After The Floods -- The Big Cleanup

The flood waters have receded, and you've finally been given the okay to return to your neighborhood. While you are probably in a big hurry to check out your house to see what has been damaged, it's important to proceed with caution. Depending on the severity of the flooding, there could be some very hazardous conditions in your home. Here are some of the steps you should take before you begin living in your home again. 

Your First Steps

For your safety, you should turn off the gas and electricity to your home before entering it. You will also need to:

  • Call your insurance company, if you have flood coverage. Unfortunately, standard homeowner's policies do not typically cover flood damage. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, if your roof caved in or flew off during a severe storm and then rain poured in and flooded your home, it could possibly be covered by your homeowner's insurance policy. You might also want to ask your homeowner's insurance company to do an assessment just in case any of your damage may have been caused by other storm-related forces, such as a lightning strike. 
  • Have your gas appliances and your HVAC system checked by a professional before you turn them on.  
  • Hire an electrical contractor to inspect the electrical system and to also check out the electrical appliances in your dwelling. 
  • Have your pump system check out if you are on a well system. Flood waters could have contaminated your drinking water so it is important not to drink it or even eat items that have been rinsed with it. You should also avoid brushing your teeth or even bathing in your well water until you can have it disinfected properly. 

The Big Cleanup

Once it is safe to re-enter your home, the hard work really begins. You will have to: 

  • Empty your house of your wet furniture, carpeting, clothing and other items, such as rugs and curtains. According to FEMA, it can take less than 24 hours for mold and mildew to start growing on flood-damaged items. While you might be able to salvage many items with proper cleaning, others should be discarded. Carpeting, for example, can harbor mold spores even when it has been dried, so in most cases, it should be thrown out. 
  • Thoroughly clean all of the surfaces of your home with a disinfectant. Unfortunately, flood waters often contain many contaminants, including raw sewage and fertilizer. It is also important to rid your house of the mud left by the flood as soon as possible as it will typically be very difficult to remove once it has dried and hardened. 
  • Wear gloves while cleaning your home. If you cut yourself while cleaning, make sure to clean the wound thoroughly and go to a doctor to get a tetanus shot. 

Have Your Foundation and Basement Checked

Flood waters are powerful and can inflict very serious damage to your foundation and basement. Even if your home appears structurally fine to your eyes, it's important to have a trained professional check out your foundation and basement for:

  • Warped wood.
  • Shifted staircases or slanted floors.
  • Cracks that could have been caused by the flooding.
  • Check to see if your foundation walls have buckled and, if so, whether you should have them rebuilt, braced or excavated and repaired. 
  • Have your foundation waterproofed. Once any repairs to your foundation are completed, you will want to seal it to prevent moisture from penetrating into your home in the future.

Although you will probably be in a hurry to restore your home back to its former glory, it's important for your safety to work with great care and diligence. 

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