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BUILDING DAMAGE ASSESSMENT & REPAIR
DISINFECTING BUILDINGS with BLEACH
DRINKING WATER EMERGENCY SOURCES
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
SAFETY for BUILDING INSPECTORS
SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SAFETY for FLOOD DAMAGE ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SAFETY for SEPTIC INSPECTORS
SEPTIC BACKUP REPAIR
SEPTIC SYSTEM FLOOD DAMAGE
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
Building fire damage: fire damage assessment, fire damage repair priorities, fire damage minimization. This fire damage home page provides links to in-depth articles on a variety of building defects, systems, or components that are associated with extra risk of fire; we also discuss fire damage assessment.
This article also discusses how fire damage and mold damage might be recognized in a building and how we might distinguish between black stains and white sealant paints used in both fire damage repair and mold remediation projects. In a separate section we discuss problems of wildfire damage risks to homes and how to minimize the risk of wildfire damage.
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Our photo at page top shows a Rhinebeck NY home that was destroyed by fire caused by an electrical cord that had been run beneath the carpeting.
Scope of Building Fire Damage, & Comparing Fire Damage to Buildings with Mold Damage
Our fire damage photographs above show two different extents of fire damage in the roof and attic of a New York home. below we discuss damage and mold contamination questions following a fire in different structure.
Reader question: I found your website and found it extremely helpful. However I have a very particular situation and would like to have your suggestions and comments. Here are the series of facts leading to this e-mail to you.
Type of house: 1983 Canadian style with drooping front roof purchased January 2011
Information from seller: 2006 inside renovations (kitchen, living room and bathroom) 2008 new roof – completely redone. When asked if there had ever been water damage, problems or fires in the past the seller answered no to all questions.
Recent leak history: March 2011 – lots of snow and then + 5 degrees Celsius- our roof started leaking and water was leaking in our front door frame.
We went up in the attack and discovered that the air system did not have the protection to prevent fine snow to enter the roof area. There was a line of snow in the middle which probably melted.
After discovering this, I decided to have an engineer who work in construction problems, etc.
3rd April 2011 – Engineer visits and says there is an air problem in the roof top and all the wood seems to have been painted over and there seems to be dark black marks under the paint.
He also says the front part of the drooping roof does not have sufficient space to let air circulate and that this probably caused the water to run down the door frame inside. We are still waiting for the official report.
9th April 2011 – The seller informed us that there was a fire at the construction stage of the house 28 years ago and that is what the black is all about in the roof...They painted over it to seal in the smell.
So we have two different diagnoses of these black and painted areas: mold or fire. What do I do now?
A competent onsite inspection by an expert - a real one who knows both mold and fire damage - usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem.
Also your photos are less than one one thousandth of what I'd look at if I were inspecting the building, so any opinion I give is of necessity incomplete..
That said, here are some things to consider:
Given that the (apparently) vertical wall in this last photo is black with something, an astute home inspector who had access to this area during a pre-purchase home inspection would be expected to observe and comment on that anomaly and to warn you of its possible consequences.
Some Specific Suggestions for Handling Mold & Fire Traces in a Home
Our photo (left) illustrates extensive fire damage to a home at which the fire originated in a (probably creosote laden) metal chimney venting an overheated woodstove, spread to the building's roof and burned back down the building's wall.
A combination of weather conditions and speed with which demolition and repairs began seemed to avoid a concern for mold contamination associated with water used to extinguish this fire.
Also see Fire Retardant Treated FRT Roofing Plywood Failures inspection, detection, testing of defective FRT plywood roof sheathing and
Recommendations about Trees, Shrubs, other Vegetation around the building to reduce wildfire damage risks
Fire-resistant roofing recommendations to reduce risk of wildfire damage to a home
Fire-resistant windows & doors for homes in wildfire-prone areas
If you have occasion to replace windows or doors on your home, when choosing new windows look for dual-glazed tempered glass glazing - a material that is more heat and ember resistant than single pane windows.
References for Prevention of Damage to Homes by Wildfires
Some references and resources that we like for wildfire damage prevention include
Continue reading at FIRE DAMAGE vs MOLD DAMAGE or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: how do I get numerous post-fire-rebuild problems diagnosed & fixed on my home
I am so glad to have found your site. After reading through your site I've learned alot. I had a house fire (total loss) due to arson and I had to rebuild from the ground up. I have a new house with ongoing problems, mostly of leaks and water stains on the interior wood beams of my post and beam house. I desperately need your suggestions.
I moved in on April 1, 2011 and the problems have been ongoing - water stains and drips from the downstairs wood ceiling and running down the wall (outside wall), and two other water stains I noticed on beams on two other outside walls. Also, in my bathroom I have another problem with my 8" beam getting soaking wet for approximately 1 foot in length last spring when the warm weather came which the builder said he fixed. The first cold day this winter I had a 6" long wet stain on the beam once I got out of the shower. I used the exhaust fan like I always do. The cold weather had something to do with it.
Also, my downstairs shower base had several cracks when it was less than 2 years old. Since day one it was leaking at the seams which the builder re-siliconed but now that the base has cracked he told me that he warrantees for only one year. The base flexed from day one and I have read that the base has to be installed on a firm surface. I am thinking the crack was due to the base flexing.
Finally, my daughters window sill is black including in the corners. I am not sure if it is due to normal condensation or not.
The builder did come out and caulk around one window to prevent the water from leaking into the house and down the wall. I am awaiting his reply on my request to caulk all the windows.
I am thinking I should get a qualified inspector to assess any damages, and to give me suggestions. This new house should not have these problems. I am so tired of dealing with house issues, it's almost 4 years since my fire and I am tire! I think I want to live in a tent!
Thank you for any suggestions you can give me. - R.F., New Hampshire, 12/18/2013
Reply: professional inspector to set repair priorities, fire history case evaluation, warning about adversarial approaches
1. An inspection by a thorough, experienced professional should help identify the significant problem areas and also describe the type of remedy required, setting priorities of attention.
2. You need to discuss with your insurance company the case history, course of repairs, and the possibility that original inspections and repairs were inadequate in scope or extent.
3. Watch out: you said you rebuilt from the ground up following a fire. If this is precisely the case, that is, if none of the original structure except perhaps the foundation was retained, then the common post-fire-damage issue of building cavities that were wet during fire extinguishment but not opened and properly dried and renovated post fire does not pertain.
In that case and particularly as you have probably long ago signed-off a settlement with your insurance company, I'm doubtful that there is any basis whatsoever for going back to the insurance company for further help. Only if you could show that somehow you were pressured or did not have adequate representation, or that the insurance company insisted on specific re-build compromises that later led to building problems might there be any case whatsoever - in my OPINION (I am not an attorney, nor engineer, nor architect).
Only if that were the case might you need to consult again with an attorney or with an independent insurance adjuster to see if further steps are appropriate. I do not advise this as an early step, but if you have good reason to feel that an insurance company is taking shortcuts that will result in future trouble in a home you might need help from an independent insurance adjuster.
Reader follow-up: building leaks after re-build after a fire
My house was torn down after the fire and a new house was built from scratch by a builder who basically did everything himself with very few subcontractors. My present concern is why I am getting water stains on my interior beams. I wonder if the builder wrapped the windows correctly and whether the ventilation for the bathroom exhaust fan was done correctly.
Two people told me to sue the builder. I don't want to but I want this resolved. I am totally exhausted in dealing with house issues and I have little stamina left. Would a home inspector be able to tell how water is getting inside when it rains and/or from melting snow, and why I am getting water on the beam in my bathroom ceiling when using the shower and exhaust vent only in the cold weather?
I took some photos of both the interior and exterior of my house. I will send them in the following email. The first several photos are of the bathroom, and the exterior bathroom window and vent. The shower is to the left of the water stain... on the other side of the wall to the left of the toilet. The exhaust vent on the exterior is a white box which the builder made so the vent door extended out from the house so that the heat from exhaust fan isn't drawn up in to the soffits which caused a problem 1-2 years ago. The water stain in the photo occurred for the first time this year during the first very cold day of the year and occurs with every shower since the cold weather even while the fan is on.
The second problem I am having is a water stain on the inside beam above my entrance door. (In the photos it is the door on the side with a lot of windows.) This is a recent problem. Last year I had the same problem in a room on the opposite side of the house which got so bad that water was running down the drywall during a rain storm. The builder caulked around the window above it and it seemed to have stopped the leaking. I asked him to caulk around all windows hoping that it will stop the water stain from increasing above my entrance door. He has not replied. Of note, on the second floor above the entrance door is a large window (seen in photo) which now has much water staining on the window sill. It is odd because all my windows are closed now that it is winter.
I agree that the water stains need to be investigated - to understand the cause and to understand if there is more than a cosmetic problem. But from just your note I can't guess at wha'ts going on: a venting problem, an air leak problem, a roof leak, or what. I think you need an onsite expert inspection to diagnose the topic. Try going to the builder with that information to see what he proposes to do about it. And let me know. I may be able to suggest questions to ask or to comment on the reasonableness of what you're being told. If I had photos of the entire house from outside and inside photos of the stains as well as more distant shots giving some context I might be able to make further useful comment.
Certainly you don't want to sue to force the builder to do anything - that'd be a disaster. And a suit to collect damages makes no sense unless the damage cost is so large as to make the cost and hassle of a suit reasonable - and still you need to have some assurance that you would actually collect.
So first let's focus on an accurate problem diagnosis.
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