Repairing Your Home After a Flood


Many people don’t understand the damage water can do to a home. I’ve heard remarks like “Well, it’s only water. At least it wasn’t a fire or a hurricane.” Okay, they’ve never been through a flood. So I’ve got four walls still standing and a roof over my head. I’m also standing in a foot of the nastiest, you-don’t-even-want-to-think-about-what’s-in’it, mud you’ve ever seen.

A flood does damage that people don’t even realize until later.

After the flood waters have receded from your living room, leaving behind the mud and God’s knows what, you have your last “feel sorry for me” cry, then roll up your sleeves and get to work. And it is work. Anyone who has ever been through a flood knows that it is every bit as devastating as any other disaster.

Learn more about the dangers you can face during a renovation in this post

Many areas will be without water and electricity for days following a major flood. And then you have the danger of diseases and bacteria carried in the flood water. So although you may still have those four walls standing, they may be so warped and contaminated with dangerous bacteria, that you almost wish a fire had happened. But it didn’t. You’re lucky, remember? All you have to deal with is wood buckling and warping as it tries to dry out, and nasty little things like mold. But it can be dealt with.

The first step after a flooding is to get the water out as quickly as possible. The longer it sits in a house, the more damage it does. Use pumps to get it out fast. Keep dehumidifiers running and remove all carpets as soon as possible. Wash walls and floors down with a mixture of bleach and water. Run fans and open windows to get the walls and floors dried as soon as you can. And whatever you do, don’t lose heart.

After all, you’re lucky, it wasn’t a fire or hurricane.


Flood Cleanup and Minimize Water Damage to Personal Belongings

Flood damage is rarely from clean water. It is what is in the water that is a problem. Most belongings are able to take a quick wetting. Flood damage gets more intense as belongings soak, so get them out of the water and muck quickly. Set a manageable schedule for the flood restoration, extending past the initial surge of drudgery.

Protect the Items from Further Damage

Before leaving, move things to a higher level. Even a few inches can make a difference. A flooded basement has become a cliché. Stack smaller, more delicate items on top of furniture. Place papers and photos in plastic bags. Don’t pad between items with blankets, which can soak up water and wick it to higher levels. Wet blankets and upholstered furniture will hold moisture in place for an extended time, giving mold a foothold.

Install shutters to keep wind-blown debris from breaking windows. Keep the protective shell of the home as complete as is possible. If a hole develops, nail a tarp over it securely. The wall or roof is already damaged, so a few nails won’t damage it more.


Separate damaged from undamaged items

Be realistic about the possibility of saving an item. Work harder with one-of-a-kind possessions than with readily replaceable things. Ask the question “Will I repair this if it is not covered by insurance or disaster payments?” If the answer is “yes”, then the only consideration is WHO will pay for it, not if it needs saving. Without a flood insurance policy, there will be little financial help anyway.

Make a list of:

  1. Item description
  2. How many of each item
  3. Price paid when new
  4. Receipts or retained sample or retained item.

Start a debris pile outside to keep destroyed stuff that may need to be seen by adjusters when they arrive. Garbage removal is a problem right after a flood, so the debris pile will be around for a time. Place it out of the way.

Begin Cleaning and Repairing Anything that is Worthy.

Blot damp paper without rubbing. Allow it to dry in as few layers as possible so that air can circulate over it. Disaster restorers, or conservators, can reverse some damage that is beyond one’s personal ability.

Cloth will survive being wet for a few days. Watch for rust from wire hangers. Wash clothing, but check closely for water stains. Expensive garments may become high-class gardening wear, but daily wear should clean up well.

Leather must be dried slowly in cool temperatures. Scrape off the crud and use saddle soap to clean the leather, while still damp. Work neets foot oil into the item to keep the leather soft after it has dried. There will probably be a color change from the water, mud and softening oil, so flood restoration of leather may be functional but not cosmetic.

Electronic items are so sensitive to the microscopic debris in flood water that they are probably destroyed. Pour out the water, open the case and let it air dry (heat might melt something). Some people save the drying packets from medicines and electronics to help remove moisture when items get wet.

Many Flood Victims Forget the Primary Need

Take care of one’s self first. The victims bear the brunt of a flood cleanup. Aid may arrive initially, but it will slacken off as other disasters take center stage.

A healthy place to sleep a full night is more important than protecting sopping garbage from theft. Just because access has been granted, doesn’t mean it is recommended to take back residence in a flood damaged home.

Drink clean water and eat clean food from clean dishes. If it got wet, it is no longer clean. Diet and medications are extra important when a body is under stress.

Learn from this flood. Natural disasters are beyond human control. We can only react with ‘tricks’ that may lessen flood cleanup efforts. The goal is to get through the event and on with normal living.

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