The IICRC offers these tips to clean up after floods:
* Use caution when entering buildings. Make sure electrical power is off and the structure is sound before entering and inspecting a flooded building.
* Protect yourself. Wear an organic vapor respirator, available from paint or building supply stores, along with rubber gloves, eye protection and protective clothing. Ventilate affected areas by opening windows, and eventually, by placing a fan in a window. Work toward the fan as you clean to minimize cross contamination.
* Know what items to throw away. Porous items that absorb contaminated flood water shouldn’t be restored. Drywall, carpet and pad, mattresses, pillows, box springs and particle board normally should be discarded if wet. Wet clothing and many household fabrics may be salvageable. Machine washing, including at least a 10-minute soak in detergent and hot water, should remove most contamination and stains.
* Open pockets of saturation. Remove base molding and portions of damaged walls and wet insulation. Locate the water line and measure 15 inches to 20 inches above it. Everything below that should be removed and discarded. Flooring, such as hardwood, laminate or sheet vinyl, should be removed to expose pockets of saturation underneath for cleaning, sanitizing and drying.
* Clean aggressively. Wall cavities and exposed durable materials (studs, joists) should be cleaned by pressure washing with detergent solutions. After thoroughly cleaning and flushing salvageable materials, apply a disinfectant solution liberally. A water restoration professional may be needed to perform this service safely and effectively.
* Prevent mold growth. Although it takes a few days to appear, mold thrives in a moist environment with organic material (e.g., paper or particle board), and temperatures between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep air moving and maintain moderate temperatures as possible.
* Dry out before you rebuild. To prevent dry rot and on-going structural damage, don’t reconstruct or cover wood materials until its moisture content falls below 16 percent. Moisture meters are available online, but it may be best to hire a water restoration professional to confirm proper drying before reconstruction.
* Consider hiring a professional. A professional water damage restoration company has trained technicians, specialized cleaners and antimicrobial agents, and extraction, drying, dehumidifying and moisture measuring equipment.
As anybody who has ever suffered it knows, heavy water damage at home can be a traumatic experience. Furniture, family possessions, important documents and other items can disappear in a splash.
Johnny Loggins is part of a team of technicians who respond to emergencies caused by broken or leaking pipes, flooding or septic tank backup.
“It gets very emotional for the homeowners because quite often everything they have is under water and the ceilings are falling in,” Loggins said. “They don’t even know what to, so we actually are not just restoring the house, we’re kind of serving as psychologist, too, to help them calm down.
“It is a very exciting job.”
During the cold spells that hit the region in January and February, Clene Start was busy responding to calls about broken pipes. The company received about 50 such calls, though many had to wait because technicians were unable to respond because of the icy roads. One such call was at the assisted-living facility Summer’s Landing at Limestone, which suffered a broken pipe in the sprinkler system in its ceiling.
“The hallway was flooded, so they had to suck up all the water, and the ceiling in one of the rooms had fallen through,” said the facility’s Executive Director Stephanie Hunt. “They cleaned that room out first and were here pretty much daily for the next couple of weeks until it was done.
Unlike other types of home damage, water damage destroys continuously until it is removed. Plus, for every hour the problem isn’t addressed, the cost of repair goes up tremendously, Loggins said.
“Let’s say you have a little fire in a building, and you put it out, it’s done,” he said. “The water is not done until it is dry. It will continue to deteriorate whatever is in the building, until you get the water out.”
According to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, “water damage can be deceptive.”
Water penetrates into structural cavities creating trapped pockets of saturation. Undetected moisture will continue to cause damage. This damage, at a minimum, will cause odors. Greater damage will surface when materials delaminate, shrink, split and further deteriorate to where costly repairs are required.
Even more worrisome is the growth of mold and mildew.
The IICRC says time is of the essence. According to the organization’s website, iicrc.org, timely response and the careful monitoring of water damage, mold and other health issues can be prevented. If water damage has been present too long, mold will occur.
When a job comes in, the first order of business is to turn off the water’s source, which it often is not when a customer calls. Then a crew mops up as much standing water as possible. Next, the crew removes furniture, carpets and other personal objects before starting the restorative work.
Loggins and his employees then install dehumidifiers and, sometimes, turn the heat in the building up to remove residual water, before professional plumbers and construction workers can fix the source of the problem.
“What we’re doing is really cooking the building to get all the water out,” he said.
Finally, the crew cleans up before the homeowners move back in.
One of the more interesting aspects of the job is attempting to restore and preserve important possessions or documents for the homeowners.
“I love the preservation of things,” Loggins said. “Sometimes there are documents that exist no where else in the world, and we want to make sure those things are as well preserved as possible.”
Items are often first freeze-dried to remove moisture, before crew members copy information, in the case of documents, or try to restore the possession.
“(Water damage) is a scary thing for most people, but it really doesn’t have to be,” Loggins said. “It can be fixed.
“I always tell people that ‘this too will pass.’”
However, Logging does advise his clients about guidelines they can follow to prevent water damage.
Before cold weather strikes, he recommends weather-proofing all outdoor water faucets. If pipes are running through attics or ceilings, make sure they are adequately insulated. A broken pipe in the roof can leak water down through the walls and into the home, whereas pipes under the house and in crawl spaces tend to cause less damage.
Homeowners are often unaware of how many things are actually covered under property insurance plans, Loggins said. Many things from accidental stains on oriental rugs to heavy water damage to antiques are often covered because they are “sudden and accidental.”