If your home or the home of a neighbor or loved one has recently experienced major flooding or water damage due to weather, natural disasters, or appliance malfunctions, this article is for you. There are several steps to take before the rebuilding of a water-damaged area can occur, so be sure to hit these flood clean up steps before you begin major repairs.
Turn off the electric and gas. Wear your personal protective equipment – especially masks, gloves, rubber boots, and clothes that you can dispose of after.
Document what’s happened.
If possible, collect pictures of the damaged areas from before and take pictures or videos of the same area after the damage.
Focus on the flood line.
The flood line is a dirt line anywhere from a few inches to a few feet up depending on how deep the flood waters were. You want to trash out anything a foot above and below that line.
Throw it out.
Anything that got wet, including carpet, carpet padding, rugs, flooring, and so on. Most likely, it’s difficult to dry out or salvage at this point. Real hardwood flooring, if left under water for too long, can be hard to save, but manmade hardwood or wood with a plywood base may be salvageable, so give it a try before throwing it all out.
Cut sheet rock.
Carefully use a razor knife or straight edge to cut the sheet rock a foot above the flood line. You’ll have to cut through a few times to get a clean line. Then, remove all the sheet rock below the cut. Use a razor knife to cut out any affected insulation. Also, it’s okay to leave the studs in the walls – they should dry out just fine.
Look at the trim.
Slightly different from flooring, real wood trim may be salvageable, depending on the damage. Any other material here can be tossed. (Try to same door jambs if possible!)
Dry out as quickly as possible.
Anything that’s gotten wet either needs to be thrown away or laid out to dry, preferably on a concrete slab, driveway, or even in the grass depending on the weather and time of year.
Clean your house.
After everything wet has been removed, this is when you want to actually clean the house out. If you want to, you can hose the hose down (it already got wet, so a little more water won’t hurt too much at this point, especially because it’ll be dried out soon). Begin to sweep out the house, getting rid of the silt (the sand- or clay-like material left behind) and other debris.
Attack the bacteria.
Use a bleach solution, microband, 409…these solutions will kill the bacteria and clean the house. Make sure the kids and pets are out of the house for this part, and make sure you wear your protective gear.
Ventilate and dehumidify.
This is the drying stage of flood clean up. If the weather is nice and the sun is out, open the doors and windows and let natural heat, air, and light do its thing. If you have access to a carpet dryer fan, whether through ownership, a friend, or a rental service, make use of this. They run roughly $300 to purchase, but you can also use inexpensive, basic box fans if desired. If you must leave the house at night and want to close the windows, the humidity will raise inside, so make sure you have a dehumidifier.
Verify that everything is dry.
Make sure any wood in the house has a moisture content of 16% or less – this means you’ve dried everything down and won’t support any future mold growth, a crucial step in flood clean up. (Use a moisture meter to determine this.)
Use a mold control product.
Products like Mold Control or Bora-Care with Mold Control work well. You can spray these yourself and they’ll help prevent mold in the future. Anytime that water has been sitting for roughly 2-3 days, mold will begin to grow. Most people with healthy immune systems can handle being around mold for the time it takes to clean out a flooded home, though some cold symptoms may appear, so be sure to wear your protective gear just in case.
If at any point in the flood clean up or rebuilding process, never hesitate to call in the professionals!