On Friday night, my husband and I came home from work to discover nearly an inch of water covering our entire basement floor. My cat’s empty dish floated towards the basement door.
We weren’t alone. Due to heavy rain throughout May and into June, many homes in Colorado have experienced flooding. From Friday, June 12, through this morning (Monday, June 15), the Red Cross Mile High chapter alone responded to seven calls related to flooding in Denver, Lakewood, Westminster and Longmont. Our volunteers helped nearly a dozen people who were displaced because they were flooded out or their homes had been rendered uninhabitable by mold or rot.
A few of the callers had nuisance flooding in their basements – which we do not label as a disaster and thus do not deploy for, but which is serious nonetheless; untreated, flooded spaces can lead to mold and rot that can result in making your home unsafe to live in.
So, what should you do?
The Red Cross offers this detailed guide on repairing a flooded home.
2. Find out what clean-up and repair work your insurance will cover. Unfortunately, standard home owner's insurance doesn't typically cover flood damage.
|The Red Cross offers this|
detailed guide on repairing a flooded home.
Our next step was to call a restoration company. There are many reputable organizations that are experts at removing water and treating the home to eliminate risk of mold and disease. This Denver Post article from the 2013 floods offers sound advice for ensuring you don’t get taken advantage of or scammed. In short:
- Research businesses and check out their reviews. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start.
- Be wary of door-to-door solicitations.
- Don’t pay for more than 1/3 the estimate up front.
We were well behind the, er, “flood” of other people already queued up for help from local restoration companies and were told that it could be a week before they could get to us – not a great choice when time matters; it's best to dry wet or damp areas within 24-48 hours after a flood. So, we had to do it ourselves. You can, too:
4. Remove wet items and mud.
Once you’ve determined it’s safe to enter your home, get fresh air moving through your home. Remove any furniture and belongings that got wet, and shovel out mud.
- Remove carpet and rugs.
- It is very important to get rid of mud left by floodwaters as soon as possible because it contains most of the health hazards you will face. This is a lot easier if it is done before the mud dries out. Shovel out as much mud as possible.
- You may need to drain the walls. Flood-soaked drywall, or wallboard, usually has to be thrown away. If the water level was less than four feet deep, remove the lower four feet of wallboard. You can fill the gap with 4’ x 8’ sheets installed sideways.
5. Remove standing water.
- DO NOT use gas-powered pumps or generators indoors.
- Home improvement stores sell electrical water pumps starting at around $89. You can attach a hose and pump the water out.
- If the water is too shallow or you can’t afford a pump, wet/dry shop vacs start at as little as about $21 for a device that you attach to the top of a plastic 5-gallon bucket. The benefit: it’s serves double duty as the bucket to carry water out. The drawback: that’s a lot of trips to lug 5 gallons at a time!
- Pump/dump the water outside where it can safely drain away from your home, as well as your neighbors’ homes. Don't pump water into your bathtub or sink, because doing so can overwhelm the sanitary line and back it up.
Once you have most of the standing water out, ensure the area gets lots of ventilation, and place fans to dry up the moisture. You may need to rent or purchase a de-humidifier. You can also use “dessicants” such as clay-based kitty litter.
If possible, set furniture and other wet items in the sun to dry out.
7. Clean anything that came in contact with floodwaters. Floodwater can contaminate the surfaces it touched; you also want to eliminate any mold that has started growing in the moist environment. In most cases, household cleaning products will do the job if you use them correctly. See page 29 of the Guide for specific cleaning instructions and materials.
8. Throw any food out that has been touched by floodwaters. Even food in tin cans should be discarded if the cans got wet during the flood because there is no way to be absolutely certain the food inside is safe. Do not keep food in bottles or jars with bottle caps or screw on lids—they do not keep out floodwaters.
9. Flood-proof your home for the next time. Get flood insurance and implement changes to reduce future flooding and/or reduce the losses you will suffer. For example, we installed shelving to keep stored items off the ground, and store items in our basement in waterproof, plastic containers. You can clear drains and gutters and ensure they're flowing away from your home. There are also larger home improvements recommended in chapter 8 of this guide.
If you are physically unable to perform these tasks or can’t afford the equipment to do it yourself, you may be able to get assistance from local agencies or nonprofits that assist with clean-up, such as the Southern Baptists. Call 2-11 to find out what resources are available in your community.
Good luck! Flooding is one of the most damaging types of disaster, even though it often gets less attention than more visible disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes.