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Indoor Air Quality/Fire restoration companies...are they a scam??


Thanks in advance for your help.

My lake house had chimney fire about 4.5 months ago.  The fire was contained to very small area of home but the smoke damage is throughout.   We are getting mixed responses from our fire restoration company (recommended by insurance company) and have serious concerns as to if they are doing everything needed to be done to make sure our home is properly cleaned.  Since majority of customers are one timers and the business has no need to "please their costumers"  how can we assure they are doing their job??  Are there proper questions and ways for us to double check their work to make sure our home is safe.  Even though the smell is gone, does that also mean that air quality is okay?  Also, after cleanup is complete is there a way we can test the air quality to ensure its safe for young children.  I feel like this company could care less about us and I'm starting to get worried my house will never be safe again.


You are right to question the reputation of SOME of these firms.  They are often seen, and rightly so, as "ambulance chasers", showing up at the scene of a fire trying to get the distraught homeowner to sign on the spot for their services.  

You should work with a firm that is recommended by more than one entity.  Be careful about a straight recommendation from the insurance company.  They may be pushing one firm because they are low priced (and unfortunately possibly low quality).  I have seen good work from Stanley Steemer, a national company (but locally owned and operated, so expertise can vary).  I have also seen good work from local or regional firms, but they need to fully explain their work plan in plain language and not just throw around technical terms and cleaning product names.  

I don't know the extent of your smoke damage, but smoke can easily infiltrate behind drywall walls and ceilings (it enters around receptacles, fixtures, and along the floor/wall area).  You should include behind-the-wall evaluation as part of the estimating process.  I have done jobs where all the wall drywall and insulation needed to be removed in an entire house because of a fire in one room.  The odor will linger indefinitely here if it is not cleaned.

Also, be sure that all soot and staining is physically removed wherever possible, by old fashioned cleaning.  Any spray coatings or deodorizers should be used as a final insurance, not as a primary method of removing smoke odor.  Carpets need to be taken out and submersion cleaned off-site, or discarded.  The odor cannot always be fully removed from the top side only. And carpet pad holds odors as well.   Upholstered furniture usually needs to be discarded.

In short, you need to feel comfortable that the people in charge of the work are skilled professionals.  Steer clear of heavy-handed sales pitches.  

Lastly,  ask for an MSDS (not just sales literature) for all chemical products that will be used.  This way you can find out for yourself the health and safety implications of these products.  

Best of luck,  Steve Major

Indoor Air Quality

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Stephen Major (Principal--Lakeland Environmental)


I can answer questions on indoor mold, indoor air quality, asbestos, and indoor moisture problems. This includes mold testing and mold remediation. PLEASE indicate your state or region, so I can provide the best possible answer.


I have extensive experience in the investigation, testing, and remediation of indoor fungal (mold) infestations, including the design and oversight of remediation projects, hands-on cleaning and removal, and safe work practices. I developed a successful mold remediator training and certification program, and have trained many mold workers and remediation supervisors in proper techniques. I have a strong knowledge of the ways in which moisture and airlow patterns in buildings can affect fungal growth and air quality.

BS Cornell University. IAQA Certified Mold Remediator. 40-hour HAZWOPER certification. NYS Department of Health Certified Training Director.

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