make a list of your losses or what’s missing. You may also need this should vandals find your home. You should know if your personal property is covered and to what degree.

4. Check to see how long your policy will pay for your relocation. Sometimes a year, sometimes shorter and verify moving expenses.

5. Have a licensed professional review the damage. The insurance company adjuster’s report may be too low for your location. Have a third party such as an architect or qualified contractor review the numbers and provide an alternate breakdown. Architects generally use a CSI format to compare apples to apples. https://www.archtoolbox.com/practice/contract-documents/csidivisions.html Any inspection should include the foundation, the general structure, the roof, siding, plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems and interior finishes.

6. Check with the local building department to see if they will fast track the building permit processing and if there are any reductions in processing fees.

7. Check for utility damage. If you have a septic system or well, have it inspected and hopefully you have up-to-date inspection records to avoid costly upgrades.

8. Check with your home financing company for fire replacement provisions. Check if there is a payment deferment policy.

9. Decide whether you should reconstruct or replace the entire structure. This can be the toughest decision especially when you’re not sure you’re ready to give up the space.

Get ready for a long and challenging process. A whole house replacement can be $400/SF-$600/SF, depending upon location and design complexity. For 30 years Craiker Architects & Planners have been restoring homes and lives due to devastating California fires. Call us at 707.224.5060 for a complimentary consultation.

Chris d. Craiker AIA/NCARB

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