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After-Flood Cleanup Checklist

A checklist for homeowners to respond quickly after a flood and reduce costly damages.

Flooding impacts thousands of homeowners across the U.S. every year. In 2019, floods caused nearly $3.8 billion in property and crop damages. If your home is impacted by a flood, here’s what to do after the waters recede. Time is of the essence, as you work quickly to remove hazardous floodwaters, save valuable items inside the home, and reduce mold growth.

Wood and other porous items – like walls, rugs, and furniture – can absorb a large amount of water when submerged in flood conditions. Even if you clean the home from top to bottom, rebuilding too quickly after a flood can leave your home open to mold growth, pests, and continued deterioration of furniture and other valuable items inside the home. In addition, most floodwaters contain unhealthy amounts of pesticides and other hazards, so building materials and furnishings may need to be completely removed and replaced with new ones.

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Ensure flooded homes are safe before re-entering

After an emergency occurs, follow all advice from local, state and federal authorities. If your home was evacuated, ensure you are allowed back into the area before you return home. Once all residents, including pets, are safely removed from the home, the first step in cleaning up after a flood is to schedule a professional inspection to look for structural, electrical, or other damage and ensure it is safe to enter. Just like a hurricane or major storm can bring down live electrical wires, electrical safety is also important after a flood. Fire hazards, hazardous materials left behind by floodwaters, and gas leaks are also common.

Removing water from the home

After a flood, it’s important to remove water from the home slowly, in stages. If water is removed too quickly, it could cause additional damage to walls and floors. Pumps and pails can be used to remove standing water and a wet/dry vacuum to clean up the full area after that. Homes with wells and cisterns will need additional floodwater removal and professional cleaning assistance. If a drain or sump pump is installed, clean each with detergent and water and remove any additional sentiment, grime, or larger items. Outdoor drains may also need to be cleaned and unclogged after a flood.

Cleaning up indoors after a flood

Once a home is inspected and deemed safe to re-enter, it is important to wear adequate foot and eye protection when cleaning up. Watch out for both harmful pests and mold growth and wear sturdy gloves when cleaning. Recommended flood cleanup equipment includes:

  • Gloves
  • Masks and other protective face and eye gear
  • Pails, mops, and squeegee brushes
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Unscented detergent or bleach
  • Large containers for soaking items
  • Clotheslines

Carpets must be completely dried within the first two days after a flood to reduce mold growth. Remove and dry carpet, furniture and other items outdoors in the sunshine. Carpets, furniture, or other items soaked with sewage or other contaminants should be destroyed and replaced with new.

For damp items, allowing mud to dry first and then brushing it off is easiest. Remove furniture cushions and dry each separately. You can also raise furniture on blocks and place fans underneath to dry floors and underneath large items. For wooden furniture, remove drawers and open doors, empty items inside, and dry gradually to reduce splitting and warping.

In the kitchen and bathrooms, wash undamaged canned food items and throw away medicine, cosmetics, and other toiletries. Remove and throw away opened food items or anything exposed to floodwaters, including inside the freezer or refrigerator. All boxed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables should be thrown away because they may be contaminated by floodwaters and can’t be washed to remove all contaminants.

Protecting your home against flood damage

Before an emergency occurs, ensure your homeowner’s insurance is up to date and review whether flood insurance is available in your area. Better understand your home’s flood risk by gathering and reviewing information from state and local authorities. To reduce costly damages, move electrical boxes, outlets, and switches above prospective flood lines. Move furnaces, heaters, washers, and dryers above ground or install on elevated blocks, and store valuable items safely above potential flooded areas. Consider installing interior drainage, a sump pump, or backflow valve in the basement to help reduce costly flood damage.

To help prepare your home for a flood, contact your local basement waterproofing, foundation repair, and crawl space repair experts for a free inspection. From sump pump installation to home foundation inspection, our team can help you reduce the chance of costly flood damages before they occur.

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