Nearly 1 in every 50 households files a claim for water damage insurance every year.
But even if you’re lucky enough to have insurance, cleaning up after a flood can still be expensive — and a logistical nightmare. Especially if the damage is severe, it can feel impossible to know where to start.
This post is here to help.
Read on to access your ultimate guide to flood damage cleanup. We’ll also fill you in on the best flood damage prevention tactics that you should implement as soon as you can.
Table of Contents
1. Tackling the Standing Water
The first phase of water damage cleanup is to find the most effective way to remove the water from your home.
Especially if you’ve either lost power or are concerned about loose electrical wires, sometimes the old-fashioned way is the safest. Just use buckets, mops, and towels to get rid of the water.
If neighborhood sewers aren’t already backed up, you can just pour the collected water down your drain. If they are backed up — or if you’re not sure of their condition — you’ll need to pour the water out on your lawn.
However, depending on the level of standing water in your home, you may need a faster, more effective solution.
You may want to try using a wet/dry vacuum or even renting a sump pump to flush out water.
Of course, if the situation is truly dire, rely only on professionals to help.
2. Dry Out Your Home
The next step in proper flood damage cleanup is to dry out your home and any remaining furniture as thoroughly as is possible.
You can use your ceiling fans, portable fans, and even a dehumidifier to speed up the process. Be aware that, in order to stop further damage to your home’s foundation, you may need to cut away impacted drywall and even remove your baseboard trim.
Put any wet papers into the freezer, and even rent high-powered fans from your hardware store.
Remember that you cannot use your home’s AC or heating unit if your HVAC ducts got submerged during the flooding.
You can even buy some desiccants like calcium oxide to quickly absorb moisture from your surfaces.
3. Attempt to Save Your Furniture
Depending on how quickly you were able to begin cleaning up after a flood, you may be able to save at least some of your furniture.
Begin by taking the furniture outdoors on your lawn. Then, take off any doors, drawers, and other removable pieces. If the drawers won’t come out because they’re swollen shut, you’ll need to wait for the furniture to dry.
Clean off the furniture using soap and water, and then dry off your furniture in the sun. You can also use some of the drying methods we mentioned above.
4. Get Serious About Disinfection
Lots of homeowners assume that the problem is solved once the furniture is removed and the carpet/walls have dried up.
However, remember that just because something looks clean and dry doesn’t mean it is. In fact, mold starts growing less than 48 hours after severe home flooding — and they’ll keep growing with a high moisture level.
Your home’s drywall may have mold growing behind and underneath it. Carpet, home insulation, and even your ceiling tiles are also common places for mold growth.
In most cases, you’ll need to remove your carpet and look for signs of water damage in drywall and insulation. Common signs include sagging and bulging, drywall that is wet and “squishy” to touch, and even the tell-tale smell of mold.
Turn on any fans that you can and, if it’s not too humid outside, open all your windows and doors to let air through. You may need to use a disinfectant to clean all of your flooring, walls, and remaining furniture.
Make peace with the fact that most water damage remediation methods mean you’ll have to throw out your carpets and rugs. While this is difficult, the serious long-term health consequences of mold exposure simply aren’t worth it.
This is also a scenario where you should pay for professional help.
5. Prevent Future Water Damage
Although you can’t prevent a flood from happening, you can do more to protect your home from water damage.
First, use the FEMA flood map to help you evaluate your home’s overall risk of flooding. Especially if you’re in a high-risk area, install a sump pump or foundation vents to stop water from pooling around your home in the event of a flood.
Ensure downspouts are pointed away from your home, and create space between mulch and your house’s siding — wet mulch can make your house’s foundation rot.
If possible, also keep outlets a minimum of one foot off the floor, and install check vales in pies to prevent flooded sewage from leaking into your home.
If you’re looking for additional tips for successfully waterproofing your home, be sure to check out this article.
Don’t Handle Cleaning up After a Flood on Your Own
Even for the most avid DIYers, cleaning up after a flood can be quite a process.
In addition to following the advice in this post, we strongly encourage you to seek professional help. Keep in mind that not all water damage, mold, or even structural issues after a flood are immediately visible.
In order to protect your home and your family, it’s best to let mold and water remediation experts fix and inspect your home.
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