Five Things You Should Know About Flood Cleanup
Cleaning up after a flood or extreme weather event is a labor-intensive and hazardous process. Here are five things you should know about flood cleanup to get you started.
1. There are major health risks. These are the top causes of health problems you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re working in flooded homes:
- Structural problems – this includes shifted foundations and rotted floorboards. DO NOT enter the building if the foundation has been pushed, and test for the latter by hitting floorboards with the end of a two-by-four.
- Mold – too small to be seen with the naked eye, mold spores floating in the air cause issues for allergy-sufferers: anything from a stuffy nose to a life-threatening asthma attack.
- Lead dust – caused by lead paint drying and flaking, symptoms are typically nonexistent.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) – do not use fuel-burning equipment, including portable generators, inside flood-damaged homes; CO poisoning can cause sudden illness and death.
- Cuts and punctures – add broken glass and boards and exposed nails to contaminated floodwaters for your own recipe for disaster.
- Electric shock – turn off the electricity at the breaker before starting work; any electrical device that has been flooded is a danger.
2. It’s important to create an agreement with any mold remediation professional. Per the EPA and CDC, hire a professional if mold covers an area of 100 square feet or a 10-by-10-foot space. Then, make sure you have an agreement that you will hold the payment until the work passes an inspection. The inspection should show there is no visible mold, no mold odors and that air tested after the work was done has a safe level of indoor air quality.
3. Passing inspection is two-tiered. First, there’s the Basic Safety Inspection where you check for structural damage, have your electrical and natural gas system inspected, etc. Next, there’s the Flood/Storm Damage Inspection where you check for mold and water damage, take inventory of what can be salvaged, etc.
4. Protective equipment is a must. Some steps in the cleanup process require head-to-toe protection – lungs, eyes, ears, feet, head and hands – everything from goggles to work boots with steel shank, toe and insole. The minimum you’ll find for any level is a cap, safety glasses and an N95 or N100 respirator.
5. There are eight stages in the cleanup process:
- Pre-work Inspection: Open the doors and windows for 30 minutes before you start working in the home to reduce odor levels and allow for dilution of airborne contaminants. In this step, you’ll also need to complete a Basic Safety Inspection and a Flood/Storm Damage Inspection.
- Before work begins: In this stage you purchase or rent your tools and supplies, plan for trash removal, make sure you have a working bathroom, etc.
- Site preparation: This is when you set up a safety and cleanup area, put on your personal protection equipment, lay a plywood path, and so on.
- Clean-out: Here you’ll complete tasks such as removing furniture and appliances, remove wall-to-wall carpet and clean out closets and kitchen cabinets.
- Gut tear-out procedure: As the name implies, this is where you get into the more heavy-duty portion of the process – tearing down drywall or plaster ceilings and walls, removing layers from the floor, tearing out cabinets, and so on.
- Pre-construction cleaning and treatment: In this stage you’ll be preparing the space for construction – dry brushing and vacuuming all surfaces, disinfecting all hard surfaces, drying out the building, etc.
- Selective tear out and preparation before restoration: There are a few more tasks to complete before restoration begins, such as ventilating the attic, opening the crawl space, and disposing of insulation.
- Restore possessions: Finally, you’ll need to take care of what you salvaged by sponging off wood furnishings, disposing of or thoroughly washing clothing and textiles, and damp-wiping china, glass, jewelry, porcelain and metal possessions.
WATCH: Our recorded webinar, How to Restore Your Flooded Home: Addressing Mold and Other Health-Related Hazards: