After a flood, many homeowners' natural reaction is to rush into their recovery project. Believe me, I understand why they would. When a disaster strikes, it makes sense that you would want to get things back on track as soon as possible.
In my experience, homeowners are thinking about making their houses looking good again, without considering the massive undertaking it is to go beyond the lipstick and mascara, and restoring their home as a safe, sound structure. Focus on the following steps to put safety first as you begin your home restoration.
Consider Your Family’s Health
It’s not just a matter of cleaning up the water, re-painting and replacing some carpet. If your post-flood restoration isn’t done properly by your contractor, the contamination from bacteria or the mold caused by water damage can affect your family’s health, not to mention your home’s structure.
If your home floods and you have water damage, obviously you’ll need to make sure your house looks good again, but first make sure that it’s safe. Water damage creates the perfect environment for mold and poor indoor air quality. And, you need to act quickly—to stop further saturation and damage, and to keep mold spores from growing.
Remove the water and the saturated contents. If the flood was caused by a sewage leak, you’ll also need to take extra precautions to decontaminate the area beyond just removing the water.
Check the Electrical System and Appliances
For safety’s sake, you need to make sure you have a qualified electrician check your electrical—especially if the water rose as high as your outlets, or may have gotten into switches or fixtures. Your heating and cooling system might have been damaged as well, so have an HVAC guy check that out, too.
You’ll probably have to tear out the carpeting and underpad, especially if there is any natural fibre in it. If the carpet is made of all synthetic material, it can’t serve as a food source for mold, but the subfloor is going to be wood or OSB (or oriented strand board, which is a composite wood product), and it’s pretty likely to have been soaked through.
If your flooring is ceramic tile or vinyl, it’s not going to hold water, but the sub-floor will. So, it’s likely you’ll have no choice but to tear that out as well—you don’t know how damaged the subfloor is until you look under that tile, and it will never dry out if it stays covered by tile.
Wood flooring and wood sub-flooring will always get damaged by a flood because absorbing water causes wood to swell and warp. Generally, wood floors and wood sub-floors will need to be removed and replaced.
Walls are made of wood studs and drywall—both of which will grow mold.
Your contractor needs to open up the walls so the wood studs can dry out. Remove the insulation—insulation bats that have been saturated aren’t effective because the air space is full of water and they are compressed. And, if they aren’t dried out completely—which they won’t ever be, don’t kid yourself—they’ll keep the moisture up in the walls forever. That can lead to poor air quality, mold and mildew and further damage to your house’s structure from rot.
Drywall will mold and mildew, so make sure your contractor takes it out at least 12 inches above the high water line and completely removes it all the way back down to the floor.
After removing the drywall and insulation, you need to make sure you allow the wall cavity to completely dry before you replace the insulation and drywall. That might take weeks. A wood stud that feels dry to the touch may still be wet in the middle. Have the wood tested with a moisture meter—then you’ll know if the percentage of moisture is safe for you to start rebuilding.
Or, you can tear out right back to the foundation walls and start all over again. That way, you can rebuild the right way—using mold resistant drywall and insulation products and create a proper thermal break.