Whether your home has catastrophic water damage from a burst pipe or floodwaters from a storm, picking up the pieces can be daunting. The first 24 hours after the disaster are the most important and there are several things you can do to start the recovery and repair process.
What to Do When Your House Floods
A flood can be devastating and even something as seemingly small as a burst pipe can do thousands in damage. If you’ve experienced flooding in your home, keep these tips in mind.
1. Stay Safe
No matter how severe the water damage is, it’s important to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Check for visible structural damage like warping, holes, cracks, and loosened or cracked foundation elements in the flooded area and stay away from any areas that show these signs.
If there is standing water, it’s best to cut electricity to your home by turning off the main fuse. It is even better to have your utility company, fire department, or a licensed electrician remove your home’s electrical meter completely. Standing water and electricity can be deadly.
It’s also important to keep in mind that floodwater, whether from a busted pipe or a storm, is not sanitary. Stay out of the water, if possible, and discard any food that has been in the water. Even food that has been near flood water for a long period of time should be thrown away. You will need to thoroughly wash anything that has touched flood water.
2. Stop the Flow of Water
If possible, stop the flow of water. If flooding is the result of a broken pipe, this is as simple as turning off your main water valve. If your home is flooded because of a severe storm, pay attention to where and why the water was coming in, other than heavy rains. A roof leak, cracks in your foundation, and clogged gutters and/or clogged storm drains can all contribute to flooding.
3. Document the Damage
Before you start doing any cleanup, take photos and videos to document the damage for your insurance company. Documenting damage before cleanup give the insurance company a clear and accurate idea of the condition of your home and possessions. This ensures you get the coverage you need to rebuild.
4. Contact Your Insurance Company
Once you have documentation, you’ll want to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Keep in mind that if your area has experienced catastrophic flooding, it is best to contact your insurance company’s headquarters since your agent is likely going through the same thing you are. Your insurance company can file a claim for you and help you determine your next steps.
5. Remove the Water
When you get the all clear from your insurance company, you can start removing the water. Use a sump pump and a shop vac, both available at hardware stores, to make the process easier. Open any doors and windows so air can flow through the area and invest in a dehumidifier, if possible.
Always wear rubber gloves and boots when working in and around floodwater. This protects you from contaminants in the water as well as any electrical currents from wires you may not be able to see.
6. Clean Up & Assess the Damage
When the water has been removed and the area has dried, it’s time to clean up. Cleaning after a flood can be overwhelming and many people find it best to hire a professional to clean the area and assess the extent of the damage. If you choose to clean up yourself, a roll-away dumpster is a great investment because there will likely be a lot of large items that need to be tossed. And remember to always use rubber gloves and boots when cleaning up after a flood!
During and after the cleanup process, you’ll get an idea of the extent of the damage. Make notes of what needs to be repaired or replaced so you can start calling professionals as soon as possible.
7. Stop Mold Growth Before it Starts
Mold growth is a huge concern after a flood. When you’ve removed the water, you’ll also want to take out any carpeting, including rugs, bedding, and furniture. Mold can start growing in just 24 hours, so it’s important to remove these items as quickly as possible. While rugs can typically be cleaned and dried effectively, carpeting should be thrown away and any soft furniture that has been saturated will also need to be tossed because it is difficult to completely dry items like sofas and chairs before mold starts growing.
To control or stop mold growth on hard surfaces, use a sponge and rubber gloves to apply a non-ammonia cleaner or pine oil cleaner and disinfect surfaces with a 10% bleach solution. (Never mix ammonia and bleach as the fumes are highly toxic!)
8. Call CBT of NC to Secure Your Crawlspace and/or Basement
If your basement or crawlspace were flooded, you can prevent extensive damage in the future by waterproofing the area. This helps prevent groundwater from soaking into your crawlspace, which can lead to mold growth and buckled hardwood floors even under normal circumstances. Waterproofing also helps protect your basement and crawlspace from cracks in the foundation, a common reason for water intrusion.