A big concern for people looking to buy houses is house fires, especially in areas where wildfires are common. While professionals can help you with this, inspecting houses yourself before making any decisions is best.
You must look for visible signs like smoke stains, charred areas, melted materials, and smells. For further confirmation, you can check the electrical system, smoke alarms, the roof, the basement, and the attic. Moreover, you can ask around the neighbors or use a thermal imaging camera.
Living in a house that has caught fire can be unsafe. This article gives you a guide on all the ways to figure out a house’s fire history. Please continue reading if you are interested.
When you first enter a home, the first step that you can take to ensure whether the house has had a fire in it before is to carry out a visual inspection. Below are some signs to look for which indicate that a fire took place.
- Smoke and soot stains – Look for these stains on walls, ceilings, and floors. The stains are usually dark brown but can range to a black color.
- Charred and blackened areas – If a fire has occurred, you may find charred or blackened areas on surfaces such as walls, ceilings, and floors. These areas may appear burned, discolored, or distorted.
- Melted or deformed materials – If an extreme fire occurred, it must have impacted the house’s building material or other items. Look for plastic, metal, or glass that looks melted or deformed due to melting. Some key components are light fixtures, outlets, and appliances.
- The smell of smoke – The smell of smoke lingers in homes for months despite any efforts to remove it. Take your time sniffing around the house and looking for the smell of smoke.
- Damage to windows – Heat from a fire can cause windows to crack or shatter. Look for broken or cracked windows and signs of repairs to the glass or frames.
Look At Electrical Systems
An electrical system is often the reason why fires take place in houses. Inspecting the electrical system of a house can offer a lot of information about whether a fire occurred here earlier. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Visible signs – Look at all the electrical outlets, light switches, and circuit breaker boxes for any signs of damage. The damage can be in the form of discoloration, burn marks, melted materials, or smoke stains.
- Check for tripped breakers – Breakers are designed to trip when a significant and dangerous electric issue occurs. Checking whether the breaker has been tripped can tell if the electrical system is functional. It is best to investigate why the breaker tripped.
- Check the fuse box – If the house has a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker box, check for any signs of damage or tampering. Look for blown fuses or signs of replacement. If you notice any issues, it may be because a fire has previously occurred or the house is at risk of a fire.
Check The Attic And Basement
Usually, when a house is being inspected, the attic and the basement are not given much attention. However, these are integral parts of the house, and fires might often originate from these parts.
To check if a fire has occurred, you should:
- Look for visible signs – The rules for checking the attic and the basement are the same as the rest of the house. Inspect walls and ceilings for discoloration, charring, or melting.
- Check for odors – Take a deep breath and try to detect any unusual or smoky odors.
- Check the wiring – Look for any signs of exposed wires, melted insulation, or damaged electrical boxes.
- Check the access points – Check the access points to the attic and the basement, such as the door or ladder, for any signs of damage or discoloration.
Inspect The Roof
- Signs of fire – Look for obvious signs like discoloration, smoke stains, and charring.
- Missing or damaged tiles – Fires can break or crack tiles with heat. If you notice such a thing, a fire will likely take place.
- Stained flashing – The flashing around the vents and chimneys could have discoloration from the smoke inside the house.
- Melted materials – If any components on the roof are melted or damaged, a fire may have caused that.
- Repairs – An issue was likely fixed if any fresh repairs are seen. If other signs are seen, the repair could be to cover up for fire damage.
Examine Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms are installed in all homes and are the first to react to fires. Looking at these can help a lot to figure out if a fire took place. You can:
- Check the alarm history – Most modern smoke alarms have a feature that records the alarm history. Check the user manual for instructions on how to access this feature. If the alarm has been activated in the past, it may indicate that a fire has occurred.
- Check the batteries – Smoke alarms rely on batteries to operate, so check them to see if they have been recently replaced. If the batteries appear to have been replaced recently, it may indicate that the alarm has been activated recently due to a fire.
- Look for signs of repair – If the smoke alarm has been repaired or replaced recently, it may indicate a fire has occurred. Look for signs of repair or replacement, such as new screws, fresh paint, or other visible signs of work.
- Test the alarm – Test the smoke alarm to ensure it works properly. If the alarm does not sound when tested, it may indicate that it has been damaged or deactivated due to a past fire.
Ask The Neighbors
Neighbors can offer a lot of information about what happened in the house you are interested in. Look for neighbors who have been living in the area for years. They can provide you insight into fires, damage, repairs, and the timings for all these things.
This can help you with decision-making. Neighbors can also guide you in the direction of finding out the history of the house through official records.
Use A Thermal Imaging Camera
Thermal imaging cameras are a wonderful new method of looking for heat in a house. The camera helps detect any areas of damage which may be holding heat from a fire that the naked eye cannot see.
Look at the instructions below on how to use the thermal imaging camera.
- Take your camera and make sure the camera is fully charged. Adjust the settings on the camera by choosing the temperature range.
- With the camera in hand, go around the place and scan it. The camera will show you areas and their different temperatures; look for inconsistencies in the temperature.
- While noticing these inconsistencies, try to map out patterns. Identify areas where the temperature is high and consistent and where the temperature fluctuates.
- With the camera, record the temperature and take photos. You can keep a record of the areas along with the temperature readings of that area.
- Now analyze this data and form your interpretation of whether the house had a previous fire.
Entering a house that has potentially had fire can be a hazard. You must take necessary safety measures like wearing a mask, wearing full clothes, and treading lightly. If you thoroughly inspect, it is easy to find out if the house has caught fire before.