With so many homes inundated by flooding, there are not enough contractors locally to handle everything. Here are a few tips from a local contractor on how to clean out your flooded house and safely remove compromised materials.
1. GEAR UP & BE SAFE: Wear gloves, a face mask (an N95 Respirator with Valve is what you need), and other protective gear. If you are using a saw or doing any kind of demo work, wear protective eye-wear, and if possible, steel-toed work boots. If you’re going to be removing electrical outlets, light switches, or light fixtures, be sure to turn the power off. Also be sure to have First Aid supplies on hand. This includes water-proof bandages, antiseptic, antibacterial ointment or petroleum jelly, hand sanitizer, Benedryl / antihistamine (for allergic reactions), and pain relievers.
2. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Your first step is to take photos and video of all the damage in your flooded home. Narrate videos as you go. Walk into every closet, open every cabinet, flip every couch cushion. Document absolutely everything you can that is wet, stained, damaged, or mildewed. You will need this documentation when applying with FEMA, filing insurance claims, and possibly when filing for tax refunds from the IRS or other financial aid opportunities. Make copies of documentation, store in a safe place, plus upload it to a service such as Google Docs.
3. EMPTY FLOODED ROOMS OF BELONGINGS. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, you’ll need room to work. Secondly, you don’t want dust and debris from torn out drywall getting on your things. Thirdly, you need to get everything out into the sunlight so it can be properly evaluated for damage, moisture, and mold. Remember that even if something didn’t touch flood waters, the humidity in your home may be enough to allow mold to grow on it. Everything needs to be checked thoroughly and photographed.
4. REMOVE ALL WATER DAMAGED ITEMS & MATERIALS …
Flooding & Baseboards: Once flood waters go down, you’ll need to tear up and throw out carpeting, padding, wood and laminate flooring, as well as baseboards and other wood molding. If you’re lucky, tile flooring might survive flooding, but it may not survive the moving of heavy furniture and upcoming construction.
Drywall & Insulation: Drywall and insulation will be permanently damaged by flooding. They’ll act like a sponge, holding moisture inside your walls, and will be a haven for all kinds of mold. If you’ve had a couple feet of water, the fastest way to remove drywall is to completely take out the lower four foot sheets of drywall completely. Be aware though, some insurance carriers will only pay for drywall replacement up to the flood line. Of course, if you’ve had four or more feet of water, like many in East Texas, you’ll want to just strip it all out.
Cabinetry, Doors, & Door Jams: Anything and everything that is water damaged has to go, from bathroom cabinets, to built-in bookshelves, to kitchen appliances. Even doors, door jams, fireplace mantles, and windowsills may need to be ripped out.
5. DRY IT OUT ASAP: Remove any water in your walls with blowers, wet vacuums, towels, mops, and other cleaning supplies. Position drying fans and dehumidifiers to suck the remaining moisture out of the rooms. The more air you can get moving through the house the better. This will allow water to evaporate more quickly.
6. COOL IT DOWN: If your air conditioner is working, make the house as cold as possible. This will slow mold growth. Many people mistakenly turn on their heaters thinking this will make the water evaporate faster. However, this actually makes mold grow faster. Get things as cold as possible.
7. CLEAN & STERILIZE: The cheapest and easiest way to prevent mold is by wiping everything down with bleach. There will be a strong odor, so make sure when you do this all the windows and doors are open and you have good airflow. Follow the instructions on the bottle to dilute it with the right measure of water. Wear gloves and a mask. Take frequent breaks to get fresh air. Add a coat of WD-40 to metal, such as hardware and aluminum window frames, to prevent rust and corrosion.
THINGS YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SAVE:
The faster you’re able to dry out your flooded house, the more likely you’ll be able to salvage the following …
- Tile flooring and tile backsplashes might be OK if it’s well sealed and the water doesn’t sit too long. It may not survive the demo and construction process though.
- If your flooding was minor enough, your door jams may be OK. They could warp though, and some minor adjustments may be needed even with a small amount of flooding.
- Electrical wiring is usually OK once it has dried out.
- Plumbing and plumbing fixtures will usually survive after a good cleaning.
- Your wood framework may warp and nails may rust if the flooding is severe or sits long enough.
- Cabinet hardware, door hardware, and anything metal will usually survive with a good cleaning. If you have to throw away cabinets and doors, take the hardware off and save it. That stuff is pricey!
- Masonry will typically survive, although it may be stained.
If you need assistance cleaning out your flooded house, Crisis Clean Up is a FREE service available to help you. Samaritan’s Purse, Habitat for Humanity, Baptist Men, and other organizations have coordinated to help those who need demo and clean-up assistance. Call and register your home through Crisis Clean Up, at 1-800-451-1954.