What to Do When Your House Floods
We think of floods as major catastrophic events. We assume they only happen in unlikely situations like a hurricane or a dam breaking. But actually, floods happen for all kinds of reasons. Sure, you could be on Jersey Shore during Hurricane Sandy. Or, your riverfront property might become a liability during spring thaw. Or a pipe might break while you’re on vacation. A water main might burst in the street in front of your house. A neighbor’s house might catch fire and the fire department might soak your house to protect it. Your sump pump might fail.
When a Flood Strikes
Now that you’re thoroughly frightened at all the ways your house might become soaking wet, here’s what to do. If you’re anticipating a flood or it’s not too bad yet, turn off the power and gas to the house. You can turn off the power by flipping every breaker in the box. Turning off the gas is a little harder, depending on your setup.
Next, contact your insurance company and file a claim. Not every flood is eligible for insurance claims, but even if you can’t, you can get a list of flood restoration companies in your area. These companies are experts at cleaning and sterilizing water-damaged homes, and they can tell you what you can safely keep and what must be destroyed because it harbors harmful pathogens.
Where Did the Water Come From?
In general terms, it depends how clean the water is. If your sewer backed up or a river ran through your home, all your furniture, carpets and most of the belongings that got wet will be a dead loss. This water has too many active bacteria and can spawn mold and much worse.
The walls will be gutted, the sheet rock cut out to above the waterline, and the whole area will be thoroughly dried and dehumidified. Things like wooden studs will be sprayed with a sterilizing solution. Carpets will be pulled up and in many cases the flooring may have to be replaced down to the subfloor.
If the water came from a clean water source inside your house, like a burst pipe, then you can salvage a lot more. But the extent of the water damage matters more, so it’s important to take the advice of the flood restoration company in this regard.
The most important thing is to stay safe in the event of a flood. If the house isn’t safe, don’t go in. Possessions can be replaced. People can’t.