A Description of Typical House Flood Damages and Cleanup Requirements:
When your house floods, the water can wreak havoc
on the structure of the house, your personal belongings, and the health
of the inside environment. Flood waters contain many contaminants and
lots of mud. High dollar items can get ruined all at once, even with
just an inch of water, for example: carpeting, wallboard, appliances,
and furniture. A more severe storm or deeper flood may add damage to
even more expensive systems, like: ducts, the heater and air conditioner,
roofing, private sewage and well systems, utilities, and the foundation.
After a flood, cleaning up is a long and hard
process. Here is a list of common techniques for sanitizing and cleaning
- First things first: call your insurance
agent. If your insurance covers the damage, your agent will tell you
when an adjuster will contact you. List damage and take photos or
videotape as you clean. You'll need complete records for insurance
claims, applications for disaster assistance and income tax deductions.
- Contaminated mud-
Shovel out as much mud as possible, then use a garden sprayer or hose
to wash away mud from hard surfaces.
- Clean and disinfect every surface.
Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner. Then disinfect
with a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or
a product that is labeled as a disinfectant to kill germs.
- In the kitchen-
- Immerse glass, porcelain, china, plastic
dinnerware and enamelware for 10 minutes in a disinfecting solution
of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water. Air-dry
dishes. Do not use a towel.
- Disinfect silverware, metal utensils, and
pots and pans by boiling in water for 10 minutes. Chlorine bleach
should not be used in this case because it reacts with many metals
and causes them to darken.
- Cupboards and counters need to be cleaned
and rinsed with a chlorine bleach solution before storing dishes.
- Furniture and household items-
- Take furniture, rugs, bedding and clothing
outside to dry as soon as possible. Use an air conditioner or
dehumidifier to remove moisture or open at least two windows to
ventilate with outdoor air. Use fans to circulate air in the house.
If mold and mildew have already developed, brush off items outdoors
to prevent scattering spores in the house. Vacuum floors, ceilings
and walls to remove mildew, then wash with disinfectant. Wear
a two-strap protective mask to prevent breathing mold spores.
- Mattresses should be thrown away.
- Upholstered furniture soaks up contaminants
from floodwaters and should be cleaned only by a professional.
- Wood veneered furniture is usually not worth
the cost and effort of repair.
Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, unless damage is
- Toys and stuffed animals may have to be
thrown away if they've been contaminated by floodwaters.
- Photographs, books and important papers
can be frozen and cleaned later. They should be dried carefully
and slowly. Wash the mud off and store the articles in plastic
bags and put them in a frost-free freezer to protect from mildew
and further damage until you have time to thaw and clean them
or take them to a professional.
- Ceilings and walls-
- Wallboard acts like a sponge when wet. Remove
wallboard, plaster and paneling to at least the flood level. If
soaked by contaminated floodwater, it can be a permanent health
hazard and should be removed. If most of the wallboard was soaked
by clean rainwater, consider cutting a 4- to 12-inch-high section
from the bottom and top of walls. This creates a "chimney effect"
of air movement for faster drying. A reciprocating saw with a
metal cutting blade works well, but use only the tip of the blade
and watch out for pipes, ductwork and wiring.
- Plaster and paneling can often be saved,
but air must be circulated in the wall cavities to dry the studs
- The three kinds of insulation must be treated
differently. Styrofoam might only need to be hosed off. Fiberglass
batts should be thrown out if muddy but may be reused if dried
thoroughly. Loose or blown-in cellulose should be replaced since
it holds water for a long time and can lose its antifungal and
fire retardant abilities.
- Electrical system-
The system must be shut off and repaired and inspected by an electrician
before it can be turned back on. Wiring must be completely dried out-
even behind walls. Switches, convenience outlets, light outlets, entrance
panel, and junction boxes that have been under water may be filled
- Heating and cooling systems and ducts-
Will need inspection and cleaning. Flood-soaked insulation should
Appliances will get stains, odors, silt deposits, and gritty deposits
and need to be serviced, cleaned and sanitized. Running equipment
before it is properly cleaned could seriously damage it and/or shock
you. Professional cleaning is recommended for electronics, TVs and
radios, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners.
The hard exterior can be hand cleaned. All metallic appliances that
have been flooded should be properly grounded to prevent electric
shock. Mud or dirt in a grounded outlet or adapter may prevent the
grounding system from working, and you could be electrocuted.
- Pump out the basement-
If your basement is full or nearly full of water, pump out just 2
or 3 feet of water each day. If you drain the basement too quickly,
the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside
the walls. That may make the walls and floor crack and collapse.
With wood subflooring, the floor covering (vinyl, linoleum, carpet)
must be removed so the subflooring can dry thoroughly which may take
several months. Open windows and doors to expose the boards to as
much air as possible.
Clean and dry carpets and rugs as quickly as possible. If sewage-contaminated
floodwater covered your carpeting, discard it for health safety
reasons. Also discard if the carpet was under water for 24 hours
or more. To clean, drape carpets and rugs outdoors and hose them
down. Work a disinfecting carpet cleaner into soiled spots with
a broom. To discourage mildew and odors, rinse with a solution
of 2 tablespoons bleach to 1 gallon water, but don't use this
solution on wool or nylon carpets. Dry the carpet and floor thoroughly
before replacing the carpet. Padding is nearly impossible to clean
so should be replaced. If the carpet can't be removed, dry it
as quickly as possible using a wet/dry vacuum and dehumidifier.
Use a fan to circulate air above the carpet, and if possible,
lift the carpet and ventilate with fans underneath.
- Vinyl flooring and floor tile may
need to be removed to allow drying of subfloor.
- Wood floors-
Wooden floors should be dried gradually. Sudden drying could cause
cracking or splitting. Some restoration companies can accelerate
drying time by forcing air through the fluted underside of hardwood
floorboards. Remove hardwood floor boards to prevent buckling.
Remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling.
Clean and dry wood before attempting repairs.
- Roof damage and leaks-
- Defective flashing- Flashing is the
sheet metal used in waterproofing roof valleys, hips and the angle
between a chimney and a roof. Wet spots near a chimney or outside
wall may mean the leak is caused by defective flashing, narrow
flashing or loose mortar joints. Look for corroded, loose or displaced
flashing on sloping roof valleys and at junctions of dormers and
- Clogged downspouts or eaves- Check
for choked downspouts. Accumulated water or snow on the roof above
the flashing may cause a leak. Ice accumulations on eaves sometimes
form ridges, which cause melting snow to back up under the shingles.
- Cracks and deterioration- Roofing
(especially wood or composition shingles) usually deteriorates
first on southern exposures. Check southern slopes for cracking
- Holes- Missing shingles or holes
in the roofing may be causing wet spots. To find holes, check
for a drip trail or spot of light coming through in the attic.
Stick a nail, straw or wire through the hole to mark the spot
on the outside.
- Private sewage systems-
Flooding of a private sewage system can be a hazardous situation for
homeowners. It may lead to a back-up of sewage in the home, contaminated
drinking water and lack of sanitation until the system is fixed. When
flooding or saturated soil conditions persist, a private sewage system
cannot function properly. Soil treatment systems for wastewater rely
on aerobic (with oxygen) regions to reduce the amounts of chemicals
and living organisms (viruses, bacteria and protozoa). When the soil
is saturated or flooded, those hazardous materials can enter the groundwater
and your drinking water supply.