FLOOD WATER REMOVAL - HOW TO CLEAN UP AFTER A FLOOD
Since 2015, the number of water damage claims over $500,000 have doubled. Your home can be flooded from things like:
Natural disasters (heavy rain, overflowing lakes/rivers, etc.)
Although they all may appear to be similar issues in that they both fill your home with water, the damage done by water with potential biohazards present is far more significant.
No matter what the cause, if your home is flooded it can be an extremely traumatic time for you and your family. Your ultimate priority is safety, although once the immediate danger has passed, you can begin to think about cleanup. This guide will walk you through all the different stages of cleaning up after a flood, from what services you can contract out, what you can do yourself, the costs involved, and what equipment you’ll need.
WHAT DOES FLOODING COST?
The bad news is that restoring a flooded home back to its previous state is usually expensive. Even small amounts of water can cause large amounts of damage. The good news is that homeowners’ insurance may cover some of the damage depending on the cause (See our page on Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage? for more details on if your specific issue might be covered or not).
In many cases, you will need to purchase dedicated flood insurance in order to be fully covered. If you live in a flood plain, or near a river, this insurance is an absolute must.
The exact amount of damage determines the precise cost of repair, although the following four cases will give you an estimate of home much you’ll be spending:
|CASE NUMBER||WHAT WAS DAMAGED/|
|1||Siding and Windows. Subfloor, floor and rim |
joists, sliding door and windows, hardwood
|2||Basement Flooded. Water extraction, |
replacement carpet, sump pump repair, mold mitigation.
|3||Appliance Leaking. Water extraction, kitchen|
flooring, kitchen cabinets, carpets in an
|4||Faulty Toilet for Extended Time. Drywall,|
doors, and carpet, ceiling underneath the
bathroom, kitchen window below, kitchen
cabinets, countertop, molding, crown molding, drywall replacement, bathroom tile, and
subfloor, furniture replaced
WHAT CAN YOU
Although much of the eventual cleanup work will need to be undertaken by professionals, there are steps you can take to minimize damage in the short term. The most important thing to remember is that safety is paramount – if in doubt, exit your home as quickly and safely as possible.
The potential for injury is high, particularly with damaged structures and electrical wiring coming into contact with water. That said, if it is safe to do so, the following steps are a good start:
CUT THE POWER
Electricity and water can be extremely dangerous when they mix. On top of that, water damage will destroy many of the electrical items in your home. As a result, cutting off power should be one of your earliest priorities.
Once you are sure the electricity has been cut off, remove electrical devices to a safer location (such as an upper floor). Once you have done this, repeat the process with any non-electrical (but moveable) items, such as furniture. If you have time, pull up carpets and rugs and place them on an upper floor or outside if possible. At any stage, the water may rise – floodwater does not always rise in a linear fashion – and so you should always be prepared to exit the building.
REMOVE THE WATER
Once the immediate danger of the flood has passed and the waters have receded slightly, it’s time to remove the water. If you don’t have power – or would rather keep the electricity off in your home – you can use buckets, mops, and towels. The best place to get rid of the water is down the sewer drains in your neighborhood. Don’t dump them anywhere else, or you’ll either be shifting the problem to someone else or the water will drain back into your home.
If you want to do it faster, you can also look to rent a wet/dry vacuum. Although, you will need to plug this into an unaffected outlet or use a generator. You should take extra care to ensure that the vacuum cord is not touching the water. For this reason, it’s better to remove the bulk of the water by hand before using the vacuum.
If the amount of water is too great for you to remove by hand – such as if your entire basement is flooded – you can rent a sump pump from a hardware store. Make sure that the outlet pipe is over the sewage drain, and that the wires are not under the water. The speed and thoroughness with which you remove the water, the less likely you are to be affected by mold, and the less damage to your home and furniture.
DRY THE AREA
Once the standing water is removed, you need to draw out all the water from your walls, floors, furniture, and any other parts of your home. One of the easiest ways to do this is to open the windows and doors to your home (assuming it is no longer raining or damp outside). This allows the air to circulate. Turn on a box or ceiling fan as well.
To speed up the process, you can also rent a dehumidifier from a hardware store or purchase one (for a guide on the latest models, go to our best dehumidifiers page). These work by drawing moisture out of the air, which in turn draws moisture out of nearby surfaces.
DISINFECT THE AREA
Flood water can be full of biohazards, particularly if the flooding is caused by an overflow from a river or other natural body of water. If this is the case, you need to ensure that biohazards are removed in order to keep you and your family safe. In most cases, you will need to hire a professional team to do this for you. However, there are some tasks you can complete yourself.
For example, using a bleach and water mixture, you can spray down all surfaces to inhibit the growth of bacteria. In particular, pay close attention to walls, wood, and any non-upholstered furniture (the upholstered furniture may have to be disposed of if it has absorbed the water).
PREVENT MOLD GROWTH
One of the biggest ongoing dangers after flooding is mold growth. See our page on how to remove mold from your home for help with this process.
Drying and disinfecting the area is the best way of preventing mold, although once you have done both of these steps, you can use a dedicated mold control product on the areas that have been affected.
Your local hardware store will carry mold products, which you spray over surfaces. This forms a coating over mold spores and prevents them from spreading.
DISPOSE OF ITEMS
Unfortunately, there is likely to be a large amount of damage if your home has been flooded. You will need to get rid of a number of fixtures and fittings, and it is important that you do so responsibly.
In most cases, you will be able to take goods to a recycling center, thus minimizing the environmental impact of the flood. Your local government website will have more information on how best to recycle your damaged belongings – some may even collect it for free.
Items like refrigerators or computers cannot be placed directly in landfills so – even if these objects are destroyed beyond repair- you will need to dispose of them in a correct and legal manner.
If your home is flooded, you will need water restoration equipment to help you deal with the cleanup. The following covers the items you will need in most circumstances (it’s likely you’ll not need all of them unless you experience a major disaster). If you hire a contracting team to undertake the cleanup, they will provide their own equipment.
These are devices that measure the presence of moisture in a surface, meaning you can work out how much and where you need to act.
Any sort of fan (home or industrial) will work to circulate the air and therefore help with the drying process. They often work well in conjunction with dehumidifiers.
These work to purify the air by running the air in an intake pipe, through a filter, and then out an output pipe. These can help with mold remediation.
Low-grain refrigerant (LGR) humidifiers are the most efficient at removing moisture from the air.
In extreme circumstances, you may also need one of the following:
Again, contractors will provide their own equipment, so once you factor in the cost of hiring these, you may find that hiring professionals works out as more cost-effective.