The flooding that has occurred due to several tropical storms as well as hurricanes throughout the country has caused thousands, if not millions, of homes to be flooded and damaged.
Although FEMA as well as most insurance companies have guidelines for cleanup, and there are several professional services available for the task, many homeowners would like to clean up the damage themselves.
The following are some very simple and straightforward considerations and techniques that can be used to limit the amount of mold that occurs, as well as minimize any structural damage that water infiltration can cause.
Safe off the area that has been flooded.
- Turn off the main electrical breaker to the home if it does NOT require you to move through flooded conditions. Water is a primary conductor of electricity and you do NOT want to enter an area that could be susceptible to electrical current or shocks
- Confirm with the local utility that the electrical power has been turned off. This is vitally important. Do NOT enter an area that has standing water without confirming that the power is off.
- Water can cause structural damage such as concrete slab deterioration, collapses or foundation wall deterioration. Do NOT enter an area that could be structurally deficient and cause bodily harm.
Pumping the water
If standing water remains in the flooded area, pump the water from the location that is flooded once pumped, sweep and mop the water from the area. Pumping should not be immediate and rapid. The removal of this water could cause structural failure of the concrete slab, the foundations walls or even the columns that support your home. It is recommended that the level of the water be dropped one foot at a time, with a period of several hours in between to ensure that all structural systems remain stable. Water exerts pressure and the instant removal of this pressure could cause structural issues.
Once the water is removed from the area, a wet vacuum or mopping the remaining water is required. Any surface water should be eliminated prior to any type of air drying and dehumidification.
Once the standing water has been eliminated, the use of fans, blowers and dehumidifiers can commence. Movement of air is necessary for drying to occur and any windows, doors such as bilco doors, garage doors, etc. should be opened to allow the most ventilation possible.
Removal of damaged material
A visual inspection will determine the highest level of flooding. It is recommended that all sheetrock, plaster, insulation, etc. at least one foot above the highest level of flooding be removed. Do not assume that drywall, plaster or insulation will simply dry out. It will not! If wet or within at least a one foot distance, remove the material.
Once the sheetrock, plaster and insulation has been removed it is important that you allow the framing to dry out. The framing could be the wood studs that have been installed to create the walls, a concrete block wall, etc. Masonry such as concrete block is porous and can absorb moisture. Allow everything to dry out.
Final drying out / application of mold retarder
Once you feel that the humidity level is down and any material subjected to the flooding has dried out, a mixture of bleach and water should be applied to the remaining structure, such as the studs. This is important because of the disinfection capability of the bleach and water mixture. Repeat this operation if it is apparent that mold or you have any concern for mold returning.
Once all the surfaces are dry and there is no additional water, replace insulation and sheetrock accordingly. We strongly recommend that replacement materials be mold resistant. It is much better to spend a little more on mold and water resistant sheetrock and insulation than having to repeat this procedure upon the next flooding issue.
There are several new products that are mold resistant and this specification should be noted when selecting replacement products.
Safety and Protection
Remember that mold is a very toxic element that can cause substantial respiratory harm. Wear the proper protective gear when cleaning up such as a N-95 mask and rubber gloves. Adequate ventilation is required to safely perform any tasks that incorporate the removal of mold.
As with most cleanup operations, common sense is the most important aspect of properly and safely cleaning up mold from excessive moisture. Do not be stupid and jump into that flooded basement or first floor. The power must be off, the structure must be stable and you must have all of your safety equipment to eliminate any possibility of personal harm.
Good luck, and next time purchase a property with substantial elevation to eliminate the worry of flooding. Of course, hillsides, mountainsides and locations with higher elevations offer their own set of issues.