As a Do-It-Yourselfer, having your home damaged by fire and smoke is devastating. Not only are you dealing with the stress of making sure your family is comfortable and safe, you’ve also experienced the sentimental loss of your customized home and all those hours spent making it perfect.

It can be tempting to put your heart and soul into rebuilding on your own, but now is the time to tread carefully. When you are dealing with an insurance claim, proceed with caution before starting any DIY project. Your insurer calculates the cost to bring your home back to its pre-fire condition by completing repair work and replacing damaged belongings. The insurer may pay those costs directly to a chosen contractor or send you a check to manage payments to whomever you hire, including but not limited to: doing it yourself. In the end, whether you do it or hire a company, the amount released will probably stay the same, so its important to manage the funds well.

Communicate your intentions with your insurer before beginning any of these remediations or repairs on your own and be sure to check your long-form policy. Many insurance policies detail how repairs should be carried out. Your mortgage lender may also have a say in how repairs are done, as they also have a financial interest in restoring your home to its pre-loss condition, since it remains collateral for your loan. An insurance lawyer can also help you by dealing with insurance adjusters and ensuring that the Scope of Work for structural repairs and other covered costs are appropriately valued. Home repairs are complex after a loss like a fire. With these caveats in mind, here are some tips if you’ve received approval to start repairing smoke damage on your own.

#1 Safety

Smoke damage can be hazardous to your health due to very small soot particles. Inhaling soot can damage your respiratory system and cause cancer in the long term. Before beginning any attempts at restoration, make sure you have the proper safety equipment, including:

  • Goggles to protect your eyes;
  • A mask to cover your mouth and protect your face; and
  • Heavy gloves.




#2 Cleaning Supplies

The most effective products for cleaning soot and smoke damage contain tri-sodium phosphate (TSP). In addition to cleaning products that use TSP, you will need:

  • A large sponge (like you might use to clean your car);
  • Large buckets;
  • Warm water;
  • Rags;
  • A vacuum;
  • Fans;
  • Degreaser or soot remover;
  • Rubbing alcohol; and/or

#3 Cleaning the Structure of Your Home

This will be a big effort, so take it section by section. Start by vacuuming up soot across. Next, while wearing heavy gloves, soak the sponge in your TSP solution (a gallon of water to one tablespoon of TSP) and work one part of the walls at a time. Begin by wiping ceilings and walls with the sponge, then rinse with rags and warm water. You may have to repeat this step multiple times but be careful not to soak the walls.

If you have cleaned your home of soot and smoke damage but still smell odor from the smoke, you may have reached the limits of your DIY capabilities. Most homeowners rely on professionals for odor removal, because the damage is at a molecular level. If you are committed to doing DIY smoke damage clean-up, remember to take appropriate safety precautions and make sure your insurer and mortgage lender agree with your plan before you begin.