Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

After the flood
A checklist for dealing with damage
By MARK SALERNO, CMHC, Special to QMI Agency

After a flood, it’s important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and belongings. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, this handy checklist will help you organize the cleanup.

Immediate action is important. Your house and furnishings are less likely to grow mould if they are dried within 48 hours.

Before you begin

* Put your own safety first. Avoid electrical shock. Wear rubber boots. Keep extension cords out of the water. Shut the power off to the flooded area at the breaker box. Ask your electrical utility for help if needed.

* Record details of damage, with photos or video if possible. Contact your insurance agent immediately and your municipality immediately. Your municipality may have information and resources you that can help you deal with the flood.

* Set up a step-by-step action plan to:

-remove all water, mud and other debris

-dispose of contaminated household goods

-rinse away contamination inside the home

-clean and dry out your house and salvageable possessions

* Be prepared to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to throw out. Household items that have been contaminated by sewage, or that have been wet for a long time, will have to be bagged, tagged and discarded according to local regulations.

* Assemble equipment and supplies:

-gloves, masks (N95 respirators) and other protective gear

-pails, mops, squeegees and plastic garbage bags

-unscented detergent

-large containers for wet bedding and clothing, and lines to hang them to dry

-extension cords, submersible pumps, wet/dry shop vacuums and dehumidifiers or heaters, as needed

* Store valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until you have time to work on them.

First steps

* Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.

* Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.

* Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings, then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum. Rinse, then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage should be discarded.

* Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove materials at least 500 mm (20 in.) above the high-water line. Removing only the lower part of the wall applies if action is taken immediately after the flood. Gypsum-board walls that have been exposed to high humidity or standing water for a prolonged period of time should be removed in their entirety and discarded. Ceiling tiles and panelling should be treated like drywall.

* Wash and wipe/scrub down all affected surfaces with unscented detergent and water. Rinse. Repeat the process as needed. Concrete surfaces can be cleaned with a solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) in water (one half cup TSP to one gallon of warm water). When using TSP, which is highly corrosive, wear gloves and eye protection.

Bleach is NOT recommended.

* Surfaces that are dry and/or have not been directly affected by the flood water should be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Further cleaning of concrete surfaces can be done with TSP. Washable surfaces can be washed with unscented detergent and water. Surface mould on wood can be removed with a vacuum-sander. Do not sand without simultaneous vacuuming. Wood that looks mouldy after sanding may need to be replaced.

* After cleaning the surfaces, ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry. Rapid drying is important to prevent mould growth. When the outside weather permits (low humidity and moderate temperature), open doors and windows and hasten the drying process with fans. If the outside weather is not suitable and you notice that drying is not happening fast, use dehumidifying equipment, renting extra units as necessary.

* Carpets must be dried within two days. Homeowners can't effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves; qualified professionals are required. Sewage-soaked carpets must be discarded.

What to keep or discard

* Discard and replace all insulation materials and all less-expensive articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, paper and books.

* Separate valuable papers. Ask a lawyer whether you should save the papers themselves or just the information on them.

* The frames of good-quality wood furniture can sometimes be salvaged, but the coverings, padding and cushions may have to be discarded and replaced. You may want to consult a furniture restoration specialist regarding the options available.

* Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes, rinse and wash several times with detergent and dry quickly.

Before moving back in

* Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.

* If your furnace was submerged, consult an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor to determine the extent of the damage. It may be necessary to replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters – or the entire furnace.

* Inspect all flooded forced-air heating system ducts and have them cleaned out or replaced. Seek advice from your local utility or plumbing contractor if your water heater was flooded, as well. Also, depending on their condition, refrigerators and freezers may need to be replaced.

* Flush floor drains and sump pits with detergent and water and scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean footing drains outside the foundation if necessary.

Mark Salerno is district manager for the Greater Toronto Area at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

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