You casually walk down stairs and get surprised by water creeping over your last step. Or you spent the entire night taking shelter from a torrential downpour, expecting at least some water to have seeped in to your home.
Sewer back-ups, bursting pipes, heavy rains and malfunctioning sump-pumps are the four common causes for house flooding, but no matter how the water turned your home into a swimming pool, it’s vital to take caution and follow these proper steps to prevent further damage and ensure the fastest clean up for the safety of your family and your things.
These are the immediate actions you should take before arranging plans with insurance companies and prior to making any repairs. An essential tip to keep in mind is to snap as many photographs of the damage as you evaluate it both indoor and outdoor. You will need these pictures during the claim filing process.
1. Make Safety a Priority
In times of a flood it’s easy to launch into panic mode but the best way to put your safety first is to remain calm. Quickly realize that all of the water damage that was caused is done, and that making the wrong move under pressure will only cause more harm. Immediately locate your circuit panel, and shut down the power to your home. Even if the flood caused a power outage, you must shut it down at the circuit breaker. Flood waters carry electrical currents that shock and spark fires, so you should take extra care when entering to grab valuable and memorable items.
After shutting down your power, stroll the exterior of your property to search for fallen objects or other potential dangers like a collapsed roof. After evaluating the premises, make a decision on whether it’s safe to go back inside, but do not enter if there is any bit of doubt. Get dressed in protective clothing such as rubber boots and gloves. Throw away any food that has been in contact with flood waters, in addition to the food in your fridge if the water was high enough to reach your fridge. Wash all dinnerware and utensils that could have made contact with the flood waters before using.
2. Stop and Remove the Water
The faster you find the source, the sooner you can start cleaning up. After shutting down your power and inspecting the outside of your home, the next step is to locate the source of water and stop it. If the problem is your sump-pump then begin to remove surrounding water and then replace it as soon as possible to prevent further damage. In the case of a broken water pipe, call a plumber and fix the plumbing.
After pinning down the source of the leak, you should determine the best way to remove the water. The method you choose will depend on the amount of water accumulated, but the fastest way to get started is the bucket bail. For large volumes of water, you should use hoses to drain the water. To siphon water from the flood to an outside area, the destination must be at a lower level than the water for gravity to do its trick. An alternative method to drain flood waters with a hose is by completely submerging the tube in the water. Coil the hose into a circle and drop it into the water. When the bobbles stop appearing on the surface, the hose has been completely filled and you can drain the water.
3. Gather Important Items
The best way to preemptively protect important documents in your home from flood waters is to place them in a water proof safe. On average the total cost caused by flood damage is approximately $2,500 and the documents you may need to file with insurance companies are your homeowners policy records, personal ID, proof of ownership and the documentation of flood insurance. Only locate this information at this step if the majority of the water has been removed from the area.
After obtaining important paperwork, you should decide on the valuable items you want to salvage and place them in a dry and safe place. Start by rescuing non-electronic items first such as pictures, accessories and clothes. A special trick to prevent further deterioration of papers and books is to insert them into plastic bags and then store in a freezer. At a later time, remove them from the freezer and air dry the pages.
4. Dry Your Living Space
Expect your home to be damp and wet for days if the flooding was caused by heavy rains that increase humidity levels. Turn on your air conditioning if you have power and use portable fans to dry the wet areas. Take caution not to use your furnace or central air if your HVAC ducts were under water. If outlets in the flooded area are damaged then run extension cables to power on the fans. If the flooded area is closed off and cannot be accessed by windows we recommend to quickly purchase a quality dehumidifier to remove as much moisture from the air to prevent mildew from forming. For those living in damp and rainy regions, you should keep the dehumidifier running even after the flood waters are removed.
Rent or buy a high powered fan to rev up the circulation. They can range from $50 to $500 to purchase compared to $20 to rent. To give your carpets and rugs a fighting chance to survive the flood, use a wet Shop Vac to suck water from the fabric.
5. File a Claim with Your Home Insurance Company
Homeowners insurance can be a life saver, but your coverage will vary depending on the policies that you have. The good new is that floods caused by backed-up sewers and storm drains, broken sump-pumps and burst pipes are generally covered by most insurance companies.
After making contact with your insurance company, they will schedule a time to send an adjuster to evaluate the damage to determine what level of the damage will be covered. If the flooding is the result of a region wide weather disaster, it’s going to be difficult to meet with the adjuster as quickly as preferred.
6. Document and Valuate
In the meantime, gather with your family and begin to document the value of your possessions whilst taking as many pictures as possible throughout the entire process. Start the claim process as quickly as possible as the whole process can take anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks.
Since some insurers have strict rules regarding the fair market value and the replacement value, ask them for all of the details about your coverage before you start shopping for replacement equipment. Keep receipts for all products that you purchase so that the cost can be reimbursed by the insurance company for things that are covered.
7. Start the Repair Process
Victims of declared disaster areas may need to wait longer to access repair services and it’s important to protect yourself from fraud. Always ask for identification and evidence from people who claim that they are sent from your insurance company and do not pay contractors in advance for repair or cleanup services. Only hire a contractor after the insurance company settles the costs for the damage, and board off broken windows and open spaces that were caused by the flooding.
Never attempt to repair electronic products that came in contact with flood waters. This includes printers, home audio equipment, computers, gaming consoles and electric appliances such as washers and dryers. If you deem there to be substantial flood damage to your home, then you will save a lot of time in the long run by contacting a construction company that specializes in flood repairs. Their speciality is to evaluate housing foundations, building materials and flooring that may be permanently damaged by floods to determine if they need replacing.