Andy Tait and his team from DisasterCare South Central were appointed to an Ultra High Net Worth fire damaged domestic property in Winchester recently for both the buildings and contents restoration. Once clearance was given by the fire service DisasterCare were onsite within hours.
On attending the property they found extensive damage throughout this 30 room Manor House. The instruction from the insurer indicated it was likely to be a total loss.
It was agreed at the outset that the LA/Policyholder would get an update after every visit and the Client would get a formal weekly progress update, also producing walk through videos to show everyone progress.
Once all contents were removed they were able to see the fabric of the building. A test clean on the kitchen, valued at £100k was implemented, which was successful so there was no need for replacement.
This project overall saved the insurer over £1 million, with 18 x 250 cubic metre crates of contents being restored and put in storage, awaiting return to the customer. This prevented several thousand items from going to landfill.
The project won an award at the British Damage Management Associations 2022 awards for “Sustainable Project of the Year, Domestic Property”, following the award submission which detailed the massive sustainability credentials of the project and the costs saved by restoring rather than replacing.
The fire, caused by a rechargeable torch triggered extensive smoke and soot contamination which were evident across the entire 30 room property. The 8 bedroom detached property would be a major restoration of both the contents and buildings, with many high value items, some irreplaceable that were from Royal Occasions across many decades.
During the initial visit Andy met with the very distressed policyholder, put a plan in place to support them as empathetically as they could, with speed for restoration being a prime concern for the policyholder. They requested contents removal, restoration and later, following the reinstatement works return of the contents.
The customer moved into a temporary accommodation during the works, they listed some items that they wanted cleaned as a priority so that they could take with them to their alternative accommodation if possible.
They stated that they wanted all their contents cleaned and restored wherever possible rather than replaced, quite understandable considering the high value and irreplaceable nature of many of the items.
A very thorough and considered plan was put in place to support with the requested contents removal, restoration and later after reinstatement works the return of contents.
Following the restoration of the soft contents, the policyholder was very keen to save their kitchen units, and so DisasterCare provided a plan to test clean some of the units, to gauge the effectiveness of the clean considering the major contamination that had affected them.
The restoration project would take some time considering the brutal nature of the contamination, particularly to the building structure, with very complex strip out and refurbishment being required. However, the soft and hard contents cleaning process took only a few weeks from start to finish, with many items returned following restoration at break-neck speed so the policyholders could use them in their alternative accommodation.
Pictures – top, the property affected by the fire, and opposite, the level of soot and smoke contamination that had affected all the rooms
The first priority was to mitigate the loss, remove all soft and hard contents so that they were prevented for further deterioration from exposure to the soot and smoke contamination for any longer than they needed to be.
Initially DisasterCare had to make the premises safe and reinstate the power supply, and the bathroom and washing facilities. Then the mammoth task of listing, wrapping and removing of all soft and hard contents back to their Restoration facility for validation and restoration commenced.
They also agreed with all parties concerned from the beginning that they would provide a formal, written weekly update of progress, and also to take walk through videos to show progress on the works.
There were over 3200 soft content items, mainly high end suits, formal evening wear and bedding within the property that had been contaminated, that were carefully wrapped, packed and taken back to the restoration facility for validation and restoration. The total value of these items was £250K. 99% of the soft contents that were removed were restored saving the insurer £180k.
Back at the restoration unit all sofas, armchairs, divan bed frames and mattresses and many other items of fine furniture were HEPA vacuumed – all were then washed, fine furniture polished and lamps were PAT tested then stored ready for returning to the policyholder.
4 desiccant dehumidifiers were initially installed to control RH and to get some heat into the property.
Temporary lighting was installed to aid the team working, also a large air scrubber was installed to assist in the air purification process. Additionally, the property was thermo fogged to clean and sanitise the contaminated air and eliminate the smell of soot and smoke.
Following many site visits, packing and removal of all the property’s hard and soft contents, the process began of cleaning all of the affected rooms with specialist smoke restoration materials and processes.
18 storage crates of hard contents were removed, everything from furniture with HRH crests embroidered onto them, as the policyholders had connections to the Royal Family, including high end furniture and crockery with a value of £100 per plate.
A test clean of the kitchen units proved successful, saving the kitchen which was valued at £100,000.
The total value for entire contents restoration is around £750k which represents a saving to the insurer of over £720k.
Additionally, DisasterCare also removed over 200 pieces of artwork, of which there were 2 original Constables, where they worked closely with their fine art restorer to support restoration, all of the artwork was restored successfully.
The customer was overwhelmed by the service and support they received. The insurer has been so impressed by the service and success of restoration that they are using this as a case study to their entire company to show what a first class restoration service looks like, and how restoring rather than replacing not only saves on costs, but provides unique environmental and sustainability benefits.
Many of the items were cleaned utilising the revolutionary DC4000 wash programme for soft contents, along with the Ultrasonics Cleaning System. Following its introduction 4 years ago DisasterCare nationally have been able to demonstrate a 96% restoration success rate. During the past 2 years, DisasterCare nationally has sent 588,325 less items to landfill with 4,318,306 kg of CO2 emissions being saved in the process, which is equivalent to taking 939 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.
On a local level for DisasterCare South Central, in addition to this claim, they restored 34,466 soft items during the period May 2020 to May 2022, with only 507 soft content items being classified as BER, an incredible restoration rate of 99%. The total replacement value of the restored contents on this project is estimated at £1.3 million, the restoration costs being under £289k, a saving to the insurance company of over £1 million.
Mr Muir, the Policy Holder commented: – “We are extremely grateful that the NFU appointed Disaster Care following the fire at our house Itchen Lodge on November 26 last year. Only a proportion of the house was actually damaged by far, but the smoke damage was very extensive.
“Over the next two weeks DisasterCare removed all the soft furnishings and clothing to take into store, and where possible to clean for subsequent use. They have been extremely efficient in cataloguing every item, including taking photographs of each item. This has enabled us to retrieve a certain amount of our possessions without too much difficulty. I would also add that we were very pleased with the quality of the cleaning process.”