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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.  

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.

Four Main Causes of Home Water Damage

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

The typical home provides a number of opportunities for water damage to strike. Maybe that’s why more than one-third of the homes in the U.S. have already experienced losses due to water damage at one time or another. The average homeowner’s insurance claim for water damage is nearly $7,000—and that doesn’t count claims due to outdoor flooding that isn’t covered by standard insurance.  Water is a destructive force whenever and however it’s turned loose inside a home. From the common to the catastrophic, here are four principle causes of home water damage.

  • Plumbing failures. Broken plumbing pipes wreak the most water damage in houses. The damage potential from plumbing defects exists in everything from supply lines leading to sinks or toilets to washing machine hoses, ice makers, water heaters, etc. Any leakage or seepage from pipes or appliances is a red flag that should not be ignored. Contact a qualified plumber immediately.  
  • Roof issues. Damage from roof leakage is often unseen and limited to the attic—at first. By the time it becomes obvious in living spaces below, substantial structural damage as well as other issues such as mold contamination have already taken their toll. Scheduled roof inspections by a professional and occasional trips to the attic to look for signs of leakage are the best preventive measure to avoid or limit water damage.
  • Ground water intrusion. If you live in an area with a naturally high water table, damage may occur as water rises up through the foundation or crawl space beneath the house. Installation of a sump pump in the basement or crawl space is the best recourse to remove ground water before significant damage occurs. In more difficult cases, underground drainage systems may need to be installed.
  • Weather-related disasters. Know your risk. Check FEMA flood risk maps to determine the potential for flooding in your area. Make sure you carry adequate federal flood insurance to receive compensation for flood water damage (standard insurance policies do not cover it).  If you live in hurricane country, take steps to reinforce the home against wind and a deluge of water.

What is the Difference Between a Flood Warning and a Flood Watch?

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report that fully 98% of counties in the United States have experienced severe flooding at one one time or another in their history. A FEMA fact sheet expresses this risk in more plain and simple terms: “Anywhere it can rain, it can flood.”

To inform you of a potential flood event and necessary flood safety measures, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues bulletins keyed to areas located along specific bodies of water such as rivers or coastal regions, as well as on a county-by-county basis across the entire country. Here are the levels of NWS alerts regarding flooding:

Flood Watch

This is the preliminary alert to make you aware of conditions that could potentially cause flooding. Typically, a flood watch is issued to cover a time frame of 24 to 48 hours. The watch will state that flooding could possibly take place in a designated general area. A flood watch does not mean flooding is already occurring, nor is it a guarantee that it will occur. If your home is in an area covered by a flood watch, it’s a good idea to keep a radio or television tuned in to potential updates in the event you are advised to take additional action.

Flood Warning

This means flooding in your area is already occurring or is imminent. The alert includes vital information such as forecasted conditions, duration that the warning is in effect, evacuation advisories, information about blocked roads and locations of emergency shelters. If a flood warning is issued, follow the information provided in the warning and take immediate action to evacuate the area or move to higher ground.

Flash Flood Warning

These alerts warn of rapidly-developing flash floods that can turn dry conditions into a life-threatening danger zone in a matter of only minutes. You will be advised to move to nearest higher ground without any delay. There may not be time to evacuate to any remote location. Flash flood warnings should never be disregarded, even if it’s not raining at your specific location at that moment.

3 Tips to be Prepared for Flash Flooding Conditions

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

While some flood scenarios develop after days of heavy rain or a predictable incident such as a river overflowing its banks, flash floods are a rapid-onset event that can strike in an instant. Areas dry only moments before may suddenly be inundated with water. Preventive measures, therefore, must be taken in advance. Once a flash flood occurs, there will usually not be adequate time to make preparations at that late stage. While you can’t prevent the conditions that may trigger a flash flood, here are three steps you can take to reduce risk and losses if flash flooding strikes:

Know your risk. You may be living in an area of high potential hazard for flash flooding and not even be aware of it. Flood risk maps are available from agencies such as FEMA or your local emergency management office. These maps depict flood risk for your local community and your specific address. A high-risk zone means you have at least a one-in-four chance of experiencing flooding. In designated high-risk zones, you are five times more likely to experience damage from a flash flood than from a fire.

Reduce potential damage. If you live an area where flash flood risk is high, certain home improvements may help reduce damage. Elevate critical components such as electrical panels, appliances and HVAC systems where they will be less likely to contact water. Waterproof the basement to reduce inundation due to high ground water during a flood. Make sure a basement sump pump is installed and test it several times a year to verify that it functions properly. Store valuables and important documents on an upstairs level of the house or some other safe place.

Be prepared to evacuate. Become familiar with the fastest and safest routes out of the affected area to higher ground should a flash flood strike. If local authorities issue a flash flood warning, evacuate immediately and don’t wait for additional signs of impending high water. Don’t drive or walk through any flooded areas, as only a few inches of water during a flash flood can be dangerous.

Why Standing Flood Water is Dangerous for Your Home and Family

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

standing flood waterThe primary causes of flooding severe enough to inundate a home are bad enough: violent weather such as hurricanes, overflowing rivers, dam ruptures, etc.  However, a secondary effect presents a double-whammy of danger: Standing water inside a house after flooding is hazardous in a number of ways.

The temptation to take control of the situation ASAP by entering a home that’s still flooded is understandable. Because the risks are formidable, however, it’s usually a job that should be left to a qualified professional. Here are some of the dangers that lurk beneath the surface of standing flood water in a house:

  • Sharp objects underwater such as shards of broken glass common in the wake of a severe storm pose a hidden hazard to persons wading about in a flooded interior. Submerged splintered wood can also cause cuts, as well as nails exposed by structural damage.
  • Electrocution is a major threat. Standing water may be electrically charged if the power is still on inside the house or even from a nearby downed power line.  The only way to ensure that a flooded house is safe is to have an electrician remove the meter, disconnecting all power to the home. Never attempt to access the main electrical panel if it is located in a flooded or wet part of the house.
  • Chemicals and other toxins picked up as a flood moves across the landscape are included in the indoor floodwater. After one recent hurricane, an analysis detected high levels of lead, arsenic and solvents—all of which are carcinogenic—in measurable concentrations, as well as assorted pesticides.
  • Since floods typically flush out municipal sewage systems, E. coli bacteria, staphylococcus and even flesh-eating bacteria may also be present in the house. The Red Cross recommends that persons coming into contact with flood water consider getting tetanus booster shots.
  • Various displaced insects, animals and snakes may take refuge inside a flooded home. Mosquitoes also utilize stagnant water inside a house to lay eggs. Statistics after a recent hurricane showed an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses such as such as Zika, dengue and West Nile virus.

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.

Does Your Furniture Have Water Damage? Do This First…

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

furniture water damage

  • Consider the source of water. If the damage is due to outdoor flooding that has inundated the house or from a sewage back-up, affected furniture should be considered contaminated. Certain items will therefore not be salvageable for this reason.
  • Furniture with stuffing and/or cushions which have absorbed contaminated water must be discarded. Even in cases where Category 1 “clean” water is involved, mold and mildew issues will likely make drying cushions and thick padding very problematic and likely not worth the effort.
  • Furniture constructed of veneered particle board that has been substantially soaked is usually damaged beyond repair due to the absorbency of particle board. These items will need to be discarded.
  • Move salvageable solid wood furniture outdoors. Take out all drawers, open doors and remove back panels if possible.
  • Spray down the furniture with a hose to remove mud and other residue.
  • Don’t allow wooden furniture to dry in the sun. Rapid drying usually causes warping and deformation. Instead, furniture should be moved to a sheltered storage area with good ventilation and allowed to dry slowly.
  • Be prepared for mildew or mold to form on wooden furniture until moisture content drops. Spot treatment with soapy water or wiping down the surface with mineral spirits will usually eliminate it.
  • For damaged items with sentimental value and which are irreplaceable, it may be worthwhile to consult a skilled furniture repair expert for issues such as loosened veneer, joints that have become unglued, discoloration of finish and other consequences of exposure to water.

Minimizing furniture water damage is an important aspect of restoring your home to normal.