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.