Flood Recovery Tips for Homeowners

Flood recovered house

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is now among the top 10 all-time most active seasons on record, thanks to a stretch of long-lived, destructive hurricanes from mid-August through October. As of September 30, 13 named storms, eight hurricanes, and five major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricanes had formed in the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. A stretch of eight straight hurricanes from August through September was a first in the Atlantic basin in 124 years.

As anyone living in the path of one of 2017’s many hurricanes knows only too well, flood damage can be both devastating and life-changing. Floodwater, which is typically contaminated with sewage, chemicals, trash and other hidden dangers, produces effects that linger long after the water recedes. Water gets into the walls, insulation, electrical, HVAC systems or carpet and can cause mold or structural decay.

Inside house with water damage

Clean-up of flood-damaged homes is more complex than many people realize. To really restore a home to its pre-flood condition, a good portion of the structure must be removed, cleaned, disinfected, dried and even replaced. The scope of the project is broad and the expertise required is significant. It’s not a "weekend warrior” project.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are a number of safety steps that should be followed before beginning clean-up of a home after a flood. Most importantly, if any standing water remains, be sure the power is turned off. If the water is gone, have an electrician check the system to be sure it is safe and operational. Then begin the drying process by opening windows, turning on fans or air conditioning, using a wet-dry vacuum and running a dehumidifier if available.

“Dry means less than 15 percent moisture content of the wood,” says Robinson. “Building materials will equalize moisture content with the amount of moisture in the air, so the higher the relative humidity, the higher the equilibrium moisture content. The home will dry out faster if the doors and windows are closed and the air conditioning is on. Mechanical ventilation and dehumidification may not always be possible, but are a critical part of the process.”

Bill Robinson is a nationally known construction trainer and presenter and owner of Train2Build, a company that provides education for the building industry and homeowners. He specializes in old homes and moisture management and is often involved in flood recovery and rebuilding projects. Robinson emphasizes that getting a home truly dry takes work and requires moisture measurement to determine when the rebuilding can begin.

Bill Robinson measuring XPS board in house

Another important consideration is the flooring, and the right approach depends on whether your home is on a slab or on a basement foundation. Robinson notes that if your home is raised off the ground, it is important to remove all the floor coverings that would keep the floor from drying: carpet, tile, vinyl, laminate and sub-floor materials. If your home is on a slab, the drying and testing process is a bit different. Since the concrete is in direct contact with the ground it may take the concrete longer to dry and will continue to put off moisture until the concrete moisture content is equal to the moisture in the air.

“The age of the house and the climate of the location have a lot to do with how difficult recovery and repairs will be,” adds Craig Lynch, Commercial / Technical Director, Kingspan Insulation North America. “Unfortunately, many newer homes are at a disadvantage because of the young-growth wood, sheetrock and fiberglass insulation that have become so popular in construction. These materials tend to hold moisture in the building and cause further damage.”

One of the challenges, according to Lynch, is the contradictory demand of making new homes safe and resilient while keeping costs low so they are affordable for residents. Building above the minimum code to better prepare for future flooding is a luxury many buyers simply believe they cannot afford. He says that more education is needed to help people understand that the small up-front expense far outweighs the material and emotional cost of rebuilding after a flood hits.

XPS wall installation inside home

Relying on insurance is certainly not the way to go either. Often, flood insurance is either non-existent or inadequate to cover the repairs and replacements necessary, leaving the homeowner to make up the difference, cut corners to make the settlement stretch further, or worse, abandon the home and start over somewhere else. Flood insurance can be difficult to get and expensive to keep for many, even with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Statistics show that nationwide, only about 20 percent of American homes at risk for floods are actually covered by flood insurance. And far too many homeowners believe that their standard insurance will cover flood damage, something they learn is not true only after the damage is done.

Close up wall installation of XPS

For those who are dealing with the aftermath of one of the 2017 hurricanes, there are informational resources that can help.

The CDC has recommendations on their website here.

The EPA provides tips on their website here.

The Red Cross provides information on flood safety before, during and after a flood here.

Kingspan Insulation North America

Head Office & Sales Office – North America

Kingspan Insulation LLC

2100 Riveredge Parkway, Suite 175

Atlanta, Georgia

USA

30328

Call: +1(800) 241 4402

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