Flooded House Checklist for Homeowners and Renters
When your house floods, the water can damage furniture, flooring, and appliances. Water can soak under the floorboards of the house and cause mold and mildew to fester and grow. Water damage can also ruin the carpet and force you to pay for costly repairs.
Often, flooding can be prevented by using a flood sensor. However, if you live in an area prone to flooding due to constant threats of hurricanes, overflowing flood plains, or heavy rains and flash floods, you will need more than a simple house flood sensor.
If you’ve recently experienced the frustration that accompanies a flooded house, then you know the extensive repairs and restoration that needs to happen. To mitigate the damages as much as possible, you will need to spring into action to limit trapped moisture that can lead to severe damage over time.
Dangers that Threaten Homes After a Flood
Homes face many risks after the area has been exposed to flooding. Flood water can carry disease, garbage, and other contaminants that will make families sick. The water itself will seep into walls and flooring and lead to dangerous mold infestations. If the water comes in contact with active electric outlets or appliances, the situation could become fatal. Floods are dangerous, no matter the cause of the flood or the severity of the flood. Over the last 20 years, homes in the United States have experienced these traumas from floods:
- On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina passed over New Orleans. The hurricane brought a tidal surge of water and drowned homes, cars, and streets in salty, contaminated seawater. Although the hurricane hit Louisiana hardest, it also touched Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. There were 1,464 fatalities, and the damage cost over 70 billion dollars in water damage restoration to rebuild the affected areas. It is one of the most remembered hurricanes.
- Only three years ago, Hurricane Harvey collided with Texas and Louisiana in August of 2017. The hurricane flooded homes, submerged streets, and swept cars from parking lots. By September 1, 2017, nearly one-third of Houston was underwater. The hurricane caused 107 fatalities. To cover the flood damage from the storm, states beseeched the Federal Emergency Management Agency for over 125 billion dollars.
- Throughout February of 2020, Mississippi was struck with severely heavy rains. The flood risk for the residents was at an all-time high as the rain continued to pour unrelenting over their homes. Flooded areas were evacuated, and homeowners were moved out of their homes until the water level dropped to a manageable level. A news report from USA Today reports that the amount of water is “unprecedented” as over 1,000 homes have been flooded from the rains. The costs of the flood damage have not yet been calculated.
- Every day, homeowners face accidental floods in their homes, businesses, and schools. On February 18, 2020, a school in Arlington, Texas, was closed due to the accidental flooding of several classrooms, the gymnasium, and the library. The flood was caused by a contractor who accidentally broke through a sprinkler line. The damage will take weeks to clean up.
Flooding can be unavoidable, like the flooding caused by hurricanes and storms, or flooding can be accidental, like the flooding of the Texas school. Often, homeowners may become the victims of flooding when a pipe bursts in the basements, or the washing machine leaks slowly into the flooring. Water damage, no matter how it happens, is frustrating. For homeowners who are affected by flood water, it’s important for them to know how to respond to the water and how they can preserve the house — limiting water damage after a flood is a priority. Allowing water to sit gives the water time to soak into wood, cause metal to rust, damage appliances, and ruin furniture and carpeting.
Flood Cleanup Checklist for Homeowners
After you’ve discovered your house is flooded, it’s important to keep a clear mind about your next actions. Cleaning up the damage immediately can be the difference between thousands of dollars in water damage fees and just a few hundred dollars. A flooded house is a disaster and will require you to contact your homeowner’s insurance. However, a flooded house is not the end of the world. In most cases, you will be able to salvage furniture and flooring. To manage the damage, follow this checklist for homeowners:
- Turn off the electrical breaker. Flood water is dangerous for many reasons. Flood water can come in contact with electrical sockets and appliances. This would turn a disaster into a tragedy if someone came in contact with the lethal water.
- Call a team of water damage experts at disasterassistance.gov (working with FEMA). Disaster representatives will be ready to assess the damage and send a team to assist with the cleanup. They will cover the costs of insurance and provide immediate relief.
- Contact your insurance agent. Whether or not you qualify for help from FEMA, you should contact your insurance immediately. Hopefully, you will be able to get an insurance claim from the insurance company. This will help pay for the cleanup costs.
- Shut off the main water valve. If your home is flooding due to a burst pipe or a leaky appliance, immediately shut off the main water valve. This will prevent further damage to the home.
- [Take pictures]. No, we’re not taking pictures for social media. The restoration company and the insurance company are going to need to see pictures of the damage before the cleaning begins. The contractor will need to know which areas were affected by the water.
- Change into protective gear. When dealing with flood water, you could be exposed to contaminants. Because of that, it’s important to change into rubber boots and rubber gloves to avoid coming in contact with any dangerous material.
- Move furniture away from the carpet. During a flood, wooden furniture becomes damp and the wooden furniture will leave permanent stains on your carpet. To prevent this, you will need to remove the furniture from the carpet. If you are unable to move the furniture, place plastic wrap or tin foil under the legs of the furniture to distance it from the carpet and prevent staining.
- Move fabrics to higher ground. To prevent fabrics from molding, move blankets, quilts, and furniture covers to high ground. This could mean that you simply need to lift the fabric off the floor.
- Check the basement and remove important items. If you have a basement in your home, it’s important to double-check the basement for any items of value. Your basement will be the first room of the home that is flooded severely. If there is anything valuable in the basement, move the item to the second floor of the house.
- Call a flood restoration specialist days after the water has dried to test the moisture content of the flooring and wood if the home. The specialist will bring a moisture meter to test the possibility of mold and mildew. If water is trapped in the wood, you will need to set up dehumidifiers in the area to pull out trapped moisture and prevent mold from growing in the home. Just because the floor feels dry doesn’t mean that there isn’t water trapped in the home.
Once you’ve completed the steps, you can begin cleaning up water. If the storm outside is persisting, you should close and lock all the doors and windows of the home. If the roof is leaking, use a tarp to cover any potential leaks. Once the house is flooded, you should do your best to stop the damage from getting worse.
Flood Cleanup Checklist for Renters
Often, renters are overlooked. However, renters struggle with damage from flooding just as often as homeowners. Due to the possibility of flood damage, it’s important that renters apply for renter’s insurance to protect their belongings from damage. Insurance can cover the costs of new furniture and prevent the renter from being held responsible for the flooding, even if the flooding was accidental. This checklist should help renters prevent irreversible damage:
- Report the problem to your landlord immediately. Most apartments won’t have access to the main water valve since apartments are often connected. If your apartment does have a water valve, turn it off and call your landlord to report the flooding.
- Take pictures of the scene to show the pictures to your insurance provider. The pictures will help the insurance provider determine how much damage was done to your personal belongings. Your landlord will have insurance to cover damage done to the walls and flooring.
- Change into protective gear. Since flooding can be dangerous, you should always change into rubber boots and rubber gloves. Wearing protective gear helps to protect you from disease, broken glass, and other dangerous contaminants and objects that could be hiding under flood water.
- Move valuable possessions out of the apartment or house. If the flood is severe, appliances, TVs, books, and other objects could be permanently damaged. To prevent damage, remove them from the area.
- Use plastic bags, bins, and bottles to capture leaking water and prevent the flood from getting worse.
- Stay in close contact with your landlord and your renter’s insurance. Your landlord will be the one to call a flood house repair company to repair any damage done to the apartment or house. However, you will be in charge of calling your insurance to cover any personal items.
Preventing Floods and Preparing for the Future
Whether you have recently been a victim of flood damage or you’re simply preparing for the future, it’s important to know how you can prevent floods from happening. Of course, depending on where you live, some floods are unavoidable. For example, homes in Louisiana are prone to flooding due to the likelihood of hurricanes, overflowing rivers and swamps, and heavy rain. States bordering the southern coast like Texas, Alabama, and Florida are also likely to experience uncontrollable flooding due to hurricanes and tropical storms. However, accidental flooding in non-storm-related flooding is completely preventable.
Using a flood sensor can help protect your home from accidental flooding and can alert you early on if your home is in danger of flooding. Flood sensors are small, discrete devices that are placed on the floor near pipes and appliances. They can be left in basements, attics, and under the house to alert you of flooding if a pipe has burst or if your house is flooding for some other reason. In the event of a storm, the sensor will alert you as soon as the home begins to flood, giving you more time to save precious items and protect the house. Flood sensors are one of the best ways to protect your home from residential flooding for both homeowners and renters.
Not all homes are in danger of flooding. According to FEMA, homes are divided into a flood control distinct within a national flood map. The real estate in each district is assigned a color: blue, orange, yellow, and blue with red stripes. Each zone indicates the likelihood of floods in that area. Blue areas have a one percent chance every year. This means that blue zones will see significant flooding every 100 years. Orange zones have a .02 percent annual chance of flooding and FEMA states that these areas should only expect flooding once every 500 years. Yellow zones are undetermined. Homes in blue with red stripes zones should be cautious about flooding since these areas are regular pathways for flooding.
Protecting your home is important. To better protect your home, work with your insurance adjuster to get better rates on flood insurance. You should also seal your roof, ensure that your property is on high ground with a secure foundation, install flood sensors, and regularly check pipes and appliances for leakage.
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