When we clean up after a fire we could encounter anything. Items that may have not been touched by the fire itself will still require attention to deal with soot, smoke residue, scorch marks and possible damaged surfaces.
One of our clients in Thornton, Colorado experienced a small fire in their home. The fire started in a bedroom due to an unattended candle, left burning by a renter. Fortunately the Thornton Fire Department had the fire controlled and out pretty quickly, that quick action limited the structural fire damage to the one bedroom. Direct fire damage was limited to that small bedroom but soot and smoke damage were spread throughout the rest of the house contaminating everything. There was visible soot damage in every room and smoke had spread throughout the HVAC ducting. All the furniture, every dish, cup and pan in the kitchen, inside every cabinet, the carpets, ceilings, walls… all had to be cleaned, scrubbed, sanitized, deodorized and refreshed.
Restoring the damage to the structure, paint, carpets, cabinets and other fixed household items are one part of the fire damage restoration process. I’ll describe that process in another blog. Cleaning all of the personal contents can be a much more detailed and complex process.
One of the first things we do when starting the extensive process of cleaning the personal belongings after a house fire is a complete inventory of every item that has been impacted by the fire, smoke, soot or odor. We create a line-by-line list of every item that needs attention. Then we distinguish between those that can be saved by cleaning and de-odorizing and those that have to be discarded and replaced. We review this list thoroughly with the homeowner and with their insurance company to ensure that all are in agreements about each item. We pay special attention and look for potentially expensive or collectible items such as artwork, pianos, pool tables and electronics. In this case we were dealing with damaged clothing, bedding, pots, pans, dishes, glasses, stereo equipment, guitars, drums furnishings and what turned out to be a very nice vintage Baldwin upright piano.
Whenever we encounter items like a piano, art or electronics we slow down and do a thorough investigation without risking further damage. The clients were afraid the piano would have to be scrapped and replaced. Not true, it was structurally sound, the soundboard and critical elements were in tact. It just needed special attention for cleaning and restoration. The piano in this Thornton home turned out to be an
American made Baldwin Upright in walnut, made around 1984-1985. It was heavily soot damaged inside and out, the finish had started to soften in spots, most likely due to the heat. The interior, soundboard and action had soot contamination but were solid. This piano would need special care.
After consultation with the insurance company they agreed that the restoration of the piano was covered under the homeowner policy so we proceeded and called in Bob’s Piano Service. They came to the home and inspected the piano. Their conclusion agreed with ours, the piano was structurally sound and could be restored. They carefully wrapped and secured the piano for transport and brought it back to their workshops for service. At the shop they disassembled the piano, thoroughly cleaned every surface and element and repaired the exterior finish. After a few days it was ready to be reassembled. When the fire damage cleaning operations were complete in the house and the homeowners were ready we had Bob’s Piano service deliver the piano and set it back in place. After allowing the piano to acclimate to the home environment for a while they returned and tuned it. All of this was covered under the homeowner’s insurance policy for fire damage.
The homeowners lost a lot of items in that fire, items of import to them that could not be salvaged. Fortunately, we were able to save this piano. It also had history with the family and we were happy to have been able to help them get it cleaned and restored and back in their home.