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Rental Home Flooding: What to Do

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021
rental home flooding

Rental home flooding can be just as alarming and damaging as significant water damage in a property you own. However, while water damage issues can affect renters and homeowners, alike—who’s responsible and how the incident is handled may differ. In addition, while state laws are broadly similar with regard to rental home flooding, some states may apply different regulations.  

If rental home flooding occurs, certain common-sense steps should be taken by the tenant:

  • If you see damage occurring—or warning signs of potential damage such as a leaky pipe that may rupture—immediately inform the onsite manager (if there is one) or contact the property owner directly.
  • Stop the source of water immediately if you can. In the case of a rental house, knowing the location of the main water shutoff valve and how to operate it is good common-sense knowledge.  

Responsibilities of the Property Owner

  • In all states, a landlord is responsible to maintain a safe and habitable rental space for tenants. This includes promptly addressing water-related issues such as leaky plumbing, roof leaks, groundwater seepage, and malfunctioning or defective home appliances
  • Once any incident of rental home flooding (or a condition likely to trigger flooding) is reported to the property owner, the cost of repair of any resultant damage is the responsibility of the owner.  

Responsibility of the Tenant

  • If rental home flooding is caused by the tenant’s abuse or misuse of plumbing or appliances, the tenant could be charged for repairs to resultant damage. An example would be flushing inappropriate items down a toilet and causing a damaging overflow.
  • If an appliance belonging to the tenant and not provided by the property owner—for example, a washing machine—malfunctions and floods some or part of the premises, the tenant may be liable for costs for repair of the damage.  

Prevention Is Preferable

Property owners should conduct regular inspections to verify the status of plumbing as well as look for signs of structural problems like roof leaks. Also, tenants should be reminded to promptly report any issues that might result in rental home flooding to the manager or property owner.

Seven Home Safety Tips for After a Flood

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021
after a flood

If flooding strikes your home, you have a lot to think about and deal with after the water stops. One of the things that should be a top priority, however, is safety. Every year, people who survive an initial flood event are injured or sometimes killed by hazards present in the aftermath. To help reduce those statistics, here are seven post-flood safety tips to keep in mind 

  • Don’t go home until it’s safe. If you were ordered to evacuate before the flood, don’t return to the house until an all-clear has been issued by local authorities.
  • Be aware of electrical hazards. Electrocution is among the most common causes of fatalities after a flood. Even if utility power is off, it may be restored at any time without warning. If utility power is still on, don’t enter flooded rooms inside the house until electricity is shut off at the main electrical panel. If the panel is located in a flooded area of the house, call an electrician to disconnect the electricity outside.
  • Ventilate the premises. If the house has been closed up during flooding, open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate for at least an hour before spending extended time inside. 
  • Trust your nose. If you notice the pungent odor of natural gas, leave the house immediately and call the gas company to turn it off at the main valve.
  • Watch out for structural hazards. Saturated drywall is structurally unsound and may collapse suddenly. Stay out of rooms where ceilings are sagging and stand clear of walls that appear to be soaked and/or deformed.  
  • Avoid direct contact with water. Outdoor floodwater from sources such as an overflowing river or flash flood may contain toxins such as chemicals and raw sewage. Water from an indoor source like a ruptured pipe is considered contaminated if it has been present for more than 48 hours.  
  • Wear protective gear. Basic attire inside a house after flooding includes eye protection (goggles), face mask rated N95 or higher, rubber gloves, and waterproof boots. A hard hat is also advisable if available.

What Is Over-the-Ground Flooding

Thursday, January 7th, 2021
Over-the-ground flooding

Over-the-ground flooding, also known as surface water flooding, can be a cause of water damage to both the exterior and interior of your home. The definition of over-the-ground flooding is basic: Excess water that has entered—or fallen onto—areas from which it cannot rapidly drain away. It may take the form of flowing water in motion, continuous large puddles on hard surfaces such as a driveway or patio, or a marshy, over-saturated lawn.   

Over-the-ground flooding can be the origin of several specific water damage issues:

  • Water actually seeping into the house under standard doors, patio doors, and garage doors.
  • Water leakage into the basement and/or undermining the soil surrounding the foundation.
  • Deteriorated paved surfaces like driveways, walkways, and patio due to frequent submersion under water.
  • Fences become unstable in water-logged soil; outdoor buildings like sheds exhibit structural issues.

Heavy rainfall over a short period is the most frequent cause of over-the-ground flooding. Rapid snowmelt is another. These suggestions to reduce surface water flooding on your property help to avoid potential damage:

  • Maintain gutters. Clogged, overflowing gutters are a major contributor to over-the-ground flooding during heavy rain. Keep them flowing free during the rainy season. It’s preferable to scoop out accumulated leaves and debris by hand versus flushing out gutters with a hose, which tends to fill downspouts with clogging material.  
  • Extend downspouts and utilize soakaways. Gutter downspouts should extend as far from the house as possible. Lengthy temporary flexible extensions can be quickly installed for the rainy season. Optimum drainage occurs when downspouts discharge into a deep excavated hole filled with gravel—called a soakaway—to accelerate absorption into the ground.
  • Eliminate low spots in the lawn that retain deep water by filling the depression with a mixture of sand and topsoil. Also, it’s a natural fact that real turf lawns absorb groundwater and reduce over-the-ground flooding more effectively than artificial grass. 
  • When planning new paved areas like patios or driveways, opt for construction with surface materials that permit water to permeate into the ground beneath. Also, the design should be slightly sloped to always drain water away from the house.

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.

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.