When deciding whether to pack out or clean in-place, I ask myself the following questions:
1. How bad is the smoke and odor intrusion? The severity of the damage from the fire can dictate whether or not you can effectively clean the structure and contents while they are still inside the structure. If the damage is extensive, it may be more cost effective and efficient to pack everything out.
2. Will the contents need to be moved out of the structure while repairs to the building are being done? If this is the case then it may make more sense to clean and pack out the contents so that they can be safely stored while repairs are completed. Even if you could effectively clean them in place it may not make sense in this instance.
3. What is the homeowner’s state of mind? In some circumstances you may do a partial packout even if you feel you could effectively clean in place if the homeowner doesn't feel good about it. This is a tricky situation at times and definitely one you would want to discuss with the adjuster on the job to get his buy in. Sometimes removing contents from a room makes the insured feel more confident in the job being completed correctly. And if there is plenty of coverage for it, your adjuster may want the peace of mind for the insured and approve of the little bit of extra expense. On the other hand, a packout situation could upset and stress out some homeowners. This may be an added reason to consider a clean in-place.
4. Is the structure without power or heat? In some areas of the country during certain times of the year leaving contents inside a structure with no heat or air conditioning can cause damage to certain contents. This would again be a scenario that you would want your adjuster involved in so he or she doesn't think you are just doing a packout to up your bill.
5. Is there any structural damage that could cause further damage to any of the contents if they are allowed to stay in the structure? For instance, are there any holes in the roof or windows missing that may cause secondary damage or allow for theft.
This is a good starting point for you to work from. There may be some other factors involved in your decision, but the most important objective should always be whether or not a clean in-place can get the job done the right way without causing any further damage.