KUSA - Colorado flood disaster victims have a long recovery ahead. Here's a guide to repairing a flooded home, based on expert advice from FEMA, structural engineers and others.
YOUR HOME AFTER THE FLOOD: A GUIDE TO PROPERTY MITIGATION
TWO WORDS TO KNOW
•MITIGATE: to "soften the blow." Hurricane mitigation applies to repair of hurricane damage and prevention of damage from future storms.
•REMEDIATE: To correct a deficiency. Mold remediation involves getting rid of same.
WHAT TO PACK
•Camera to record everything before you touch it
•Heavy rubber gloves (elbow length if you can find them)
•Neoprene respirator or surgical masks (look for them at hardware and drugstores; get the ones with rubber sealants on either side) Goggles
•Vicks Vap-o-rub (apply under your nose for smell)
•Heavy-duty 30-gallon garbage bags and twist ties
•Mold remediation supplies, including 10-gallon sprayer
•Bleach and fungicidal disinfectants
•Full set of tools, including a chainsaw or handsaw, shovel and something to get into house if doors and windows are swollen shut, such as an axe or crowbar
•Flashlights to see into dark closets
•Wooden stick for turning things over, scaring away snakes and moving electrical wires
•Tarps to secure openings in windows or roofs
•Insect repellant and sunscreen
•LOTS of drinking water and non-perishable food
•Change of clothes for immediately after your cleanup
TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT
Unless you're an emergency worker or have been living in a shelter for an extended period, the only extra shot you need, according to state and federal health officials, is a tetanus shot if you have not had a booster in the past five years. If you have health problems or you have any questions about whether additional vaccinations are warranted, check with your doctor or a health clinic.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
If you haven't talked to your insurance agent yet ... redouble your efforts to do so? Find out EXACTLY what documentation is needed for reimbursement - some companies may ask you to keep a piece of your soggy carpet, for example, to prove loss - and how much work you may and may not do on the property before the adjuster arrives.
STAY SANE ...
Prepare yourself emotionally. Have Kleenex ready, and a shoulder to cry on.
Set a realistic and manageable schedule. Don't try to rehabilitate your house in one day
Keep the family together, but don't take infants (they tend to put things in their mouths), anyone who is pregnant or has health problems, or pets.
... AND STAY SAFE
Injuries from chain saws and carbon monoxide poisoning are common during recovery efforts. Take every precaution.
Don't enter a building that has serious structural damage or signs of imminent collapse.
If you smell gas or suspect a leak, retreat to a safe distance and call authorities immediately.
Wear protective clothing and rubber gloves when cleaning. If there has been a backflow of sewage in the house, wear goggles, rubber boots and rubber gloves.
Disconnect main electrical switches and circuits.
Remove covers from all outlets and fuses or multi-breaker boxes.
Do not combine ammonia and bleach as a cleaning agent
Never use generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper, or even outside near a window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and can build up inside and poison people and animals.
Wash skin that may come in contact with hazardous materials.
ASSESSING THE EXTERNAL DAMAGE
Take stock of the house from the outside. Look for visible, physical damage. Are there broken pilings? Cracks in the foundation? Are the walls or floors slanted? If you see obvious damage, you are going to need professional help. Have a building inspector check the premises before you go in.
Check the exterior door. If it is swollen with moisture only at the bottom, it can be forced open. If it sticks at the top, your ceiling may be ready to fall in. You can force open the door, but wait a few minutes to make sure nothing falls.
If doors are too swollen, you may have to enter through a window. Lean inside and check the ceiling before you do.
If your roof has been damaged and you're unable to cover it yourself, help may be available. Check with your local emergency management authority.
ASSESSING INTERNAL DAMAGE
Turn off the electricity. One suctural engineer recommends using a wooden stick to turn each circuit breaker to the off position. Unplug all appliances and lamps, remove light bulbs and then take off outlet covers for any electrical outlets that got wet. (Once you are sure the electrical system is undamaged - preferably after a licensed electrician checks it out - you can turn the breakers back on.) Check the ceiling for signs of sagging. If necessary, use a stick to poke a hole at the edge of the sag so that water can begin draining. Don't stand under the sag.
Remove mirrors and heavy pictures from walls; they can fall from wet surfaces.
Check furniture to make sure a chest or armoire isn't ready to topple.
Document the damage by taking pictures of each room as you inspect it. Start making list of damages for your insurance company.
Rescue valuables first. Remove them to a dry second story, or place in plastic bags.
FIRST DO NO (MORE) HARM
Before starting clean-up, protect your home from further damage from wind and rain.
Open windows if weather permits. This will start the drying-out process. If windows are swollen shut, don't break the glass; remove the sash and panes with it.
Cover holes in exterior walls with tarps or plastic sheeting. Nail them down with wooden strips or secure with duct tape.
Use lumber or 4-by-4's to brace sagging ceilings or walls. If the damage is severe, you may need to call in a contractor.
Check for broken or leaking pipes. If you find them, you will need to turn off the water at the valve at the water meter. If you can't find it, call the Sewerage and Water Board.
Do a form of triage: Decide what can be saved and what can't. If in doubt, throw it out.
Start with your refrigerator. If it was underwater, it can't be saved. Clean-up specialists advise wrapping it shut with duct tape and removing it from the house.
If it wasn't underwater and you think you can salvage it, take a deep breath, cover your nose, and throw away everything in the refrigerator. Unplug the appliance and take out all removable parts.
If there is one, empty the defrost water disposal pan. Wash all parts thoroughly with hot water and rinse with disinfectant made from 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach to each gallon of water. With a solution of hot water and baking soda (or 1 cup vinegar or household ammonia to 1 gallon of warm water) wash the interior, including doors and gaskets. Leave the door open for the appliance to ventilate it. WARNING: Do not mix ammonia and bleach as it can release poisonous gas.
Strip the house of all furnishings impacted by flood waters. Cover salvageable items with plastic and leave outdoors to dry.
If the carpet got very wet, it has to go, since carpets harbor mold. Saturated carpet is heavy, so remove in 6-foot sections, roll them up with the pad and take it to the dump or put it out with the trash. (High quality oriental or wool rugs may be able to be saved; try not to fold it and get it to a cleaner as soon as possible.)
Throw away anything porous that got wet: bedding, books and papers, upholstered furniture, kitchen utensils.
Remove linens and clothing to a dry place; they may be able to be laundered and restored. Non-porous dishes can be cleaned after the water is declared safe to drink and the sewer lines are clear.
If you have mud: Shovel out as much as you can, being careful to wear protective clothing such as rubber boots and gloves. Then, if you have running water, hose down the floors, washing mud out the doors. Don't allow the water to sit on the floor for long; use a wet vac or squeegee mop to remove it promptly.
Any food-- including canned food that has been touched by flood water --must be considered contaminated and discarded.
Remove limbs, debris and trash.
Start the interior drying-out process. There are several ways to do this, some of which will have to wait until it's safe to turn on the electricity:
Open up closet and cabinet doors. As cabinets dry, you should be able to remove swollen drawers.
Use fans to move the air. Do not use central air conditioning until ducts have been inspected and cleaned. If ducts run through the slab or were flooded they may contain debris and bacteria, which will just be blown into your home.
Run dehumidifiers and window air conditioning units.
Use dessicants (materials that absorb moisture) in closets or other enclosed areas. These include chemical dehumidifying packets used to dry out boats, cat litter made of clay, or calcium chloride pellets used to melt ice in the winter. Hang the pellets in a pillow case in the closet and place a pan beneath to catch dripping water.
Start removing waterlogged surface materials. Wallboard acts like a sponge; even several inches of water can be soaked upward in what is called a wicking effect. Wallboard will have to go. Plaster survives a flood better than wallboard, but takes a very long time to dry. If plaster separates from the wall laths (studs) as it dries, it will have to be replaced. Wood swells and distorts with moisture intake, but generally regains its shape as it dries.
Even if walls and ceilings look undamaged, open them at various places to check for mold and mildew. If you see either, drywall must come out.
Remove, bag and throw away all insulation in the walls. This will have to be replaced.
Clean all non-porous surfaces with a disinfectant. Ceramic tile is nonporous, so it can be cleaned as usual, although the grout, which is porous, may require special effort. Nonporous materials such as Corian countertops or stainless steel also can be cleaned.
Vacuum floors if possible with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. Do not use your regular vacuum unless you can cover the exhaust with a filter or direct the exhaust outside; you may simply blow bacteria around your house.
The rule of thumb is that anything that stays wet for 48 hours has potential mold growth. And anything porous - sheetrock, ceiling tiles, insulation - will host mold. So if you had any standing water for more than two days, you should remove all porous materials.
Always wear protective clothing when dealing with mold; respirators, preferably made of neoprene, are recommended.
Mold experts recommend that you use the following mixture to clean all moldy surfaces to keep mold from spreading as you remove porous surfaces: In a garden pump sprayer, mix 3/4-gallon bleach and 1/4-gallon TSP (trisodium phosphate, a common ingredient used in pressure-washing, available in paint and hardware stores) with 1-1/2 gallons water. Spray infested surface so that it is wet to the touch. The kill time is 10 minutes MINIMUM. Scrub infected area if necessary. Allow drying to the touch. Repeat procedure. Others recommend a mixture of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water, but the chlorine smell will linger. Acceptable as well are phenolic or alcohol-based germicides available at janitorial supply stores.
Remove and discard all porous materials (that is, anything that will absorb water): wallboard, ceiling tiles, insulation, carpet, etc.
Remove Sheetrock in the following manner: Make a horizontal cut parallel to the floor at least 3 feet above the level of flood water contamination; if the water was 1 foot high in the house, go up to 4 feet of sheetrock and cut it out. If flood waters were 4 feet or above, the entire wall needs to be removed.
Disinfect studs and other exposed structural wood with a good germicide and then seal them with a fungicidal encapsulant, such as Kilz. Be prepared to remove flooring, since most ceramic tile is installed on top of drywall or greenboard. Spaces between floors and subfloors can harbor mold and bacteria.
Allow exposed walls to dry thoroughly before starting restoration. This will take at least a week or more. Moisture meters can test for wood moisture.
While wood frame homes will survive flooding, those fully impacted by flood waters may not be good candidates for repair. On a square-foot basis, new construction is cheaper than remodeling.
KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE
Use the above information as a general guideline, but understand that every situation will be different.
Every situation will require a tailored response, often with the help of professionals in structural engineering and disaster recovery. If you're overwhelmed or don't know where to begin, seek help before taking on the task of recovery, starting with your insurance company if available. And be prepared for the extra energy that the emotional toll of cleanup will require. As many public officials have said about the larger rebuilding process, it's a marathon, not a sprint. So, too, is recovering your home.
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