Emergency Flood damage clean-up basics Part 2
Of course, you can't wait to get back into your home following the disaster. As soon as the water stops rising and it begins to fall, you figure that it is now safe to go in and start evaluating the damage. Not so fast! There are plenty of hidden dangers that have to be thought out before entering your home. Don't become a statistic by coming back home too soon!
Check the Exterior of Your Home
Do a visual walk around your home to see if there are any downed power lines, or electrical connections that may be in contact with the water. Smell the air around you. Is there a smell of gas in the air? Often times there may be a gas leak. If you find either of these problems, call the proper utility company to correct the problem. If water is still around the house, check to see if the outside walls have cracked or giving way because of the water pressure being exerted on them. If there's water still around, don't enter the home, there’s always a chance that the walls could give way and the house could collapse around you. Be cautious around porches and overhangs. These areas may have weakened during a flood and could give way or collapse.
Electrical and Gas Connections
When you arrive at your home, disconnecting the electrical and gas supplies are a good start. By shutting off the gas supply, you lessen the chance of fire and explosion. By disconnecting the electrical supply, you lessen the chance of electrocution. Even if the power is out or the power supply has been disconnected from the power pole by the utility company, your electrical fuse or breaker panel's main fuse or breaker may still be on. In this case, at any time during the day, the utility company could come back and turn the power on to your home. You may not be aware that they've turned the power back on and your panel is now live, subjecting you to potential shock hazards.
If the only way to disconnect the gas and power is inside the home and there's water where you have to shut them off, don't enter the home to do so until you can safely enter the home and the water has been removed. Remember, water and electricity doesn’t mix. Every year people die from electrocution in flood-related accidents. Many are from entering a home after the flood waters have receded.
After Flood Waters Recede
Turn off all breakers till electrician can make safe
Dry Out the House
It is important to open up the bottom of flooded walls and remove all wet material from them. Turn on fans and dehumidifiers as soon as possible to dry the home. Deadly mold can form quickly (less than 3 days) in warm and moist areas in the home. Get wet carpeting and padding out of the home as soon as possible. Get garbage, effected clothing, etc. out of the home and clear the floor space in rooms and closets. Open the windows to let the house breath. By getting the home dried out quickly, you'll be on your way to cleaning and repairing it. Anything that the flood waters wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned will have to be thrown away!
Removing Moisture, Cleaning and Repairing
Be prepared to let flood-damaged walls, ceilings and floors dry for several weeks if you do not have electricity. If restoration work is completed before proper drying, mold and mildew will continue to grow. The result may be structural damage to your home, the need to repaint walls or replace new wall coverings, and discomfort or illness to family members who have allergies.
Getting the Moisture Out
Get is as dry as you can as fast as you can. If the weather permits, open doors and windows to remove moisture and odors. If the outside humidity becomes greater than inside, close things up; likewise, close up the house overnight if temperatures drop and moist air might otherwise be drawn indoors. If windows are stuck tight, take off window strips and remove entire sash. If doors are stuck, drive out door hinge pins with a screwdriver and hammer, then remove.
Consider using dehumidifiers to speed up drying when outside humidity levels are high. If possible, rent commercial dehumidifiers, which remove three to four times more water than home models. When using dehumidifiers, shut windows and doors. If there is severe flooding in your home, consider hiring a contractor for water removal. Some companies can dry homes in less than a week with commercial dehumidifiers and air movers.
Walls and Ceilings
Wash out mud, dirt and debris as soon as possible with a hose and mop cloth or sponge.
Start cleaning from the top floor or upper limit of flooding and work downward.
Remove wallboard, plaster and paneling to at least 2 feet past the flood level. Wallboard acts like a sponge when wet. If soaked by contaminated floodwater, it can be a permanent health hazard and should be removed. If most of the wallboard was soaked by clean rainwater, consider cutting a 4- to 12-inch-high section from the bottom and top of walls. This creates a "chimney effect" of air movement for faster drying. A reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade works well, but use only the tip of the blade and watch out for pipes, ductwork and wiring.
Plaster usually does not need to be replaced, though it will take a very long time to dry.
Some paneling may be salvaged if allowed to dry slowly. You also should remove and dispose of any flood-damaged insulation, which will hold water for months after getting wet.
To clean surfaces
Thoroughly wash and disinfect walls, ceilings, exposed wall cavities and studs. (see three bucket method)
Use a good disinfectant to prevent mildew build-up. Use an EPA registered anti- Microbial if you have it or One cup of chlorine bleach mixed with a gallon of water works well. For a soapier cleaning solution, add a half cup of mild detergent. Wear rubber gloves.
If walls have already dried, work from the floor to the ceiling to prevent streaking. (Dirty water splashed on dry walls may be absorbed and become almost impossible to remove.) Overlap sections, cleaning the ceiling last.
Before the house has dried out, scrub floors and woodwork with a stiff brush, plenty of water, a detergent and disinfectant. Carpeting soaked by contaminated floodwater should be removed and discarded unless it can be sanitized at a commercial facility for a cost substantially less than replacement. Vinyl flooring and floor tile may need to be removed to allow drying of subfloor.
Wooden floors should be dried gradually. Sudden drying could cause cracking or splitting. Some restoration companies can accelerate drying time by forcing air through the fluted underside of hardwood floorboards.
Once Floors Have Dried
Assess whether your floors can be repaired, replaced or recovered. Consider your time and budget as you make any decisions. Plywood subfloors may have delaminated (separated) from excessive moisture, causing buckling. Sections may have to be replaced or have new plywood nailed over them.
If buckling or warping has occurred, drive nails where the floor tends to lift or bulge. This will prevent further damage. Badly warped hardwood floors usually can't be repaired. Warped, wide pine board flooring, however, will often flatten out after it has thoroughly dried. Plane or sand floors level. Do not refinish until thoroughly dry.
To remove surface mildew on walls or ceilings, HEPA vacuum twice, (once in each direction)
Use a mildew surface cleaner mentioned above or: scrub the mildew with household detergent, then scrub with a solution of one-quarter cup bleach to 1-quart water. Rinse well with clean water. Once fully dry, apply a coat of paint containing an anti-mildew agent.
To remove surface mildew on floors and woodwork, use a phosphate cleaning solution such as powdered automatic dishwashing detergent or trisodium phosphate (4 to 6 tablespoons to a gallon of water), available in hardware stores. Rinse with water, and when dry, apply a mildew-resistant finish.
By using a pump sprayer wit anti -microbial such as ShockWave or equvilant, (bleach water if you just have to), you can effectively clean your home first and make it sterile.