Flood Recovery Tips, Suggestions and Common Practices for Homes
Things to consider about flood clean up
- Service is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing.
- There is a potential for exposure to mold, spores, excrement and chemicals which could adversely affect your health.
- Trip hazards, sharp edges, upturned nails, jagged sheetrock corner bead and hidden dangers abound in the flood clean up environment.
- You will get dirty, hot and sweaty.
- Consider the recovery process to be a marathon not a sprint. Do NOT take shortcuts and work wisely as to prevent over exerting yourself.
Health and Safety Concerns
- Consult with your doctor if taking immune suppressant medications or other activity limiting prescriptions.
- Share any pertinent medical information and limitations with a companion, such as medicine allergies and disease states should you be unable to communicate with medical professionals yourself.
- Tetanus booster now recommended every 7 years.
- Be sure to carry sufficient quantities of your prescription medications with you.
Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing
- Non-vented or splash proof safety goggles for wet work and safety goggles for dry work.
- Tyvek disposable suits are very convenient in wet or muddy situations.
- Jeans or long pants for protection against cuts
- Appropriate boots such as rubber shin length or taller for working in wet areas (these can be disinfected without ruining them). Regular work or hiking boots are sufficient if the conditions are dry. Note that mold can take hold in leather and cloth footwear. Also, it is best to have heavy soles to protect your feed from up-turned nails.
- Gloves, leather for dry work and heavy rubber or nitrile for wet work.
- Ear plugs for working off of generators or around power equipment.
- Band-Aids, Advil, Neosporin, GermX disinfectant, soap, clean water and paper towels.
- Cloth nail apron to serve as an easily accessible pocket for dirty hands.
- A utility knife and small flashlight.
Why wear a respirator?
- The main way that mold and ash get into your body is through inhalation.
- Mold flourishes in warm, moist and dark locations that hold basic nutrients.
- Your LUNGS are warm, moist, dark and nutrient rich places!!!!!
- Wearing a respirator will provide protection against ash, concrete fines, airborne dust, dirt and in some cases odors.
- Neither surgical nor dust masks offer the protection of a respirator
- A respirator will have two (2) straps and a dust mask will only have one (1) strap.
- A respirator will have a OSHA/NIOSH rating, dust masks do not.
- N95 or P95 is the minimum rating for flood recovery work.
- In order for a respirator to function properly, it must be tightly fitted to your face
- A full beard impairs the fit
- Placing a respirator on your forehead will contaminate it.
- Your hands transfer contamination to your respirator every time you remove it.
- As long as the inside is still clean, the respirator should be functioning properly.
Using a Respirator
- There are multiple styles of disposable respirators, the most important consideration is the NIOSH N/P95 or greater rating.
- “Special” respirator features include exhalation valves, carbon lining for odor reduction and reinforcement screens.
- Disposable respirators may be purchased at most big box retailers and online. Expect to pay $2.50-$4.00 apiece.
- If you do not feel comfortable using a disposable respirator, you should consult your doctor to have a respirator professionally fitted to your face.
- Look for hazards and verifying that you can accomplish the job. Sometimes help is necessary
- Verify the status of gas, electricity, water, and other utilities. Keep in mind that if improperly connected, your neighbor’s portable generator may cause your home electrical to be hot even if power is off in your area.
- Looking for overhead/sharps obstructions. Some light fixtures will hold water and any vessels located within upper cabinets that flooded will also be full of water.
- Check the soundness of your structure; foundations can shift and holes or pits can open after heavy rains. Also mark the sump pump pit if your home has one, to prevent someone from falling.
- Assess slipperiness of stairs, use gutter guard or metal masonry lath strips nailed to the treads to provide “grip”.
- Determine the best debris removal strategies.
- Doors vs. windows
- Buckets and totes vs. wheel barrows vs. “bucket brigade”.
- If possible, use ramps made of 2×10’s (or similar) to traverse exterior steps. This will improve efficiency by allowing smooth use of hand trucks and wheel barrows.
- Don’t reach blindly into dark areas.
- Use fans to ventilate the home and cool yourself.
The 3-Pile Method
After flooding, household items can be grouped into three broad categories. Items you can definitely save, destroyed items and demolition debris and items that might be salvageable.
- Keep Pile –salvageable items should be stored farthest from the street and in a manner that facilitates disinfection and storage.
- Maybe Pile – items that with proper care or treatment that might be salvageable. Place these items s/t they could be moved to either the keep or debris piles.
- Debris Pile – unsalvageable household items, demolition debris, appliances and soil. Place these items near curb or in dumpsters.
When carrying out debris make sure not to block meter boxes or access the utility company might need to restore your services.
If using piles always pile forward and up instead of close and low. Most recovery boom trucks can reach 12-15 feet outward from the roadside.
Whether using dumpsters or piles, neatly stacking the materials create more stable piles and the denser you pack the items the more space you will have to continue carrying out debris.
- Flood waters are contaminated with sewer, agricultural runoff, harmful chemicals, pathogens, etc..
- Any items that contact natural waters are susceptible to mold contamination within 48 hours of exposure. (Actually much quicker).
Your goal is to eliminate an environment that promotes the growth of mold. The steps you as a homeowner can take to facilitate recovery are:
- Remove accumulated mud/sand.
- Remove water/mold damaged personal possessions and household contents.
- Expose the framing to facilitate drying, both floor joists and wall studs.
- Pressure wash exposed surfaces especially if they have visible soil or early mold growth.
- Disinfect the structure.
- Let the home dry to equilibrium moisture content.
- All household items from the flooded floor(s). Empty space is easier to work in and items left in the work area are subject to further contamination as a result of demolition disturbance.
- Try to never open a fridge or freezer that was not emptied in advance of the storm or soon after power was lost.
- Flooring, carpet, vinyl; all floor coverings down to the subfloor.
- Wall coverings and cabinets.
- Insulation that was wet.
- Cut carpet and padding into 2 foot strips.
- Use a circular saw to cut hardwood into shorter lengths. Be sure to first set the cutting depth to match the hardwood to prevent damaging the subfloor.
- Cut sheetrock at a practical height but at least 1 foot above high water mark. Keep in mind that drywall is 48 inches wide so any water damage over 13” above the floor will require a full sheet for the repairs so removal of the full bottom piece of drywall will save labor during rebuild over trying to place a full seam patch at a lower height.
- When marking and cutting drywall for tear out, use a tape measure and chalk line to layout a straight cut. Neater tear out typically leads to lower labor costs when the time comes for rebuilding.
- Fully remove sheet paneling. The vertical veneer core of sheet paneling behaves in a capillary manner to wick water up the wall. Also matching and cleanly cutting older paneling is difficult
- Evaluate solid wood paneling to determine best cut off height. Since water predominately enters through the end grain, it is possible to salvage many vertical hardwood panelings by cutting above the flood and capillary action elevations. Consider chair rail and wainscoting as a rebuild option for the removed solid wood.
- Hollow core interior doors can become incubators.
- Pull nails and screws as you progress.
- Watch out for rotten subfloor. Many times unknown water damage is uncovered, especially around bath tubs, icemakers, dishwashers and other household areas where water is piped and used.
Your goal is to get air, sunlight and disinfectants to the maximum exposable area of your home’s structure.
Contentious areas –why it is advisable to remove “permanent” infrastructure
- Ducting – If saturated there is NO foolproof way to sterilize the entire length of ducting. Any mold spores formed in the junctions between duct and fittings could be spread throughout your home when the unit is used.
- Air handlers and furnaces – coils or heat exchangers at the head of the distribution system may have become contaminated. Consult your HVAC professional to determine the extent of exposure to flood water.
- Kitchen and bathroom cabinets are sealed against the wall and have a untreatable toe kick cavity.
- Vinyl (linoleum), hardwood or floating floor traps moisture against the subfloor.
- Crawl space clutter, plastic and insulation hold water in a low air circulation environment and the vapor barrier prevents drainage.
- Dry set or mortar bed shower basins and surrounds are inherently porous. Any bacteria will be inaccessible.
- Consult your local government or building professionals regarding water lines, drain lines, gas lines, wiring and similar.
- Pressure wash from the highest point of the cleanup down to the lowest.
- Use shovels, brooms, dust pans, pumps and water to flush out the bulk of dirt and mud.
- Try not to cause further water damage to previously dry areas with the pressure washer.
- Wash all exposed sides, not just the most visible.
- Chase or collect the water with brooms, squeegees and wet vacuums to prepare for disinfection.
- Bleach is most common
- Mix at ½ to ¾ cup of Clorox per gallon of clean water.
- Plan for 3 applications with surface drying between each.
- Synthetic disinfectants are becoming available
- Shockwave mixes at 2-4 oz. per gallon of clean water depending on the surface.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, Fiberlock Technologies.
- Can be purchased from online retailers.
- Apply the disinfectant using garden or backpack pump sprayers, airless professional style paint sprayers.
- Disinfect from the bottom up to verify full coverage.
- To facilitate drying (~12 to 16% equilibrium moisture content here in SC), leave windows and doors open as much as possible.
- Pull blinds up and remove curtains or anything else that would inhibit air flow.
- Keep interior doors open or better yet, remove them from their hinges.
- Place fans strategically throughout home and in crawlspace to circulate air and remove humidity. Change the direction the fans are facing regularly.
Take precautions to prevent transfer of mold from your worksite back to your living quarters.
- Clean yourself up prior to leaving the worksite.
- Body and shoes
- Consider changing clothes.
- Prepare the vehicle/wrap seats w/plastic
- Check for nails in/around tires
Additional information can be found by searching for the “FEMA Guide to Flood Recovery” online.
Compiled by Avery Fox of South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief