Emergency Flood Repair: A Guide for Homeowners
Flood damage can be devastating, leaving behind waterlogged carpets, ruined drywall, mold, and compromised structural integrity. When flood waters invade a home, quick action is required to remove the water, dry out the home, and initiate repairs to prevent further damage. This guide covers the essential steps for emergency flood repair and recovery.
Act Quickly to Limit Damage
Time is of the essence when dealing with flood damage. The longer the home sits immersed in water, the more severe the destruction.
- Within the first 24 to 48 hours after a flood, aim to:
- Pump out standing water
- Remove wet belongings and furnishings
- Tear out soaked carpets, pads, drywall, and insulation
Taking swift action can save your home from further structural damage, mold growth, and collapsed foundations. Don’t delay – start the remediation process as soon as possible.
Safety First When Pumping Out Water
Flood waters may contain sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants. Take precautions to protect your health during the pumping process:
- Wear waterproof boots, gloves, and eye protection
- Keep children and pets away from flood waters
- Disinfect anything touched by flood waters
- Wash your hands frequently to prevent disease
Only pump water out of a home if municipal electrical systems are intact. Using generators or electricity when standing water is present poses an electrocution risk. Wait for a professional if this is the case.
Document the Damage Thoroughly
Photograph and take video of the flood damage from every angle. This creates a record that can assist with insurance claims and repairs. Be sure to capture:
- Damage to walls, floors, doors, windows, and ceilings
- Ruined personal property like furniture and appliances
- Standing water levels throughout the home
- Any structural defects exposed by flooding
Save receipts for all supplies, equipment rentals, cleaning services, repairs, and replacements. These are crucial for filing insurance claims after the flood.
Remove Standing Water
Extracting standing water is a multi-step process:
- Position industrial pumps like sump pumps in the lowest areas of the home. Pump water out through doorways, windows, or holes drilled in walls if needed.
- Use a wet/dry vacuum for smaller pooled water in enclosed spaces that pumps cannot reach.
- Absorb residual moisture with towels, rugs, and mops once the majority is pumped out.
- Run dehumidifiers and fans to actively dry out the home. Air circulation prevents mold growth.
- Hire water extraction professionals for large-scale flooding that requires truck-mounted vacuum equipment.
Discard Soaked Belongings
Flood waters are contaminated and permeate porous materials. Discard any belonging that cannot be restored, like:
- Carpet, carpet pads, rugs
- Upholstered furniture and mattresses
- Stuffed animals and toys
- Particle board cabinets and furniture
- Books, papers, cardboard
Textiles may be salvageable if laundered and thoroughly dried within 48 hours. Hard surfaces can be cleaned and sanitized. Photograph, inventory, and dispose of unsalvageable belongings for insurance claims.
Remove Wet Drywall and Insulation
Drywall acts like a sponge when immersed in water. To prevent structural damage and mold growth:
- Cut water-logged drywall at least 2 feet above the high water line
- Remove and discard wet insulation behind walls
- Use protective gear like goggles, gloves, and a mask
- Run dehumidifiers and fans to dry out wall cavities
Exposing wall studs allows you to inspect for hidden mold growth. Consult professionals for drywall replacement and potential structural repairs.
Dry Out the Structure Thoroughly
Enclosed cavities in walls, floors, and foundations will retain moisture unless properly dried:
- Keep fans and dehumidifiers running 24/7 until wood framing registers below 15% moisture content. Use moisture meters to test.
- Open wall and floor cavities for continuous air flow.
- Layer porous materials like gypsum or baked clay in strategic areas to wick away trapped moisture.
- Monitor humidity levels and do not close up until moisture readings normalize.
Lingering moisture encourages mold growth and further structural water damage. Invest in professional drying equipment if homeowner systems are inadequate.
Clean Surfaces to Prevent Mold Growth
Flood waters leave behind contaminated sediment and bacteria. Thoroughly sanitize all surfaces after pumping out water:
- Wear protective gear during cleanup
- Remove sediment deposits outdoors with brushes, shovels, or a pressure washer
- Scrub indoor surfaces with hot water and disinfectant
- Allow all surfaces to completely dry before rebuilding
- Repeat the cleaning process in a few days to catch new mold growth
Mold infestations may require professionals for containment, remediation, and repairs. Act quickly at the first sign of mold.
Make Temporary Repairs
Permanent repairs come later, but some temporary fixes can make your home livable after a flood:
- Board up broken windows and doors to prevent weather intrusion and secure belongings
- Cover holes in roofs or walls with tarps or plywood
- Shore up areas at risk of collapse like failing supports or detached structural elements
- Create barriers around electrical, plumbing, and gas systems that have been submerged until inspected
- Seal off damaged rooms with plastic sheeting to contain contamination
Consult building professionals before permanent repairs. Temporary fixes address immediate risks but may not provide lasting restoration.
Hire Qualified Contractors
Extensive repairs should only be performed by trusted professionals, including:
- Water damage restoration – Extracts water, dehumidifies, applies antimicrobial agents, cleans HVAC systems, restores electronics.
- Mold remediation – Identifies and safely removes mold outbreaks. Assesses necessary structural repairs.
- General contractors – For rebuilding, renovations, and structural repairs after the underlying issues are resolved.
- Electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians – To inspect systems for safety and functionality after water exposure.
Check credentials and only hire licensed, insured contractors you can validate with customer reviews, references, and proven flood recovery expertise. Avoid scams.
File Insurance Claims Promptly
Flood damage is covered under most homeowner insurance policies. To get your claim approved:
- Document damage thoroughly as soon as possible
- List every damaged item and lost belonging for claims adjusters
- Provide receipts, photos, videos, and repair estimates
Understand your policy terms – most have limitations on payouts. Maintain accurate records throughout the claims process. Having organized documentation expedites payouts.
Make Repairs With Flood Risks in Mind
Use the rebuilding phase to improve flood resilience:
- Elevate utilities and mechanical systems like electrical panels above expected flood levels
- Install backflow valves to prevent sewer backups
- Waterproof basement walls and additions like sump pumps
- Replace absorbent materials with water resistant options
- Relocate valued belongings above potential flood lines
- Flood proof entrances, windows, and ventilation
Consulting flood mitigation specialists can help craft customized solutions to protect your home from future floods.
10 Most Common Flood Damage Questions
- How long can a flooded house sit before mold becomes a problem?
If not immediately dried with dehumidifiers, mold can start growing within 48 hours. Act quickly to prevent major infestations.
- Does homeowners insurance cover flood damage?
Most standard homeowner policies include flood coverage but often with dollar limits. Check your policy specifics.
- When should I contact my insurance company after a flood?
Notify them immediately and start your claim as soon as possible. Prompt action helps expedite the process.
- What should I do if electrical appliances were underwater?
Assume they are unsafe until certified by an electrician. Energizing water damaged appliances risks electrocution.
- Is it safe to stay in a flooded home?
No,vacate until water damage and contamination risks have been fully assessed and corrected. Make temporary repairs before moving back in.
- How can I tell if drywall or flooring needs to be replaced?
Drywall that was underwater for over 48 hours likely needs replacement due to moisture saturation. Water-warped flooring also needs to go.
- Who should do the cleanup – me or professionals?
It’s often best to hire professionals for large-scale dry out and structural repairs. But homeowners can handle surface cleaning.
- Do I need a permit for flood repairs?
Local regulations vary, but extensive structural repairs will likely require municipal permits. Check with your local building department.
- When can closed up wall cavities be permanently sealed during repairs?
Not until moisture readings in studs and other wood framing are 15% or less, matching ambient humidity.
- How do I find qualified contractors for flood repairs?
Check credentials and experience closely. Get references from past flood repair clients. Read reviews from trusted sources.
Flood recovery can be an arduous process. But prompt action, persistence, and the help of restoration professionals can restore your home after water disaster strikes. With time and care, you can undo even the worst flood damage and rebuild stronger and smarter.