Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the restoration process take?

Consult with us and a restoration technician will be able to fill you in on estimated dates and phases of your restoration process. Because there are many variables and many services involved in fire and smoke restoration, it is difficult to predict how long the complete restoration process will take.

Can I clean it myself?

Professional cleaning systems and products used by experienced, trained restoration technicians give you the best chance for complete restoration of your belongings. We suggest that you do not attempt any do-it-yourself cleaning methods without consulting us first. Our fire restoration technicians pretest, use the right agent for the particular item, mix deodorizing agents with cleaning solutions, and use correct dilution rates to control the best results.

What are some safety concerns?

At ServiceMaster of Kalamazoo, occupant and worker safety is top priority. During the initial inspection, safety hazards are identified and addressed, including debris removal, air quality, electrical hazards, slip and trip hazards, etc. Burnt electrical cords and appliances are separated out for disposal, and questionable electrical appliances are unplugged and tagged for evaluation of safe operation. Electrical power may be turned off and kept off until evaluation by a licensed electrician.

Can I turn on my heating and air conditioning unit?

We recommend that you do not turn on your furnace or air conditioning unit without clearance from the HVAC contractor.

How do I keep track of non-restorable items?

We recommend you make a list of items (including food items) deemed non-restorable. Use a format like the sample below or download a copy of the non-restorable items sheet, or obtain a similiar items sheet from your insurance company.

What items do I keep in my possesion?
  • Cash
  • Checkbooks
  • Flammables
  • Gasoline Cans
  • Medications
  • Personal Documents
  • Pets
  • Stamp/Collections
  • Valuable Jewelry
  • Valuable Paintings
  • Weapons/Ammunition
Do I need to move out of my property during this process?

This is ultimately your decision. Some things you may want to consider are safety concerns, odors, electricity, noise from equipment, etc. Consider the following if you’re vacating your premises for any length of time: (1) forward your mail to your temporary residence (2) stop newspaper and other deliveries (3) notify utility company, cable company, etc., of temporary suspension of service.

Do I need general contractors?

There are some items that may require general contractors such as drywall/painting, electrical, plumbing, roofing, framing/finish carpentry, flooring and carpet, installation of doors, windows, cabinets, post-construction cleanup, etc.

Do my belongings need to be moved away from premises?

It depends on the source and extent of the fire. It might be best to remove all belongings to secure facility for cleaning, storage and to make room for restoration or construction. ServiceMaster of Kalamazoo will work with you and your insurance claims representative to manage this process.

Will I have access to my belongings while they are in storage?

Yes. All we need is advance notice, and we can schedule time for a restoration technician to meet with you and provide access to your requested items. A service charge may apply.

What about special items? Artwork, china, heirlooms, etc.?

Some higher valued items require restoration by a specialist. We will work with your insurance claims representative to help you identify these items and locate a restorer.

Who is responsible for paying for the service?

Ultimately, the property owner is responsible for payment and will need to sign a form authorizing payment for the restoration services. If this is an insurance claim, we generally collect only the deductible (co-payment) amount from you and bill the balance to the insurance provider. If you have a large loss, your mortgage company may be included as a payee on the payment from your insurance company, and you may need to obtain a signature from them as well. If your claim is not covered by insurance, or you decide not to file a claim, you will be expected to pay in full.

How long will it take my property to dry?

On average, 3-5 days, depending on your conditions. Drying time is determined by a combination of factors: (1)location, (2)duration, (3)source of water, (4)types of building materials, (5)weather conditions, and (6)how quickly emergency services begin. We monitor consistently during the drying process and we know when drying is complete. Sometimes, your carpet will feel dry to touch, but the padding and subflooring might be wet underneath.

How do I know when my property is completely dry?

We use specialized equipment to perform proper testing. Touch is a false indicator, and we rely on our equipment.

Will turning up the heat dry things out?

Not necessarily. We will adjust the temperature to its optimum setting for proper drying conditions. Please do not change the setting or shut off the HVAC system; doing so will prolong drying process.

My wood floors are wet and buckling. Will they have to be replaced?

If you filed a claim, your insurance adjuster will work with you to make the final decision as whether to replace or refinish your floors. Wood flooring is evaluated during the drying process. We use specialized drying systems and dehumidifiers to create an environment so the wood floors can dry efficiently and resume original shape.

What about my wet furniture?

Your furniture must be dried before damage can be adequately assessed. Depending on extent of damage and construction, your furniture might be able to be restored. Non-salvageable furniture will be documented for you, and if any sale items need to be discarded, a customer release form will need to be signed.

Do I need to move out of my property during this process?

If you file an insurance claim, you may receive guidance from your insurance representative. However, this is a decision you must reach on your own. Several things to consider: (1) Safety is most important. Our equipment is as childproof as possible, but we require your supervision to make sure they don’t play with it. Air movers and dehumidifiers will create noise and make your property drafty for a few days. It is important that the equipment remains on, so if noise is disruptive to you, you might want to find a different place to stay.

What’s that smell?

It is not unusual to smell odors during the drying process. Increased heat and humidity leads to increased odors from, the drying building materials, dormant spills, and accident areas. Do not confuse these normal odors with the odor of mold. As the drying process continues and humidity levels drop, you’ll notice these odors disappearing on their own. Natural deodorizers are often used to minimize these effects as well.

Does everything need to be moved out during restoration?

Not usually. If items need to be moved out, we will let you know in advance.

My ceilings are wet. What needs to be done?

Our technicians will evaluate moisture content to determine the severity of the damage. We may have to remove some of your ceiling for ventilation. Wet insulation can also be a hazard and may need to be removed.

Should I open the windows to help the drying process?

Our technicians will determine if it’s appropriate to open them. We figure out humidity in and outside your home. Opening the windows is not always recommended because of how often and quick the weather changes.

Can I walk on the area during the drying process?

It is strongly suggested to keep all traffic to minimum. Wearings shoes is highly important.

Can my carpet be restored or does it have to be replaced?

Here’s a few reasons your carpet may not be saved:

  • Delamination (occurs when the backing separates from the carpet fiber)
  • Loss of adhesion (may be caused by prolonged exposure to water or age of the carpet)
  • Permanent stains
  • Carpet covers wood flooring (to salvage the wood flooring)
  • Sewage contamination
Why does my speciality flood need to be removed?

Nonporous flooring can trap water and prevent it from drying properly.

Why did the technician leave wet carpet on my stairs?

If carpet is left on the stairs, it is more than likely unsalvageable, and it will be removed when new carpet is installed. Carpet on the stairs is generally not removed for safety reasons. Exposed tack strips or staples is dangerous. However, there are situations where removing carpet from stairs is necessary to prevent damage to hardwood steps or because of sewage contamination. Removing tack strips is not advised, as this may damage floor or subfloor. Extreme caution must be used when tack strips are exposed.

How will you match my carpet pad?

A sample of your pad is brought to our office for a match. When available, an identical pad will be used. When your original pad is not available, we will provide a pad of the same quality, thickness, and density. A similar pad may differ in color based upon the time it was manufactured.

What will you do with my area rugs?

Rugs are taken to our warehouse for special care. They need to be dried carefully to minimize bleeding of colors and discoloration. Your rugs will be dried, cleaned, and returned.

Why are air movers and dehumidifiers used?

When water damage has occurred, water can be absorbed into the drywall (sheetrock), baseboards, subflooring, etc. Drying these surfaces requires high-velocity air movers to accelerate the release of absorbed water into the air. Dehumidifiers are necessary for removing this excess moisture to help protect property and create conditions for efficient drying. Please do not turn off or more drying equipment without first calling ServiceMaster of Kalamazoo.

Who is responsible for monitoring the drying equipment?

Our water mitigation specialists will place and monitor equipment to achieve optimal results in the shortest amount of time. Please make sure no one turns the equipment off or moves it. Please notify our office immediately if the power goes off or equipment turns off.

What will it cost to run the equipment?

Based on average electrical rates, it may cost about $1.00/day per piece of drying equipment to operate. Actual costs can vary depending on current rates from local electricity provider.

What about sewage contamination?

Hard surfaces can be cleaned and sanitized. Affected items that cannot be sanitized require disposal. Porous materials such as drywall, ceiling tiles, insulation, particleboard, paneling, etc., that have been directly affected should be removed during the emergency service visit.

Who is responsible for paying the service?

Ultimately you, the property owner, are responsible for the payment. As the property owner, you will need to sign a form authorizing the work and payment. If this is an insurance claim, ServiceMaster of Kalamazoo generally collects only the deductible amount, and then we bill the balance to your insurance provider, as a service to you. If you have a large loss, your mortgage company may be included as a payee on the payment from your insurance company, and you may need to obtain a signature from them as well. If your claim is not covered or you decide not to file a claim, you will be expected to pay in full at the time of service.

What should I do if I’m ready to seek help?

First of all, that is amazing! Contact the Hoarding Task Force or ServiceMaster of Kalamazoo. Please do not hesitate to reach out to someone no matter what the situation is. Don’t worry, chances are we have heard about situations that are much worse than yours. We also understand this may take time, so your initial contact doesn’t really have to lead anywhere. What’s important is that you reach out, even for a moment, because that is the first step and you’ve recognized an issue and now are addressing it. Keep up the good work.

What should I do if my family member needs help?

Ultimately, the person hoarding needs to decide if they’re ready to be helped or not. Having compassion and giving positive support is critical. Saying things like, “It’s really dirty in here; time to clean it up,” is not being a positive support. A different thing to say might be, “There are people in Kalamazoo that help, and I would be happy to set you up to talk with someone if you ever want.” Leave it at that. Try to use your best judgment, be patient, and have a nonjudgmental attitude when you decide to bring the situation into a conversation. This process takes time and we all need to be understanding.

What does a hoarding clean up cost?

Every job is unique and pricing will vary in many situations. We provide free estimates and will work with you to find the needed solution. Prices may vary due to: size of home, type of items kept, amount of time, and hazards found in home.

How do you handle resistant customers?

Focus on building trust first and teaching skill sets second. While the person may get pushed beyond their original comfort zone as the cleaning advances, specialty cleaning teams are trained to identify and communicate with the customer when the cleanup becomes challenging.

What do you do with valuables found in the house?

Any valuables found in the home are the property of the customer. During a cleanup, finding valuables is an exciting event that we use to build confidence and momentum. Something of value (emotion or monetary) is brought to the customer immediately, and hearing about the story behind an item is an important part of the process.

What if the person I want to help doesn’t want to be helped?

Ultimately, the person living in the hoarded home has to decide if they’re ready to be helped or not. Being kind, compassionate, and nonjudgmental are the first steps. Then, willingness to contact specialists is the next step; keep in mind being patient is crucial.

Are professional cleaners really needed?

Helping clean out a hoarded house can be overwhelming, and we recommend professional help. Hoarding can be a sensitive topic and a serious situation to work through. The ServiceMaster team has received specialty training, including training from extreme cleaning specialist, Matt Paxton. We use insight and techniques shared by Paxton to help those who are hoarding gain back their space and, in turn, their lives.

Should you clean the home without the person who hoards being present?

You should never clean out a home without the person’s knowledge, approval, and understanding. Preferably the house should be cleaned with the owner in the home, but under specific medical situations, it can be done with their input, even if they’re not present.

How long does cleaning take?

Timing differs for each home depending on volume, size, hazards, and more. Professional cleaners can clean a home in 3-5 days. Depending on the person who is hoarding, the process can easily be extended for several weeks.

Does the customer get breaks during the cleanup?

Each job will be tailored to customer’s ability to focus and make decisions. Whether that means we work half days or full days, we’ll monitor the customer’s well-being and encourage breaks as needed.

How involved must the customer be in the cleaning process?

While it is not necessary for them to physically move items, it is suggested to ask for their guidance when it comes to making decisions. After all, the more involved in the cleanup the person is, the greater chance they’ll have a positive experience and outcome.

Can you help donate items?

Yes. Our team can assist with the details of donated items. Once the customer selects a preferred donation organization, our team can sort and document all items and can take them to the donation center. We can take a detailed inventory, fill out the donation receipt, and return it to the customer for tax purposes.

Can you help sell items?

While we can connect the customer to partners specialized in selling specific items, our team does not personally sell the items. The sales partners will typically take a commission for selling the items, but our team does not share in any profit of sold items.

Can you store items?

We have partners nationwide that can affordably store items, and our team can help you figure that out. However, long-term storage after a clean-out should only be used in special situations.

Do you remove animals from hoarding situations?

Animal hoarding is a reality of our business, and we understand that our customers have the best intentions for their pets. Depending on the severity of the situation, we may partner with local animal organizations to gain the healthiest and safest location for the animals.

Are you bonded/licensed/insured?

All of our teams nationwide are licensed, bonded, and insured. You can trust that anyone entering your home from our team will be trained, trustworthy, courteous, and compassionate.

What if mold or other hazardous materials (feces, asbestos, etc.) are found in the house?

These are perfect reasons to use professional cleaners. Animal hoarding is a reality, and we understand that people usually have the best intentions for their pets. Depending on the severity of the situation, partnering with local animal organizations to gain the healthiest and safest location for the animals may be necessary. The right professional cleaners offer many services to clean and repair mold, water, fire, and smoke damage, as well as odor and hazardous materials. These services can be discussed during the cleaning evaluation and again at the end of the cleanup. Highly trained teams recognize dangerous situations, from structural issues, to mold and fecal matter, and everything in-between. After walking through the home, they will let the customer know if there are any dangerous situations and will discuss how they can best be handled. Professional cleaners should be licensed, bonded, and insured. You need to trust that anyone entering the home will be trained, trustworthy, courteous, and compassionate.

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