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Solo1 10-10-2009 01:20 AM

Smoke Damage:Must Walls be torn out or will Clean / Repaint Work?
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Hi Folks -

I am a new member seeking advice.

I had a house fire in the house I rent.

The landlord has benefit of full insurance coverage / proceeds that probably exceeds the value of the house, possibly providing an opportunity for a buyer of the property at just land value. I am thinking of buying house for land value, then cleaning / repainting interior and possibly adding onto the home.

See pics below. The damage is from smoke and soot on walls and ceiling, throughout house though mostly in living room, dining room and den. (Kitchen, 2 bdrs. and bath not as bad). House is one floor and 1030 sq. feet.

There is no structural damage from fire except at window frames behind the couch where fire started and part of ceiling above couch where the fireman tore the ceiling out to make sure no embers were in the rafters. There are visible signs of heat damage on some doors, kitchen cabinets, etc.

Question is: How can you tell if the smoke / soot damage requires tearing out walls and ceiling? or,alternatively, if you can have excellent results with chem clean, ozone / hepafilter treatments, resealing and repainting.(please pardon if I use improper terms).

The floors are hardwood. Walls are plaster and the ceilings are gypsum - 3/8, I believe with a plaster? covering over it.

The landlord is represented by a law firm / construction firm.The insurance estimator agreed to pay for tear out virtually all walls and ceilings and replace dated electrical system, redo hardwoods, mouldings, maybe doors.Estimated costs at $100k.

I had a restoration company come by who said walls and ceilings can be cleaned, sealed, repainted with good results as long as special air venting/odor eliminating equipment are used in process. Another restoration who also the does contracting came by and agreed with insurance company.

There are quite different opinions from different sources. I am afraid that the smoke odor won't be eliminated if I try to take the less expensive cleanup route.

Part of me senses that this situation could be quite an investment opportunity. The landlord would be able to sell the home for market price or slightly above with the benefit of insurance proceeds. I could repair the home and enter well under market price or even add an expanded master + bath, a deck and an enclosed sun porch, to end up with a substantially resized house at well under market value.

Rebuild estimate is about $115k...more than value of house. Restore? Not sure. Can't imagine more than $50k.

What am I not thinking of? Here is what I can think of now:

Cleaning, duct treatment and deodorization: $10k (getting bids)
Then seal and paint... no clue? Any idea? 1030 sq. feet.
Replace L/R hardwoods
Three Windows in front of house and frame.
Replace L/R ceiling and insulation.
Kitchen Cabinets.
Door Frames.

Pics are posted below.

Thanks for opinions and good links.

user1007 10-16-2009 01:20 PM

If you are certain there is no fire or heat damage going on to things inside the walls and celings, you could bring in one of the companies that does smoke damage restoration to clean it all up. There are great alkyd sealing primers for such applications as well and you will not notice the smoke smell after everything is done, primed and painted.

It looks like the house is of a vintage where it is in need of some infrastructure assistance anyhow though and you will probably be better off letting them yank off walls and ceilings, checking and fixing anything in the walls that is old or was damaged in the fire, etc. You can also bring the insulation up to standard with everything out of the way. Personally I would go with the rebuild if the insurance money is there. You would probably have to disclose the repairs you made---or didn't---after such a fire in any future sales transaction.

Before you decide, you might want to make sure you could get the house insured again if you don't do the suggested rebuild.

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