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After the Flood


Caution! BEFORE DOING ANYTHING... Does the outside inspection show the structure is safe to enter the building?

  • Check for structural damage to see if it is safe to enter the building. Consult a structural engineer or architect or someone with expertise in building structures such as a building inspector if you are not sure. Consider safety first.
  • Watch for electrical shorts and live wires. Electrical safety is most important in floods. Make sure that electrical service is DISCONNECTED and CANNOT be turned on before entering any structure.
  • Turn off any outside gas lines at the tank or meter, and let the building air out to remove gas fumes prior to entering.

A Homeowner's Checklist

After a flood, it's important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and belongings. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, this handy checklist will help you organize the clean up.

Immediate action is important. Your house and furnishings are less likely to grow mold if they are dried within 48 hours.

Before You Begin

  • Put your own safety first. Avoid electrical shock. Wear rubber boots.
  • Record details of damage, with photos or video if possible. Contact your insurance agent immediately and register with your municipality—your municipality may have resources you need, such as future financial assistance.
  • Set up a step-by-step action plan to:

    • remove all water, mud and other debris
    • dispose of contaminated household goods
    • rinse away contamination inside the home
    • remove the rinse water
    • clean and dry out your house and salvageable possessions.
  • Be prepared to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to throw out. Household items that have been contaminated by sewage, or that have been wet for a long time, will have to be bagged, tagged and discarded according to local regulations.
  • Assemble equipment and supplies:

    • gloves, masks (N95 respirators-$4.00 at most large hardware stores) and other protective gear
    • pails, mops, squeegees and plastic garbage bags
    • unscented detergent
    • large containers for wet bedding and clothing, and lines to hang them to dry
    • you may also need to rent extension cords, submersible pumps, wet/dry shop vacuums, and dehumidifiers or heaters.
  • Store valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until you have time to work on them.

First Steps

  • Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
  • Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.
  • Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings, then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum. Rinse, and then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage should be discarded.
  • Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove materials at least 500 mm (20 in.) above the high-water line. Removing only the lower part of the wall applies if action is taken immediately after the flood or wetting event. Gypsum board walls that have been exposed to high humidity or standing water for a prolonged period of time should be removed in their entirety and discarded. Ceiling tiles and paneling should be treated like drywall.
  • Wash and wipe/scrub down all affected or flooded surfaces with unscented detergent and water. Rinse. Repeat the process as needed. Concrete surfaces can be cleaned with a solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) in water (one half cup TSP to one gallon of warm water). When using TSP, which is highly corrosive, wear gloves and eye protection.

    Bleach is NOT recommended. The presence of organic (humic) materials, the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water, the surface material and contact time affect the effectiveness of bleach for disinfection. Since these factors are not generally controlled, bleach cannot be relied upon for disinfection. The most compelling reason for advising against bleach is that cancer-causing substances can be formed by the reaction of bleach with organic materials. In addition, the fumes are harmful.
  • Surfaces that are dry and/or have not been directly affected by the flood water should be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Further cleaning of concrete surfaces can be done with TSP. Washable surfaces can be washed with unscented detergent and water. Surface mold on wood can be removed with a vacuum-sander. Do not sand without simultaneous vacuuming. Wood that looks moldy after sanding may need to be replaced.
  • After cleaning the surfaces, ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry. Rapid drying is important to prevent mold growth. when the outside weather permits (low humidity and moderate temperature), open doors and windows and hasten the drying process with fans. If the outside weather is not suitable and you notice that drying is not happening fast, use dehumidifying equipment, renting extra units as necessary.

    To determine if the outdoor air can help dry the air inside, place a hygrometer in the area to be dried. Let it stabilize then open a window and monitor the Relative Humidity (RH). If it goes down then it means the air is dry enough to assist the drying process. If the RH increases, close the window.
  • Carpets must be dried within two days. Sewage-soaked carpets must be discarded. Homeowners can't effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves. Qualified professionals are required.
  • Ensure that all interior cavities and structural members are completely dry (which could take weeks) before closing cavities.

What to Keep or Discard

  • Discard and replace all insulation materials, and all less-expensive articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, paper and books.
  • Separate valuable papers. Ask a lawyer whether you should save the papers themselves or just the information on them.
  • The frames of good quality wood furniture can sometimes be salvaged, but must be cleaned and dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat. Consult a furniture restoration specialist. Coverings, paddings and cushions must be discarded and replaced.
  • Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes, rinse and wash several times with detergent and dry quickly.

Before Moving Back In

  • Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.
  • If they have been soaked, consult an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor to replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters. Inspect all flooded forced air heating ducts and return-duct pans and have them cleaned out or replaced. Seek advice from your local utility about a water heater that has been wet. Refrigerators and freezers may need to be replaced.
  • Flush floor drains and sump pits with detergent and water and scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean footing drains outside the foundation if necessary.

The education material from:

This company has inexpensive books on their web site.

Dr. Schaller has not read them and he is not associated with the company in any manner.

Provided with Concern For Our Louisiana Citizens August 28, 2005, as Hurricane Katrina is Approaching.

Bank Towers, Tamiami Trail, Naples, FL
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