Flood damage is arguably one of the worst types of damage for a
home to suffer. Wind damage from tornado’s or hurricanes,
structural damage from earthquakes, and loss from fire are all
readily visible. The damage from flooding or from a hurricane’s
storm surge is often much less obvious and more difficult to
When floodwater’s encroach upon a home, many things happen that are not immediately visible. Damage often results before rising water ever enters a home. In most cases, floodwater’s approach slowly. This is a good thing because it gives residents the opportunity to relocate valued possessions and to evacuate to safety. It is also a bad thing because it gives insect pests the same opportunity. People who have observed slowly rising floodwater’s know that the leading edge of the water follows a black line of fleeing snakes, ants, spiders, cockroaches, and many other undesirable pests. When the floodwater’s stop on a given parcel, so do the crawling refugees.
Floods also cause property
subsidence that can damage the foundations of a home in ways that may
not be apparent for months after the flooding event. Property may
have to cycle through a dry or cold season before settling and cracks
The obvious damage is from water that enters the living spaces. What isn’t obvious is the additional material that enters with the water. Floodwater run through septic drainage fields, through sewer pipes, and over landfills as they spread. They carry along chemicals from industrial effluents, pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural areas, manure from animal farms, and bacteria from dead animals. All of these residues are deposited into homes, along with mud and debris, when floodwater’s recede. That brownish stain along residential walls is much more than a euphemistic "high water mark.”
Water also gets into wall cavities, and the moisture creates a perfect environment for mold to grow. Even when damaged drywall is removed and replaced, mold can still develop in the recovered wall cavities by spores that are left behind after conventional cleaning. The spores, once present, also spread to HVAC ducts and any area that doesn’t receive regular cleaning. Mold may produce no immediate illness, but it is a time bomb waiting for even minor humidity to return. Mold can exacerbate asthma and cause new respiratory illnesses. The only way to eliminate these problems is through mold remediation.
The first thing to do to recover from a flooding event is to visually inspect the property. Land subsidence may not be immediately evident, but it may be visible right away. Cracked foundations or any changes in the property slope should be noted immediately.
The next thing to do is to remove mud and debris left behind by the water. A lot of cleaning will be required, and cleaners should not track through the muck over and over while undertaking smaller cleaning activities. Shovel out the mud and debris first and then undertake cleaning of walls, windows and woodwork. Remove carpeting, water-damaged upholstered furniture, and drywall that has been damaged by the water.
At this point, pest extermination and mold remediation should be conducted. Pest control can be performed by the homeowner with standard fogging devices, but mold remediation should be performed by professionals. Many products sold to consumers directly are simply cleaning products that will not actually kill mold spores. Spores are so tiny that physically removing them all with a cleaning product is impossible, and any spores left behind will eventually grow into a repetitive mold problem. Remediation professionals use regulated chemicals that are guaranteed to kill mold.
Once the residence has been fumigated and mold spores have been killed, the drywall can be replaced. Wooden floors and trims should be thoroughly dry by this point, and it is safe to refinish them as needed.
Recovering from flood damage takes both time and money. Flood insurance is always a wise investment for properties located in recognized flood hazard areas.