With all the recent rain in Virginia lately, not to mention the damaging flooding in the Mid- and Southwest, a homeowner’s mind naturally turns to thoughts of what to do if it happens to you?
One of the most damaging and devastating things you can ever experience as a homeowner is a flood. There are many causes including: heavy rains; sewer back-up; malfunctioning sump-pump; and burst pipes.
No matter what the cause, you should still know what to do if your house floods. Taking care of the problem earlier will help reduce the amount of damage after and will make clean-up and repair easier.
The first step in any major home disaster is to remain safe. You may be forced to leave your home if the flooding is bad enough.
Make sure you are also safe when you return to your home to begin dealing with the aftermath. This may include turning off the power, as water and electricity do not mix. Be sure to wear protective clothing – such as rubber boots and gloves – when you reenter your home. Not only will you be dealing with the water itself, but also whatever else the water has been in contact with, namely debris or even sewage. It is best to protect yourself against whatever harmful chemicals and items the flooding may have washed in.
Be sure to never eat food that has been contaminated by flood waters, or even in close proximity to the water for an extended period of time. If the water was high enough to reach your refrigerator or any of your pantry cabinets, it is safest practice to go ahead and throw the food away and just buy more.
Be sure to thoroughly wash any dinnerware, glasses, and flatware that might have been caught in the house flood before you use it again.
Stopping and Removing Water
One of the first things you should do when your house floods is stop the source of water coming in if at all possible. If your sump-pump is broken or malfunctioning, replacing it will help keep up with any continuing rains and may prevent further damage to your basement, garage, crawl space, or main floor.
Calling the city to remove debris from storm drains may also be necessary in order to help stop flooding.
If your flooded home was caused by a burst pipe, fix the plumbing as soon as possible to lessen water damage. The sooner you stop the water from coming in, the sooner you can get to cleaning up and repairing any damages.
After that, it’s time to remove the water. Depending on the level of flooding you have experienced or even the rooms in your home that have been affected, your process might change.
You may need to bail water out using buckets and bins or use hoses to drain large amounts of water from your basement. As the water begins receding, you can use a wet vacuum to suck remaining bits of water and moisture from carpets and floors. If you’re lucky and the damage is minimal, you might be able to simply mop the mess up.
Drying Out Your Home
Even if you are successful in removing all of the standing water from your home, everything will remain damp and wet, especially if heavy rains have increased the humidity in your area. If you have power, use your air conditioning and portable fans to help dry the wet areas of your home.
Dehumidifiers are also a big help, especially in closed off spaces such as basements or crawl spaces. They work by removing excess moisture from the air. This is the easiest way to dry out your home and minimize the potential water damage you might be dealing with, as it does not require you to actively clean.
In the case of a house flood, however, dehumidifiers are only supplemental and you are likely to need multiple methods of action. Dehumidifiers are recommended for anyone who lives in a damp climate or an area that experiences longer rainy seasons, as they can prevent some of the problems associated with this type of weather, both for you and your home.
Calling the Insurance Company
Your homeowners’ insurance will vary depending on what policies you have, but many insurance companies cover flooding due to storms, backed-up city sewers and storm drains, broken sump-pumps or burst pipes.
They will send an adjuster to look at and assess the damage and determine if it is a covered loss. If your losses and damages are covered, the sooner you call the insurance company, the sooner they will pay out. Repairs can become costly, but the insurance money will help get your home back in order quicker.
Your insurance company may not be able to send an adjuster right away, especially if your flooding is part of a larger weather event. Document values of everything and take as many photos as possible before, during, and after clean-up. This will help the adjuster when he or she is able to come assess the damage.
Once the water is gone and you have called your insurance company, it’s time to begin post-flood care. You can call in a professional clean-up crew or else begin work yourself.
This may involve determining what is salvageable and throwing away anything that is too damaged or no longer safe to use. If the flooding in your home was widespread, you may have to bring in a roll-off dumpster for easy disposal of larger damaged items, as you will find your trash bags filling quickly.
Be aware that you may need to remove flooring, drywall, and insulation to prevent mold and mildew from spreading in your home. Furniture may also need to be dried out, cleaned or thrown away depending on the level of water damage.
Unless you are exceptionally handy, it is probably best to call in a professional company that specializes in mold removal.
Mold can begin developing within the first 24 hours after a flood, and once it has started growing it can be difficult to fully remove.
The quicker you remove items from water and begin drying them, the less likely they are to be lost to mold, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and have a professional assess the situation.
The aftermath of a house flood can typically take the longest amount of time. You may have broken windows from the water rushing in, flooring that may need to be replaced, and broken possessions in need of repair.
After your insurance company pays out for qualified damages, you can hire a contractor if one is needed. Be sure to board up any broken windows and remove any harmful debris from flooded areas.
If you have electronics that were submerged in water or were damaged in the flood, make sure to have them checked out by a professional before plugging them back in to a power source. This includes your television sets, stereos, game consoles, computers, and appliances.
If you are unsure about what your first steps for home repairs should be when your house floods, then hiring a construction company that specializes in flood or natural disaster repairs can be helpful. They can determine if walls need replaced or if your floors have been compromised by the flood waters.
What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your Home After a Flood?
Failure to completely clean up your home after a house flood can lead to severe and costly damage that can affect the hidden corners of your home without you even realizing it.
Not only can this damage the structural integrity of your home, but it can lead to costly repairs for your electrical system, HVAC, etc.
Above all, failure to clean up after your house floods can create perfect conditions for mold to grow, which can lead to illness. Mold can be unpleasant – even dangerous – for some people.
Mold can cause severe allergy symptoms as well as lead to asthma, which is particularly dangerous for children and the elderly. There are things you can do to prevent the growth of mold after a house flood, including the use of special equipment, chemicals, and using a professional company.
There are resources out there for homeowners who have dealt with flooding. Local non-profit organizations sometimes offer flood clean-up kits or instructions on how to safely deal with food after flooding.
Organizations may also provide sandbags and boards to help during a weather-event to prevent further damage in your home.
There are also government agencies that offer funding and supplies after a flood, so be sure to check with FEMA or your county’s EMA. Always do your research and be aware of your local resources for flood victims – you never know when you might need it.