8 Essential Steps to Rebuilding Your Home After a Fire

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 11, 2024

A fire in your home is devastating. Faced with the enormous task of putting everything back together, you may be wondering where to begin.

Don’t worry, though – you’re not alone. 

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we have more than 85 years of experience providing fire damage restoration services to Chicago homeowners, and we’ve compiled that expertise into this comprehensive blog. 

Before You Get Started

  • Hire a Professional. A restoration professional has the expertise and equipment to safely address fire damage, including hazardous soot and smoke residue. DIY cleanup efforts can expose individuals to toxic substances without the proper safety measures, potentially leading to health risks. Additionally, a professional team can help you understand what needs to be removed and what can be rebuilt and provide estimated costs for each process. 
  • Prioritize Your Safety. Personal safety is paramount during the fire damage restoration process. Exposure to hazardous materials such as ash, soot, and potentially toxic fumes from burned substances can pose serious health risks. Protective gear, such as masks, gloves, and goggles, protects individuals from these dangers while facilitating a safer restoration environment. It’s also crucial to rely on a professional to ensure the property’s structural integrity before entering, as fire can weaken structures, posing a risk of injury or further damage.

8 Steps To Rebuilding A Fire-Damaged House

house fire damage repair

Recovering from a house fire takes time, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Many of the jobs involved must be handled by licensed professionals, who follow these steps to provide comprehensive fire damage restoration services:

1. Inspect The Damage

A crucial first step in the rebuild process is a safety inspection conducted by a certified inspector. To ensure a reliable inspection, look for an IIRC WRT– (Water Restoration Technician) and FSRT– (Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician) certified fire damage restoration team. 

During an inspection, a professional will evaluate hazardous materials, air quality, roofing, plumbing, electrical systems, structural components, and more. 

This thorough assessment identifies damages and sheds light on essential repairs needed. 

Additionally, inspectors can provide insights into potential issues that might have gone unnoticed.

2. Identify Health Hazards

When a home suffers fire damage, restoring it to a safe and livable condition involves more than just repairing structural damage and cleaning up soot. 

The team will look for hazardous materials that could pose health risks. This includes:

  • Asbestos: Commonly found in older homes’ insulation, tiles, and roofing materials, asbestos can become airborne and inhaled, leading to serious health issues.
  • Lead: Often present in paint in homes built before 1978, lead dust and chips can be toxic if ingested or inhaled.
  • Chemical Residues: Various chemicals, from cleaning agents to those contained within building materials, can become concentrated and harmful post-fire.

Once the team has identified hazardous materials, they’ll remove them with specialized equipment and techniques. This advanced equipment ensures that asbestos fibers, lead dust, and chemical residues do not spread further during cleanup.

The restoration team will also use air scrubbers and dehumidifiers to address health hazards associated with poor air quality. These tools help remove particulate matter, smoke, and soot from the air, as well as reduce moisture that can lead to the growth of mold, another significant health hazard.

3. Secure The Property

Once the team has identified hazards and inspected the damage, they’ll secure all but one entryway, and board up broken windows

By closing up your home, the team minimizes the chance of vandalism during the rebuilding process. Many insurance companies insist on securing properties vacated after a fire.

4. Contact The Insurance Company

Next, it’s time to contact the insurance company to file a claim. Fortunately, your fire damage restoration team can help with this process. 

A fire damage restoration company plays a crucial role in documenting the aftermath of a fire, providing detailed assessments and evidence needed for insurance claims. 

This comprehensive documentation is essential for homeowners to secure the necessary funds from insurance companies for repair and restoration efforts, ensuring a smoother and more efficient recovery process.

5. Avoid Touching Items In The Impacted Room(S)

Following a fire incident, both the fire department and your insurance provider will investigate the fire’s origin and conditions and evaluate the resulting damage. 

This step is crucial for verifying your insurance coverage. Regrettably, interfering with items could be considered tampering with evidence. 

In cases of minor fires, such as a microwave fire, seek approval to move affected items or appliances temporarily until an inspection is carried out.

6. Remove And Clean Content


To ensure that there are no lingering fire-related compounds in the home, the team will thoroughly clean smoke and soot residue and remove affected items. 

  • Every surface, from walls to furniture, must be cleaned, repaired, or replaced if affected by the fire. 
  • If fire suppression efforts create water damage, the team may use extraction equipment to remove the remaining moisture and prevent mold and mildew growth. 
  • The team will also provide services like ash removal, dehumidification, smoke odor neutralization, and more to restore the affected area.

7. Obtain Building Permits

To proceed with a rebuild, you need to obtain building permits. 

These permits guarantee that buildings adhere to minimum standards for the safety of occupants and neighbors in daily life and emergencies. Application fees may vary based on the scope of modifications. 

Still trying to figure out where to start? 

Lean on your restoration company for assistance securing the necessary permits for your rebuild. 

8. Repair The Structural Damage

To identify and repair structural damage, restoration teams utilize advanced technology, such as thermal imaging cameras, to detect areas of moisture intrusion that could lead to mold growth. 

The team will also identify damage to electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC systems that could pose additional risks or hinder restoration.

When the restoration process begins, the team will work to identify damaged framework and support structures that may need to be reinforced or entirely replaced to meet safety standards and building codes. 

Restoring a fire-damaged house is about repairing what has been visibly damaged and ensuring the home is safe, secure, and habitable. 

This comprehensive approach also focuses on the following:

  • Stabilizing the structure
  • Removing soot and debris
  • Repairing or replacing drywall, flooring, and roofing materials
  • And more

Restoration experts maintain a clear line of communication with homeowners and insurance providers throughout this process, ensuring that the restoration progresses smoothly and efficiently and that the home is restored to its pre-fire condition or better.

Need Help With Restoring Your Fire-Damaged Home In Chicago?

fire restoration team chicago

With the combined muscle and talent of experienced carpenters, electricians, and fire restoration services, most homes can be successfully rebuilt. 

If you ever have to deal with the aftermath of a house fire, you can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. We’re one of Chicago’s most trusted fire restoration contractors, and we’re here for you 24/7.

We know rebuilding a fire-damaged home can be difficult, but you don’t have to face it alone. Just give us a call: 773-647-1985.

How much does it cost to rebuild a house after a fire?

The cost to rebuild a house after a fire can vary significantly, depending on factors such as the extent of the damage, local construction costs, and the size and design of the house. It’s also important to consider other expenses that may arise, such as temporary housing, and whether homeowner’s insurance will cover these costs. Consulting with a fire damage restoration professional and your insurance adjuster can provide a more accurate estimation specific to your situation.

Do I have to rebuild after a fire?

Rebuilding after a fire is contingent upon several factors, including the extent of the damage, insurance coverage, and personal decisions regarding the property. In some cases, restoration may be possible, allowing for repairs without a complete rebuild. It’s crucial to consult with professionals in fire damage assessment and your insurance company to explore your options and make an informed decision.

How long does it take to repair a house after a fire?

The timeline for repairing a house after a fire can vary significantly, depending on the extent of the damage and the efficiency of the restoration process. Minor damages might be addressed within a few weeks, while extensive repairs could take up to several months. It’s essential to work with experienced professionals who can assess the situation accurately and outline a realistic timetable for the restoration work.