Some Tips for Preventing a Flood in Your Home

December 14th 2004
Some Tips for Preventing a Flood in Your Home

During this winter season, there are a few precautions you can take to minimize the inconveniences of a flood if one were to occur at your home.

General Precautions

Ensure that you have a battery-powered radio in working order, with spare batteries, to listen to instructions from your local station.

Prepare an emergency survival kit that includes food, water and medical supplies in an easy-to-carry container. In addition to the battery-powered radio and spare batteries, your should contain at least the following items:

- Flashlight with spare batteries

- Warm clothing, including waterproof outer garments and footwear

- Blankets

- All necessary medication

- Infant care items

- Personal toiletries

- Identification for each member of your household

- Any important personal and family documents.

- Move furniture, electrical appliances and other belongings to floors above ground level.

- Remove such toxic substances as pesticides and insecticides from the immediate area to prevent pollution.

If a Flood Happens to Occur, here are a few tips

After a flood, it's important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and belongings. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, this handy checklist will help you organize the clean up. Immediate action is important. Your house and furnishings are less likely to grow mold if they are dried within 48 hours.

Before You Begin

Put your own safety first. Avoid electrical shock. Wear rubber boots in an area flooded with more than 5cm or two inches of standing water.
Keep extension cords out of the water. Shut the power off to the flooded area at the breaker box. Ask your electrical utility for help if needed.

Assemble equipment and supplies:

- Gloves, masks (N95 respirators) and other protective gear

- Pails, mops, squeegees and plastic garbage bags

- Unscented detergent

- Large containers for wet bedding and clothing, and lines to hang them to dry

- You may also need to rent extension cords, submersible pumps, wet/dry shop vacuums, and dehumidifiers or heaters.

- Store valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until you have time to work on them.
First Steps

- Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.

- Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.

- Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings, then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum. Rinse, then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage should be discarded.

- Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove materials at least 500 mm (20 in.) above the high-water line. Removing only the lower part of the wall applies if action is taken immediately after the flood or wetting event. Gypsum board walls that have been exposed to high humidity or standing water for a prolonged period of time should be removed in their entirety and discarded. Ceiling tiles and panelling should be treated like drywall.

- Wash and wipe/scrub down all affected or flooded surfaces with unscented detergent and water. Rinse. Repeat the process as needed. Concrete surfaces can be cleaned with a solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) in water (one cup TSP to one gallon of warm water).When using TSP, which is highly corrosive, wear gloves and eye protection.

- Surfaces that are dry and/or have not been directly affected by the flood water should be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Further cleaning of concrete surfaces can be done with TSP. Washable surfaces can be washed with unscented detergent and water. Surface mold on wood can be removed with a vacuum-sander. Do not sand without simultaneous vacuuming. Wood that looks moldy after sanding may need to be replaced.

- After cleaning the surfaces, ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry. Rapid drying is important to prevent mold growth. when the outside weather permits (low humidity and moderate temperature), open doors and windows and hasten the drying process with fans. If the outside weather is not suitable and you notice that drying is not happening fast, use dehumidifying equipment, renting extra units as necessary.
To determine if the outdoor air can help dry the air inside, place a hygrometer in the area to be dried. Let it stabilize then open a window and monitor the Relative Humidity (RH). If it goes down then it means the air is dry enough to assist the drying process. If the RH increases, close the window.

- Carpets must be dried within two days. Sewage-soaked carpets must be discarded. Homeowners can't effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves. Qualified professionals are required.

- Ensure that all interior cavities and structural members are completely dry (which could take weeks) before closing cavities.

Before Moving Back In

- Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.

- If they have been soaked, consult an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor to replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters. Inspect all flooded forced air heating ducts and return-duct pans and have them cleaned out or replaced. Seek advice from your local utility about a water heater that has been wet. Refrigerators and freezers may need to be replaced.

- Flush floor drains and sump pits with detergent and water and scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean footing drains outside the foundation if necessary.