Cleaning up and repairing your home after an emergency

For your safety, follow the guidance of your insurance company and contractor. Your insurance company can arrange the professionals to clean and repair your home. Your contractor is responsible for making sure building codes and standards are followed and all required permits are secured. For your safety, some things may be better for a cleaning service or contractor to take care of (e.g. anything more than minor smoke or water damage).

Safety tips for moving around

  • Wait at least 24 hours after an incident before entering your home to allow toxic gases to lessen and other hazards to become visible. If you’re unsure, contact 311 to have the air quality measured.
  • Wear the correct personal protective equipment including hard-soled footwear, gloves, removable outerwear and breathing protection.
  • Be careful when moving around. The structure and fixed and loose items may have become unstable. Open closets and cupboards carefully.
  • Be cautious of soft floors, exposed nails, broken glass, hazardous materials and electrical wires.
  • Carry a flashlight and camera (your utilities may still be turned off).
  • If you have a home storage safe, wait until it is cool to the touch before opening. Safes can stay hot inside for a long time and the contents may ignite if opened too soon.

Should you perform your own repairs?

  • Put safety first. Think about what you need to know about working at heights, using safety gear, handling hazardous substances and conditions, etc.
  • Do you know the full extent of the repairs?
  • Do you have the necessary skills to complete the repairs?
  • Do you need a building permit? Any renovation that will change the structure of your home requires a building permit. You can arrange for the proper permits and inspections through 311.
  • Do you need licensed trades permits? Plumbing, electrical, gas repairs and other installations typically require licensed trades and contractors by law.
  • Will your insurance policy cover the work you'll be doing?
  • Do you have the necessary tools and equipment? Costs to buy or rent tools can quickly add up.
  • Do you have the time to make the repairs? Are you ready to make the time commitment?

Before you start cleaning

  • Don’t use electrical appliances if they are wet or damaged.
  • Think about contacting a professional fire/water damage restoration company for help with anything more than minor smoke or water damage.
  • For minor smoke or water damage:
    • Make sure you have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to start cleaning (e.g. goggles, gloves, footwear, breathing protection, etc.)
    • Gather the right equipment and supplies to clean the specific items and surfaces (e.g. special chemical cleaners may be needed to get smoke out of clothes or fabrics. You can take your clothes to a professional dry cleaner)
    • Only restore damaged items in a well-ventilated area

What to throw out

  • Make sure you know how to properly dispose of different materials.
  • You can rent large dumpster garbage bins that can be taken to the landfill. Contact fire/water damage restoration or dumpster rental companies.
  • You may need to keep damaged items for insurance purposes. Talk to your Insurance Adjustor for details.
  • Dispose of any hazardous materials if they have been exposed to heat, moisture or smoke. Pay attention to warning labels and handle carefully.
  • Throw out any food and medicine that has been exposed to heat, moisture, or contamination. Heat, smoke, toxic conditions and flooding make food and medicine dangerous to consume. Remember: “If in doubt, throw it out”.

Before you start repairs or construction

  • Contact 311 with any building code inquiries prior to all renovations, repairs or structural changes. Insurance companies typically work with The City to arrange for all necessary building permits.
  • Your insurance company may assign your home project to a Customer Service Technician or Client Care Consultant. They will help you with all project concerns, permits and inspections.

Dealing with odours

  • Small dishes of vinegar, vanilla or activated charcoal can help absorb some smells.
  • If the smells are mould or fire-related, the source needs to be removed.
  • You can buy some specialty products in stores or contact a professional cleaning service.

Find tips for the next stage of recovery