Cleaning Up After a Flood

The first thing you want to do before you go in to help someone in a house that has been flooded is you want to be safe, turn off the electric to the house. And in fact, I’d recommend turning off the gas line to the house as well. The next thing you want to do is wear your personal protective equipment, the biggest thing on the PPE is going to be a mask.

The PPE is because the house will have a lot of mold, a lot of nasty stuff in the air. When you’re cleaning up a house masks are really important. Ideally, an N95 mask. Even better is and one with a respirator. You also want to wear gloves and rubber boots, potentially clothes that you can dispose of when you’re done because you’re going to get all kinds of nasty stuff. And remember, usually floodwater has some sewage in it as well.

So we’ve got some bacterial issues to deal with. OK, so now that you’re safe, how do you clean up the house? First of all, make sure you document what’s happened to the house. Take pictures and videos so you can see what it looked like before. You may need that for your insurance company.

The next thing you want to do is focus on the flood line of the house. You’re usually going to see a dirt line a couple of feet up, depending on how high those floodwaters got. We want to basically trash everything from one foot above that flood line and below anything that’s gotten wet and a flood. I would say you probably need to trash it. Things like carpet and carpet padding. When it’s been through a flood, it’s really hard to dry those and reuse them.

So trash those, cut your sheetrock a foot above that flood line. You want to use a razor knife to cut that and be real careful. A lot of people get cuts with these. You might even use a straight edge so you don’t have a jagged line. And remember, when you cut sheetrock, you’re going to have to cut it multiple times to get through and make a clean line. So cut that three, four or five times to try and make a clean break and then take that sheetrock down from there below. Now, if you’ve got trim boards in the house that have gotten wet and they’ve been underneath the floodwaters, if they’re real wood, you might be able to reuse those.

So be careful and be gentle when you pull those off. In fact, you might pull those off before you rip out the sheetrock. If you’ve got an MDF board or other manmade trims, particle boards trash those. You’re never going to be able to save those. They’re typically going to swell anyways and they’ll never come back. So throw those away. Remember, we want to dry out as quickly as possible. So anything that’s gotten wet, that’s absorbed, you want to throw that away or try and dried out as quickly as possible.

You’re going to have a concrete slab or you might have a crawl space. You want to leave your studs. Those are going to be able to dry out. But everything else that is absorbed, that water, you want to trash that out, you’re not going to be able to salvage most of those things. Remember, any insulation that’s gotten wet needs to come out as well. But you don’t want to pull that insulation down from the cavity.

Let’s say you have a two or three foot flood line in your house. You want to use a razor knife and try and cut that insulation, especially if it’s bad insulation and cut it so that you’re making sure that you’ve got dry insulation, you’re cutting everything else you want to pull out. Don’t pull down that insulation. Otherwise you’re going to have some insulation up in your cavity. That’s going to have a break. And that’s really hard to fix later.

Step three, clean your house. You may want to look into getting a professional to clean bad odors from your house with thermal fogging.

We’ve gotten everything trashed out. Everything that’s gotten wet now is gone. And we’re just down to hard surfaces at this point. Now we want to actually sweep everything out, get rid of all that silt. And you might actually consider hosing out your house at this point as well. It’s already been wet, so it’s OK to hose it down. We’re going to dry it in a little bit. But you want to get rid of all the silt, maybe any of the bacteria that’s there, you can help hose that out.

This is a good way to do it.

Once you’ve got it cleaned, you’re going to want to use something for the bacteria in the house. That’s where a formula for 09 could work. You could use microbes than you could use a bleach solution. But be careful. Don’t let the kids be in the house when you’re doing this step where your PPE, your goggles, your mask, your gloves, you don’t want this in your lungs or in your body. None of this stuff is good for you. You have to protect your home from flooding, but you also need to protect your health.

If it kills bacteria, it’s bad for you. So spray down the whole house with one of those solutions that’s going to kill the bacteria and clean up the house.

Step four, ventilate and dehumidifier. This is the drying stage. If you’ve got nice weather, if the sun’s out, open all the windows and get some air flow into the house. If you got one of these, this is fantastic. This is a carpet dryer fan. They were on about three hundred bucks you might be able to find on the Internet.

Still, another option is just a cheap ten dollar box fan. Move as much air as you can. Any wet lumber, anything that’s a hard surface in your house like hardwoods. If you get some air flow on there, you might be able to salvage those. However, hardwoods that have been under water for a couple of days, it’s probably not going to be easy to salvage those, but if they’re a man made hardwood or if they’ve got appli. Would base, you might be able to give it a try, ventilate as much as you can.

Now, if you’re worried about safety, you’re going to have to close your windows. The humidity is going to get high in there. You want to consider using a dehumidifier. If you can get access to one of these, great. Is going to help dry things quicker. If not, just leave all your windows open and let the sun do its work by drying the house out. OK, step five.

The last thing we want to do, we want to verify that everything’s dry. Any wood in your house, we want to make sure that it’s 16 percent moisture content or less. That’s when you can use a moisture meter. That’s when you really know that things have been dry down and we’re not going to have moisture that’s going to support future mold growth. And then I’d recommend is a final step before you do any rebuilding, consider a mold control product.

There’s a couple out on the marketplace. This one is one that you can find at Home Depot and some of those kinds of places. You can also order this on Amazon. Another one that I like is borax with mold control. These are products you can spray yourself and that’s going to help prevent that mold from coming back in the future as you start in your rebuilding process. But remember, the biggest thing is keeping those things dry and not letting water get back there in the beginning with, OK, that’s it.

Five basic steps. I know it’s a ton of work, but before we finish up this video, let me give you a quick primer on mold.

You know, any time we have a flood event, mold gets talked about a lot and there’s a lot of mold growth that happens in a flooded house. Any time something’s been wet for two or three days, that’s really going to be the time when mold is going to start growing on that. Here’s what you need to know. Mold has been with us forever.

It’s in the air. It’s been grown in your bathroom for years.

A small amount of mold anybody can take unless you’ve got a compromised immune system. But if you’re a healthy adult, mold exposure is not going to kill you. However, it might give you some flu like symptoms. You might experience a runny nose, coughs, other things like that. That’s why I’m urging you when you’re doing this work, make sure you wear your mask, keep that air out of your lungs. And then the other thing you know about mold is once you dry the house, you’re not going to have additional mold growth.

So if the house has gone through these five steps, you’ve dried it properly. There’s no need to be concerned about the mold. It’s really just an issue until you get a trash out of the house.

When you’re doing this work, you’re probably going to see some old growth, especially on the back of your sheetrock, maybe on the back of your MDF cabinets or trim. You’re not going to see much of that growing on your concrete slab or your two by fours. So once you get everything dry, you’ve gotten that mold out of the house. You’re not going to have additional concerns with that. But that’s why we want to get the house as dry as soon as possible.

OK, that’s it. Five easy steps. Super easy for me to talk about here in my dry shop with all of our equipment. But I want you to know if you’re going through this, my heart goes out to you. I know there’s so many people that are struggling right now, and if you need the help of professionals, don’t hesitate to contact Speedy Palm Desert Water Damage Restoration.