Returning After the Flood

Hurricanes bring wind and water, often in the shape of floodwaters that swamp homes and damage property. It’s critical to remove, dry, or replace wet building materials immediately to avoid damaging mold and the health risks it brings. Below is a simple checklist to help you get started on assessing damage in your home after the flood and begin taking charge of the cleanup. Be sure to check with your town or municipal offices to receive checklists and contact numbers for your area.

• Check for building stability before entry—sticking doors at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.

• Take pictures of damage throughout the building and around the property.

• Assess stability of plaster and drywall—any bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage that should be removed.

• Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be renailed but can be saved.

• Clean and disinfect hot air, air conditioning, and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores.

• Check appliance wires for missing or disintegrated wire insulation.

• Ground all appliances with a three-pronged plugs.

• Dry and oil all appliance motors.

• Two weeks after flood water subsides, drain wells, sanitize well and water lines, and test water.

• Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones, or mortar.

• Empty basement water 1/3 per day to avoid structural damage to foundation by rapid pressure change.

• Test water before using.

• Remove wet drywall and insulation to well above the high water mark. Clean, disinfect, and dry all wall cavities that came into contact with floodwater.

• Use fans and sunlight to dry out interior spaces.

• Remove all wet carpets, curtains, and fabrics. Allow to air dry completely.

• Wash and disinfect all surfaces, including cupboard interiors, with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach to 2 gallons of water.

• Clean and disinfect concrete surfaces using a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water. Mix according to manufacturer’s directions and apply to entire surface.

• Control standing water and mosquitoes by applying a larvae control product to standing water or a film of vegetable oil to the surface.

• Wash down and disinfect all doors. To avoid warping, dry all wood doors by removing from hinges, laying flat with wood shims between, and allowing to air dry completely. Remove all knobs and hardware first and disinfect.

• Clean and disinfect windows, sills, and tracks.

• Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfecting the sliders and the tracks.

• Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters. Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.