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research references for fire-damaged demo and rebuild in New Hampsire

tylerdavis | Posted in General Questions on

I find myself needing to quickly make lemonade from a pile of lemons.  Our house was burned and smoke-damaged in an electrical fire on Christmas Eve day.  We’re living in temporary housing, negotiating with the insurance company, interviewing contractors, and itemizing our personal possessions.  In the meantime, I need to quickly educate myself on best building practices so we end up with a new house that is well-built, energy-efficient, and easy to live in. 


Besides reading hundreds of random questions on GBA, is there a list of recommended books to read?  I’m a details-oriented engineer by trade, but no experience in building science.  I need to know just enough to interview and manage contractors during the design and build process. 


House is (was) a mid-70s garrison Colonial style in southern New Hampshire.  Fire was contained to the kitchen and basement, but smoke damage is throughout.  Also water and mold damage likely ongoing as the house is closed up with no power, no ventilation, no basement sump pump, etc.   


Haven’t gotten a settlement offer from the insurance company, but I’m expecting they recommend deconstruct-to-the-studs, rather than complete demo.  Wife and I are more interested in a complete demo down to the poured concrete foundation; we are skeptical of the ability to encapsulate toxic smoke compounds with some Killz primer.  I’d hate to go through the whole rebuild, then have the smoke smell wafting from the walls, siding and roof on the first warm humid day. 


Several people have mentioned the new modular home builders as a better/faster/cheaper option than the traditional stick-framing onsite.  Any pros or cons to consider there? 


I’m open to any references, comments or discussion to quickly educate me on things to consider during this process 

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  1. walta100 | | #1

    If you are unhappy with the insurance Co offer, consider hiring a “public adjuster” they work on commission and get a percentage.

    I think you are dreaming thinking the insurance will replace the smokey drywall.

    If you fail to mitigate the ongoing damages insurance will not cover the resulting losses.
    A restoration company should have been on site the next day.

    Understand the insurance will not pay for any improvements that would make the property better than it was. You will be require to bring the house up to the current code but the insurance will not cover the added cost unless you bought the rarely purchased rider.


    1. tylerdavis | | #4

      It doesn't much matter what the insurance company "agrees" to demo/clean. At the end of the process I'll get a settlement check that I can use as I please. If I need to add money for upgrades, I'm willing to do that.

      Regarding mitigating ongoing damages, my hands are tied. I have no electric power at the property to run a sump pump or ventilation. It's below freezing every night and most days. The insurance company could have hired a restoration company the next day, but elected not to.

  2. plumb_bob | | #2

    I have dealt with a number of these (in Canada) and have seen good results with Killz or similar products when applied properly, no lingering scent of smoke afterwords. Usually the smoke and water damage from firefighting make the removal of most drywall necessary, and you are down to the studs.

    I will not hazard a guess as to how insurance works in your area, but I would assume that anything above a straight replacement of what was damaged will be on your own cost.

    Sorry to hear about the fire. Hopefully you come out of this with a nicely remodeled home.

  3. brp_nh | | #3

    "I need to quickly educate myself on best building practices so we end up with a new house that is well-built, energy-efficient, and easy to live in." "I need to know just enough to interview and manage contractors during the design and build process."

    You'll want to concentrate on finding a contractor you can trust to build the way you want. Getting book educated and being involved in the build are good things, but you'll have a hard time getting a contractor to do something they don't really want to do or don't really know how to do (well).


    As the saying goes, you can probably only get 2 out of the 3.

    Pending the status of your house, it might be worth talking to:

    1. tylerdavis | | #5

      thanks for the referrals. Talked to Unity already and they were unwilling to build on an existing foundation; they wanted to set one of their pre-designed floor plans on a new foundation.

      RH Irving is on my list to call

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