What to Do if Your Home Floods
Millions of Americans live in homes at risk of flooding. According to the First Street Foundation, a group of New-York based experts, estimated in mid-2020 that at least 14.6 million properties are located in a 100-year flood zone. When you think of home flooding, you probably think of external factors such as a hurricane or heavy rain. However, there are a number of other unpleasant situations that can cause water to start flooding your home such as a burst pipe, overflowing toilet, or problems with your washing machine or sump pump. Floods have the ability to form slowly or very quickly, so make sure you’re prepared by learning what to do when your home floods.
Evaluate & Be Safe
Should you call a professional? The simplest answer to this question is that if you don’t know what to do in the situation, it’s best to call the professionals to handle. This will most likely be the case for most major flooding, but if you feel confident enough to take care of the flooding yourself, make sure you are first taking all the necessary safety precautions before you begin. Contact your insurance and document everything in detail before you start your clean up process. Wear protective gear such as gloves, rubber-soled boots, and a mask to protect yourself from mold and other irritants. Before you begin cleaning, turn off the water at its source and turn off the electricity (only turn off the electricity if you can do so without stepping into water).
Salvage Items & Dispose
Salvage any items that you can and begin to throw out the items that are non-salvageable. Appliances that have endured flood water should not be operated until checked by a qualified technician first. Important paper documents should be separated as soon as possible and gently dried before mold starts to occur. If paper documents or other items such as upholstered furniture or clothing has been exposed to toxins such as raw sewage or toxic floodwater, it is advisable to dispose of them immediately due to health concerns. Clear out the flooded area of any furniture and items that may get in the way of the water removal process.
Cleaning up flood water can be a tedious task. The best tools to remove minor cases of flooding is a wet/dry shop vacuum, a dehumidifier, and fans. Wet-dry vacuums are designed to be able to intake water without ruining the inside components, however, the power cord is just as susceptible to water as other electronics, so be cautious when using a wet-dry vacuums in a flooded area. Wet-dry vacuums come in varying sizes and you can rent them from construction rental stores and some hardware store. Remember that the water collected by the wet-dry vacuum will need to carried or rolled to be disposed of either in a basement drain or as far away from the foundation of the home as possible. With one gallon of water weighing at about 8.34 pounds, and using an average wet-dry vacuum with a 12 gallon chamber, it can get very heavy and labor intensive if you’re dealing with anything besides a small flood. Once the space has been cleared of water, plug in your dehumidifier to begin the drying process.
In addition to your dehumidifier running, you’ll want to get some fans to further dry the area. Placement of your fans is important but also depends on the shape, size, and areas damaged by the flood water. You can also aid the drying process by moving air naturally. Open any windows, doors, closets, cabinet doors, and remove drawers in the affected area to start circulating air. Place any carpeting, rugs, and other salvageable items outside to dry out (weather permitting). You may need to perform additional restoration on these items. You can contact a specialized restoration professional or do it yourself but this should also be taken care of as soon as possible to prevent further damage or mold.
Besides the loss of personal belongings from water damage, mold can begin to develop and cause secondary damage after the flood has occurred. Mold and mildew will start developing within 24-48 hours of water exposure, so it’s important you jump to action as soon as you know your home has been flooded in any capacity. Continue to keep the flooded area as dry as possible with fans and dehumidifiers and treat mold areas or potential mold areas with a strong cleaner. FEMA has some helpful information on dealing with mold or mildew after a flood with instructions on how clean and disinfect affected areas.