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After a Flood: Structural Integrity

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Structural damage to a house after a flood may be subtle or extensive. Often, the full consequences will become fully apparent only later on. However, structural damage can be just as significant—if not more so—than the more immediate results of flooding. Structural issues are generally the aftermath of specific damaging forces present during and after a flood. Some of these  include:

  • Hydrostatic pressure. Generally, this refers to the weight of floodwater contained inside a structure. Pressure exerted by the weight of thousands of gallons of water trapped inside a house can damage interior and exterior walls, fracture the foundation and seep into and deteriorate solid building materials like brick and concrete.
  • Hydrodynamic pressure. This refers to the current of moving floodwater around and inside a house. Water moving just 10 mph exerts as much pressure on a house structure as a 275 mph wind. Moving water may separate walls at joints, pull up flooring and even dislodge the house from its foundation.
  • Buoyant pressure. In floodwater just two feet deep, a wood-frame house may readily float. A house can be detached and lifted up off its foundation by buoyant forces, causing irreparable damage.

After a flood, a visual inspection may reveal telltale signs of water-related  damage to structural integrity including:

  • House is leaning or tilting.
  • Portions of the house have separated from the rest of the structure.
  • House has shifted off its foundation.
  • Roof is sagging or deformed in some way.
  • Segments of roof are missing after a flood.
  • Internal roof structure inside the attic is damaged.
  • Exterior walls bowing or otherwise distorted.
  • Exterior wall is no longer secured to the foundation after a flood.
  • Noticeable gaps in frames of exterior doors and windows.
  • Doors and windows are jammed by structural shifting and won’t open.
  • Ceilings and/or floors inside the house are sagging or feel spongy.
  • Interior ceilings and/or walls have collapsed.
  • Basement walls are cracked or have collapsed inward or been deformed outward.
  • Basement beams or posts supporting the first floor have cracked or are detached from the floor above. 

How to Deal With Porous Materials After a Flood

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

after a flood

There are a lot of issues to confront after a flood. Where damage inside a house is widespread, one of the major questions to resolve is what to keep and what to discard. From particular building materials to furnishings to personal possessions, choices must be made about how to manage important items after contact with floodwater.

The decision-making process after a flood depends largely on whether items are porous (water-absorbent) or non-porous. Per the Environmental Protection Agency, floodwater is toxic to humans. Porous items that have absorbed floodwater may, therefore, be considered hazardous to occupants—even long after a flood recedes. Also, porous absorbent materials form a breeding ground for toxic mold contamination typically triggered by exposure to floodwater.

  • Drywall. The gypsum material in drywall is porous and very absorbent. Drywall also becomes structurally unstable when wet. There’s no effective method to disinfect drywall after exposure to toxic floodwater. In addition to potentially hazardous contamination, the wet drywall may collapse at any time after a flood.
  • Insulation. Whether fiberglass batts or absorbent cellulose, common home insulation materials stay wet for an extended period after a flood and retain toxins. Wet insulation also spawns mold contamination that spreads throughout the house. Replace with new material.
  • Carpeting, rugs, and padding. Unless items have great sentimental or monetary value, specialized cleaning and disinfecting carpeting or rugs after a flood may not be worth it given the labor and cost involved. Discarding wet carpet and padding is often the most efficient option.
  • Mattresses. Once a mattress has been a giant sponge containing toxic floodwater, you won’t ever want to sleep on it again, anyway. Get rid of it.  
  • Clothing. Clothes or other fabrics contacted by flooding should be placed in plastic bags, then washed ASAP in hot water containing bleach or other disinfectants.
  • Books, documents, and photographs. Wet paper forms a mold-friendly environment after a flood. Unless items can be dried and decontaminated within 48 hours, mold growth may permanently damage paper. One alternative: Freezing wet paper items, including photographs, interrupts the mold growth process, buying time until items can be properly treated and dried.  

What to Do If Your Appliances Get Wet in a Storm

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

storm damage

Among the numerous potential casualties of storm damage to a home are its electrical appliances. Very few home appliances are waterproof and contact with water usually means at least a repair bill—if not total replacement. Moreover, in the aftermath of storm damage, the indoor environment may present electrical safety hazards related to appliances.

Here are some guidelines to observe before and after storm damage affects household appliances.

Before a Storm

  • If an approaching storm poses potential household flooding danger, unplug as many appliances inside the house as you can before the storm hits. This includes the refrigerator, dishwasher, cooking appliances, washer and dryer, and computers.
  • Turn off HVAC system circuit breakers. Also, shut off power to the outdoor unit of the central A/C at the breaker switch usually located inside a small hinged box on a wall adjacent to the unit.

After a Storm

  • Never step into pooling water in rooms where appliances or extension cords may be plugged in, or electrical outlets are submerged. This poses a severe electrocution hazard.  
  • Don’t turn on appliances that may have been exposed to storm damage, even if the water is no longer evident. Internal components and circuits inside the unit may still be wet and powering it up may damage the appliance irreparably.
  • Have all appliances affected by storm damage inspected by a professional technician before turning them on. This can make the difference between an appliance that is repairable and one that must be discarded due to electrical damage caused by short circuits or other issues inside the unit.
  • For safety reasons, some appliance components require replacement after any contact whatsoever with water. For example, burners in gas furnaces, gas stoves, and gas water heaters, as well as gas control valves.
  • Central air conditioner components in the outdoor condenser unit are generally weatherproof against rain. However, certain electronics may be irreparably damaged if totally submerged by flooding. Before turning on the A/C after storm damage, have it checked out by a qualified HVAC service technician. 

Can Photos Be Saved After a Flood

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020
after a flood

There are many important possessions to be concerned about after a flood affects your home. Among these are family photographs. These often irreplaceable images are a major recovery priority after a flood if direct contact of water has occurred. Water and photographs definitely don’t go together well. However, certain steps you can take after a flood will help minimize the effect of water damage and make additional later options—such as digital restoration—more feasible.

Begin with the most valuable photos for which there are no existing negatives. These should be highest priority as there’s no option for direct reprinting.

  • If photos are stored inside an album that is water-soaked, gently remove them from the album pages and and lay them out individually, face-up.
  • If photos stored stacked together are wet after a flood, gently separate them and lay each out individually, face-up. Avoid touching the delicate emulsion (image) side of the print.
  • Rinse photographs individually by dunking them gently in a bucket or sink of clean, cold water (distilled water is best). Change the water frequently.
  • Lay photos out individually, image side up, on clean dry paper towels. Don’t use newspaper or any paper that is printed as the ink will transfer.
  • Change the paper every two hours during the time the prints are air drying.
  • Don’t expose wet prints to direct sun or any other heat source. This may cause prints to permanently curl.
  • If you’re unable to lay photos out for drying immediately, after rinsing, stack the photos between sheets of wax paper, place them in a zip-lock bag and put the bag in the freezer. This inhibits potential mold growth and allows you to do the air-drying process at some other time.

If certain wet photos are stubbornly stuck together after a flood, attempting to separate them by more extended soaking in lukewarm water (up to 30 minutes) may work—or it may cause more damage. If the photo is very valuable and you’re not comfortable with the risk involved, freeze the stuck photos and consult a professional photograph conservator for more advice.

Does Insurance Cover Mold Damage?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
mold damage

Mold damage in homes is common, but is it commonly covered by standard homeowner’s insurance? Like so many questions about insurance coverage, this typical answer frequently applies to mold damage, too: “It depends.”

Specific circumstances surrounding mold contamination issues can spell the difference between fair insurance compensation and having to pay for the damage out of your own pocket. Here are some examples of when homeowner’s insurance coverage applies to mold damage and when it doesn’t.  

Sudden and Accidental” Incidents

This represents the largest category of mold damage that does qualify for coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy. Water damage inside the house is the most common cause of mold. The “sudden and accidental” term applies to unforeseeable water damage incidents such as sudden pipe breakage, an appliance overflow, or a ruptured water heater. Another cause that qualifies under this category is mold due to water released by firefighters extinguishing a fire in the house.

Maintenance Issues and Chronic Causes

Mold may be caused by ongoing problems that aren’t recognized and/or not responsibly addressed by the homeowner. This includes scenarios like a roof leak that isn’t repaired in a timely manner or neglected household plumbing maintenance. When mold ensues after one of these preventable causes, coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy will usually be denied.  

Certain circumstances beyond the homeowner’s control may also rule out compensation for mold damage. For example, if mold growth is triggered by high humidity which is a natural feature of the local climate, insurance compensation for mold remediation will be denied. 

Are There Other Options?

In certain cases, insurance companies offer a special mold endorsement to a standard homeowner’s policy that includes many types of contamination not usually covered. This is available at an increased yearly premium.

What About Flooding?

Water damage and resultant mold contamination due to outdoor flooding or inundation from severe storms aren’t covered by homeowner’s insurance. Insurance coverage for damage caused by flooding is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, a program administered by the federal government and available to all homeowners.  


What Types of Belongings and Furniture Can Be Saved After a Flood?

Friday, February 8th, 2019

What belongings do you want to save after a flood? Most people would answer, “Everything.” Any home contains a range of valuable items, from appliances to expensive consumer items to cherished personal belongings. Most are vulnerable to water exposure.

In the wake of a damaging flood, certain items that can be reasonably saved or restored must be identified while others that are not salvageable should be discarded. Here are some guidelines for typical flooding scenarios:

Furniture

  • Solid wood furniture may be sanitized and refinished if necessary. Careful drying techniques may be needed to prevent warping, however.
  • Upholstered furniture might be worth salvaging if the piece is antique and highly valuable. However, in most cases, ordinary furniture with cushions or fabric that has absorbed tainted, toxic floodwater is usually not worth the expense of restoration and should be discarded.
  • Inexpensive wood veneer furniture is generally not salvageable as exposure to water usually triggers delamination.

Appliances

No appliances should be operated after a flood unless checked by a qualified technician first. Most units contain water-sensitive electronics and motors. Gas appliances utilize burners and other metallic components that are degraded by water contact. If flooding in the house exceeded more than a few inches in depth, the high cost of replacement parts and labor means many affected appliances aren’t good candidates for repair and should be replaced, instead.

Consumer Electronics

Water and electronics don’t mix. Critical circuit components may be damaged by water exposure and/or resultant corrosion. However, water damage remediation experts may recommend professional drying services where particularly expensive electronics can be treated in a humidity- and temperature-controlled environment to minimize damage.

Paper Valuables

  • Professional services to salvage water-damaged photographs including specialized freeze-drying techniques are available. Time is critical—action must taken ASAP following water exposure.
  • Important paper documents must be separated into individual pages and gently dried before damaging mold growth occurs. Soaked books must be blotted with absorbent inserts between pages and allowed to air-dry.
  • If floodwater was tainted by toxins such as raw sewage, restoration of absorbent paper items may not be advisable due to health issues.

When the Flood Is Over, the Damage Has Just Begun…

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

flooring damaged from floodWhen it comes to water damage after a flood, it’s not over when it’s over. Flooding often delivers a one-two punch. First there’s the immediate initial damage to your home and possessions caused by submersion. Once floodwater recedes, however, the aftermath includes a period in which water damage continues to worsen progressively. That’s why rapid response by a qualified water damage recovery team is vital in the immediate wake of flooding. Even though the house isn’t underwater anymore, the damage has just begun.

Here are some examples of what goes on after the water goes away:

  • Mold growth begins within 48 hours following exposure to moisture. Toxic mold growth starts getting a foothold plus releasing airborne reproductive spores. Contamination intensifies rapidly unless/until professional mold remediation techniques are utilized to interrupt the cycle.
  • Health threats multiply. Floodwater often carries disease-causing pathogens such as hepatitis virus, e Coli bacteria, cryptosporidium and giardia which continue to infect the wet, enclosed environment of the house. Disease-carrying mosquitoes may also lay eggs in residual indoor water after a flood.
  • Saturated wallboard and ceilings begin to sag beneath the weight, losing structural integrity and eventually collapsing.  This is another reason why the interior environment frequently remains dangerous after a flood.
  • Corrosion begins forming on electrical wiring, outlets and switch boxes contacted by the water. Certain affected electrical components will require replacement for safe operation.
  • Laminate flooring starts peeling up. Hardwood flooring which has been underwater often begins to warp as it dries, pulling up and away from nails.
  • Soaked insulation inside walls and elsewhere tends to stays wet. In addition to supporting hidden mold growth, wet insulation loses its insulating properties and no longer functions to resist heat.
  • If a flooded basement is pumped out too rapidly, the weight of saturated soil surrounding the foundation may deform or collapse basement walls.
  • A slab foundation lifted by inundating floodwater may crack as soil begins to dry out and settle again. Embedded plumbing pipes may break, cracks may form in exterior walls and the roof may sag.

Can Flooded Hardwood Floors Be Saved?

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

flooded hardwood floorNot all parts of a house are equal when it comes to recovery after a flood. Hardwood flooring presents its own set of specific challenges when affected by water damage. Successfully drying out a hardwood floor in place requires professional techniques and specialized equipment. Because wood is particularly prone to mold growth, rapid intervention to prevent mold contamination is also critical.

Moisture content of a hardwood floor in a dry environment varies from 6% to 12%. Following exposure to flooding, however, the moisture content may rise to 40% or more. Left alone, this high level may persist for weeks and even months, causing irreparable damage to a wood floor.

What Are The Options?

Simply plugging in a fan and attempting to air-dry the floor while hoping for the best isn’t a viable strategy. It’s a fact: In certain cases, hardwood flooring can’t be saved and must be removed. For the best chance of recovery, however, here are some of the techniques that may be applied by qualified water damage pros:

  • Water-soaked carpeting as well as all furniture must be moved from the room.
  • Utilizing a professional-grade extractor, standing water will be removed from the floor surface. After standing water is removed, as much residual moisture as possible will also be extracted from the porous surface of the wood.
  • The floor is scrubbed with a disinfecting cleaner to remove flood water residue, then dried with the extractor again.
  • An industrial strength dehumidifier set to the highest setting should run continuously in the affected room during recovery. Floor fans may also be utilized to move air.
  • A professional panel drying system may be adhered to the floor to inject dehumidified air directly into the flooring material and accelerate drying.
  • Moisture measurements must be made at predetermined intervals to chart the progress of drying and determine when goals have been met.

An experienced water damage remediation specialist can assist in making an informed decision to salvage a hardwood floor or to replace it.

Post-flood Hazards To Watch Out For In Your Home

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

flood hazardsCarpet mold after flooding is just one of the issues that confronts a homeowner as the water recedes. Once-familiar surroundings can seem like an alien environment following major water damage. Before you’ve even come to grips with what’s already happened, you have to make decisions about what needs to be done next.

Not so fast. A flooded home is a source of hazards you need to be aware of. Before you enter the house and spend time on the premises, keep in mind these ongoing safety issues.

Utility Issues
Make sure power is turned off at the main electrical panel before you enter any wet areas of the home. If accessing the panel is unsafe due to residual water, leave the house and call an electrician. Natural gas lines may have ruptured as appliances were shifted by floodwater, posing fire or explosion hazard. Turn the gas off at the meter before entering the house.

Toxic Hazards
Outdoor floodwater is contaminated by raw sewage, pesticides, fuel and other substances. Communicable bacteria like E. Coli commonly infects floodwater, too. Avoid contact with bare skin and wash thoroughly before handling food or eating. Residue such as mud left behind is also tainted.

Air inside a flooded house may be hazardous. Within 48 hours after exposure to water, toxic mold growth is triggered, releasing airborne spores that may cause severe allergic response or illness when inhaled. Carpeting and padding are highly absorbent so carpet mold after flooding is a virtual certainty. Because toxic water may have inundated HVAC ductwork, the system should be inspected and cleaned if necessary before operating the A/C or furnace.

Structural Danger
Water-saturated drywall is heavy and may collapse under its weight without warning. Stay away from bulging walls or sagging ceilings. Buckled flooring may cause trip and fall hazards. The home’s foundation may be compromised due to severe flooding, as well. Tilting walls or a shifting roof are signs that could indicate a potential structural collapse.

Whether its carpet mold after flooding or structural dangers caused by water damage, Rytech professionals are ready to respond.

Beginning To Recover From A Flooded Home

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

flood damageHow do you recover from a flooded home? One step at a time. At this point, the task before you might seem overwhelming: flooded rooms, soggy possessions and related issues like mold contamination. So, maybe the very first step to is to take a deep breath and collect yourself. Realize that professional water damage experts as well as your homeowner’s insurance agent have seen it all and are experienced to help you successfully recover from a flooded home with proven methods and a predictable time frame.

Now that you’re focused, here are some suggestions to begin the recovery process:

  • Call your insurer. You want to establish your losses and begin the claim process ASAP. If flooding is widespread in your area and many homeowners are filing claims, the sooner you get in line, the better.
  • Contact water damage recovery services. If the damage extends beyond minor pooling water on the floor of a single room, you’ll probably need professional help to recover. Your homeowner’s insurance may well require it and provide recommendations. Because water damage is an active process that continues to develop even after the flooding event is over, rapid intervention with proper techniques and equipment is critical to minimizing damage.
  • Take photos now. Before beginning any clean-up or removing items from the house, document the condition of every room as well as all water-damaged possessions with a digital camera.
  • Start ventilating. Open windows and, if electricity is safely restored, run fans. Flushing the house with outdoor air is important to prevent secondary damage caused by high indoor humidity after a flood.
  • Identify and discard unwanted items. Any contents of the home affected by water that you don’t wish to retain or attempt to restore can be removed from the house without delay. This could include water-saturated bedding, mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture. Also food, medicine, cosmetics and other personal items that have been in contact with flood water should be discarded due to contamination hazard.