By: Nick Messe
In the aftermath of a flood, the damage can be overwhelming. As a home owner, the understandable first impulse is to begin repairs on the home immediately. Many home owners move in to repair damage quickly, mistakenly believing that they will be able to salvage materials and belongings that were damaged in the flood. What those homeowners don’t realize is that attempting to repair the damage too soon can result in even greater, and more costly, damage to the home.
The first concern after a flood should be to take the time to document every instance of water damage. Documentation should include videos, photographic evidence, or both. This step is important because you will need proof, beyond your word as a homeowner, that the damage occurred when it comes time to make claims, apply for tax reductions or file for disaster relief. If you clean up too quickly, you run the risk of losing the evidence that you need.
Another concern should be the electrical equipment in the home. Living without electricity is a major inconvenience for most modern families, but it is imperative that you shut the electrical system down immediately. The flood will likely have damaged all aspects of the electrical system, including the outlets, switches, panels and wiring.
Damage will extend far beyond what you can see, often soaking the electrical system behind the walls. It is imperative that you allow the wiring to completely dry out before any repairs are made, and that repairs are only made by a professional electrician. Likewise, all electrical appliances need to be professionally cleaned following a flood. If these steps are skipped in order to save time, the result can be electrical shocks or fire caused by faulty wires.
When it comes to flooring, speedy cleanup will save the carpeting. However, wood floors need to be allowed to dry slowly in order to prevent cracking, splitting, and warping. Natural wood floors tend to swell as they dry, so it is recommended that you remove every other board in order to prevent buckling.
Perhaps the most serious threat to cleaning up too soon after a flood is the possibility of causing structural damage to your home and your home’s foundation. Even after the water has receded outside of your home, water pressure from water in the ground and the water inside the home may push against each other. You must be careful to drain the water slowly, because if you drain the water quicker than the ground water recedes, the unequal distribution of pressure can cause the foundation to collapse or crack.
In order to prevent draining your basement too quickly, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you wait until no water is visible outside the home. FEMA then suggests you drain a foot of water, mark the water level, and wait 24 hours. If the water has risen above your mark, it is too early to drain your basement.