Clean Carefully – Picking Up After The Flood
A home ravaged by a flood is a bad thing to be sure, but it isn’t the end of the story. Picking up the pieces after a flood can be a dangerous procedure. Going too fast and failing to exercise proper precautions can end up adversely affecting your safety and that of your family and pets. The effects of a major flood like this year’s Hurricane Sandy may be felt for months to come.
Firstly, you should make sure that your home has no restrictions against re-entering. Some properties may have been flagged, literally, with various colored tags designed to denote specific damage levels or other factors. Any damage to the home needs to be documented with FEMA as well as the property owner’s insurance company.
Once a home has been flooded, it is safe to assume that mold is going to be a problem. Remember that flood waters may also hold other dangerous materials such as sewage and other toxic substances, and for this reason protective clothing and gear is imperative during any form of cleanup operation. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, goggles, steel toed boots, and a mask with an N-95 respirator (to avoid inhaling mold spores or toxic fumes that may be present).
If the home has been closed up for more than a few days, then enter just long enough to open all doors and windows, allowing the house to air out for at least an hour before attempting to stay inside for any extended length of time. The excess water will need to be removed, and ventilation devices and dehumidifiers brought to bear to eliminate any excessive moisture levels.
As we said, mold is a serious problem in any flood damaged home, able to cause health problems such as mild allergic reactions and skin irritations, to more serious problems such as neurological disorders, respiratory issues, lung disease, and in rare cases, even death. Upholstered furniture, mattresses, and other soft porous items should be discarded, since it is all but impossible to repair and restore them. You can try, but you are most likely to end up with a serious indoor mold problem as a result. It is far cheaper to simply throw it all out and start all over again.
Affected surfaces that are non porous may be cleaned with soap and water and then cleansed with a mix of 1 cup household liquid bleach in 5 gallons of water. It is preferable to use bleach that does not have an added scent. Scrub these surfaces with a stiff brush and dry.
Paneling and wallboard will need to be immediately cleaned and dried thoroughly, and if the damage is severe enough, the damaged sections may have to be removed and replaced.
Remember that flood damage recovery is never quick nor easy. You are looking at weeks or months of work ahead of you. Be patient and go through the prescribed steps, in order, and do them right the first time. Doing so will make sure that your property is salvaged and restored to its pre loss condition.