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What to do after a house fire

Most people never think about what they would do in a house fire until it actually happens. Follow this simple guide to ensure your safety and restore your home efficiently.

14 minutes read By Oncore NZ
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Experiencing a house fire is a scary and stressful experience. However, knowing how to handle the situation, should it ever arise, could make a world of difference. Knowing how to prevent a fire and having an insurance plan in place are so important. If you do or have come up against fire damage, and the smoke, as well as water damage that usually comes with it, we can guide you through what’s involved in getting it repaired. Accidents happen, so it’s good to know how to keep your home, yourself and your family safe when they do. Having your home catch fire is a terrible occurrence, but knowing what steps to take can save the situation from becoming a whole lot worse.

What to do if your home is on fire

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1. Escape

First step - get out. Don’t try to save that paperwork, don’t make a dash for that box of sentimental items. The only thing you should be focused on is getting yourself, your family and your pets out of harm's way.

According to Fire and Emergency New Zealand, you have 3 minutes to get out of a house on fire before the flames and smoke become unsurvivable. They recommend taking the following steps in a fire emergency:

  • Shout “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE” so that anyone else in your house can hear.
  • “Get down, get low, get out” - smoke can kill you. Crawl out of the house as fast as you safely can.
  • Close windows and doors, if it is safe to do so, to stop the fire from spreading.
  • Once you are out - call 111 straight away
  • Stay safe and don’t re-enter the house - keep a close eye on children and pets

2. Get the damage assessed

Once the fire has been extinguished, arrange for your home to be inspected by the fire service before re-entering. DON'T attempt to go back inside until a professional has given you the go-ahead. As soon as you are safely able, get in touch with your insurance company, take pictures of the home and have any damage professionally assessed.


Home that has suffered a serious kitchen fire.

How to prevent further smoke and fire damage to my home

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There are a few common types of damage that can occur from a fire. Whether or not you have been given approval to re-enter your home, there are a few safety threats to look out for.

Health comes first

Don’t risk your safety and health by charging into the house without first having it checked for damage and hazards. Urban fires can leave carcinogenic ash and toxic gases within your home that should never be inhaled. Electrical wiring and outlets could have easily been damaged also, so having this checked and disconnected by a professional is extremely important.

If you have been given the OK to enter your home, focus on finding important items such as any medication, important documents, identification, valuables and insurance information.

Common damage resulting from a fire

The efforts of putting out a house fire can result in a significant amount of water damage. This can weaken the materials within your home and result in mould. You may need to arrange for repairs and renovations related to water damage. For more information on this, see below for repairing flood and water damage.

Smoke often can leave a long term smell. To avoid this, have your home professionally deodorised early on, ideally within 48 hours of the fire. Fire damage can also cause metal joinery and surfaces to begin to corrode, and white surfaces to turn yellow. If this is the case, a builder or professional repairs person will be required. An Oncore Repair specialist can assist with this.

Ceilings, walls and the overall structure of a home can receive long-term damage in a fire, requiring repair work and perhaps renovations. If the damage requires you to move out of your home while repairs are carried out, reach out to your community if you need assistance. Family, friends, schools, employers, banks and insurance companies may be able to provide you with support and/or assistance.

While you may suspect certain areas of damage, it is important to contact the professionals. Get in touch with your electrical supply company, gas supplier and internet provider to let them know what has happened. Get in touch with your local council early on, they will guide you through any local procedures and assistance services.


Insurance claims for smoke and fire damage

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It’s important to check that your current insurance scheme covers you for smoke and fire damage before any damage occurs. Every insurance company is different and will have varying processes in place should you need to make a claim. It is also important to understand what your policy will include: if a fire spreads from your house to a neighbour’s, you could be held liable.

How long after I have claimed my insurance can I get my home repaired or restored?

Your insurance company will be able to advise you on the process that applies to your policy and situation. Normally, once your claim has been approved, your insurance company will give you the go-ahead to begin repairs and may arrange a repair work provider for you. Get in contact with a Fire Damage Specialist near you.

What fire damage will my insurance cover?

This will depend on your insurance policy. You may be covered for the full cost of the rebuild/repairs, depending on your replacement cover and sum insured. Get in touch with your insurance company to find out what cover you currently receive, and whether changes need to be made.

What if the fire spreads to someone else's house?

You may be held liable if a fire which originated on your property damages a neighbouring house or property. You will need to have public liability insurance to cover third party fire damage. For reliable, full coverage your insurance company will likely recommend a comprehensive insurance plan.

What type of building consent is required for a home with fire damage

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment building consent is not required in cases where it “cannot practicably be obtained in advance because the building work has to be carried out urgently” or if work is being carried out “for the purpose of saving or protecting life or health or preventing serious damage to property”

The building consent that your repairs will require will depend on the extent of the damage. The best way to asses the damage, and understand what consent will be required during the rebuild, is to seek the advice of a maintenance consultant or building professional who has experience in fire damage repairs.

Accommodation Insurance

You may also be eligible for accommodation insurance if your policy covers it. Check your insurance policy or get in touch with your insurance provider to find out whether temporary accommodation cover is included in your policy.


How much does it cost to get my home restored after a fire?

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If your home has been affected by fire damage, and any resulting water damage, repair work will be unavoidable. The amount that you will need to spend on repairs will depend on the extent of the damage, and the materials you select during the stages of repair.

Smoke & fire damage repairs on a budget

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Hopefully, the damage was minimal and can be easily and affordably repaired. Kitchens are the most common rooms for fires to start and, in a best-case scenario, the fire won’t have made it to any other rooms within the house. However, the smoke likely will have. Therefore, the first step is to look into professional deodorisation. $200 might cover absolute minimum smoke damage deodorisation, expect to pay more like $500 to $1,000+.

Get in touch with a specialist from Oncore to get an accurate cost estimate.


If flooring has been damaged, affordable flooring replacement materials start at around $25 per square metre. On top of this, flooring installers generally charge around $20 - $30 per hour for their time.

Painting & Decorating

Painting and decorating can go a long way in making your home feel normal again. Decorators charge around $18 to $25 per house. You should be able to have painting and decorating work carried out for anywhere between $500 to $4,000, within a small budget.


If electrical wiring was affected, electrical work is an area you must prioritise. Registered electricians charge anywhere upward of $25 - $35 per hour. There will likely be additional costs on top of this for travel time and electrical gear.

Water Damage

Water damage is an area you don’t want to wait to repair. As soon as you are safely able to, do what you can to dry out the house using dehumidifiers. From there, let a water damage repair team take over. The costs involved here usually start at around $1,000+. If your home’s insulation has been affected, set aside an additional $50+ per square metre for reinstallments.


If your kitchen requires a full renovation, you could be looking at spending $20,000 - $30,000 to meet its basic requirements.

Smoke & fire damage repairs on a mid-range budget

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If the smoke, fire and water damage is significant, you will, unfortunately, need to spend a higher amount on repairs. Deodorising your home could cost anywhere upward of $2,000. On top of this, you will likely need to put $8,000+ toward flooring, carpet and upholstery repairs.


Rewiring your entire home will require a significant investment of $10,000 - $25,000+, but it is essential to get it done in order to make your home safe to live in.


Joinery and the structure of your home will likely also require some work. Joinery repairs cost approximately $500 to $600 per square metre.

Depending on the damage, you could be looking at approximately $20,000+ per room for repairs.

Smoke & fire damage repairs on a high-range budget

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If your home has been thoroughly damaged, the best option might be to undergo a complete demolition and renovation. Depending on the materials you choose and the size of the renovation, you could be looking at spending $300,000 - $500,000+ for a full home renovation.

*Please note: these costs are a rough estimate only. Oncore recommends contacting a maintenance professional for a cost estimate accurate to your requirements.

Protecting your home against fire damage in the future

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To prevent fire damage, ensure you have a high-quality fire alarm installed in your home, never leave cooking unattended and invest in regular maintenance inspections. In the event of a fire, put safety first and get yourself and your family out.

Now is a good time to check in with your insurance company to find out what type of cover you are currently eligible for in the event of a home fire. Selecting the right policy could make a world of difference should you ever require a significant amount of repairs.

If your home has been affected by fire, smoke or water damage; Oncore can help. Oncore provides end-to-end maintenance consulting and full-service repairs, using licensed and experienced professionals. For more information, get in touch.