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Flood Recovery

FLOOD RECOVERY and MOLD PREVENTION

BY

RICHARD A. ACREE

http://habitecinspections.com

DISCLAIMER: This article does not guarantee that mold will not still result from the conditions that existed before these steps are taken. These steps below are intended to be a best effort to prevent mold growth in homes or buildings affected by flood waters.

The following post-flood recovery and restoration steps should be considered whenever your home or building has been affected by flood waters.

1. Turn OFF electrical power and gas supply to the house. Leave these OFF until cleared to turn them back ON by local utility companies. There is usually a Main Electrical Circuit Breaker at the exterior electrical panel and a gas shutoff valve at the exterior gas meter, if you have one.

2. Remove from the home or building all loose furniture and personal items that were significantly impacted by the flood waters. This includes chairs, couches, tables and personal items such as clothing and shoes. If the item cannot be disinfected, throw it away. Wear protective clothing such as hard sole shoes, gloves, breathing protection and eye protection.

3. Remove all components of the building that were significantly affected by the flood waters that are not part of the structural, electrical, HVAC or plumbing systems. This includes flooring material, wall boards such as drywall, and insulation.

4. Clean all remaining accessible components that were affected by the flood waters such as wood wall studs, joists, flooring sub-floor, ductwork, piping and glass. Anything you can reach and that was affected by the flood waters. Use 1 cup of bleach for every 1 gallon of water. This does not include things like electrical outlets and switches. Those items will likely have to be removed and thrown away. See item 7 below. Use gloves, breathing protection (N-95 respirator-type protects against mold) and eye protection.

5. DRY, DRY, DRY! Use any available fan to blow across the wet areas. If your HVAC equipment was not submerged in the flood water, partially or fully, and you have been cleared to restore electrical power, turn your A/C ON and let it run full speed in the cooling mode. A big component of the air conditioning process is dehumidifying. Run augmenting de-humidifiers if you have them. Do this until no visible damp areas are present. If your HVAC equipment was affected by the water, see item 7 below.

6. Spray all visible structural components that were impacted by the flood waters with a mold fungicide. This should be done by a professional, but they may be heavily booked now. Professionals use EPA-registered disinfectants such as Sporicidin, Benefect and Microban. If the pros are booked you may be able to do this yourself for some short-term relief. IF you are willing and able to do this, you should be able to find a mold fungicide at most local hardware stores, Home Depot or Loews. Some names there are Moldex, Duraban and Concrobium. Follow directions carefully. It is virtually impossible to clean every nook and cranny of the building that was touched by flood waters. Something will be left behind. The mold fungicide will hopefully kill any remaining mold that was not removed by cleaning. The bleach solution is strictly for cleaning, not disinfecting or killing mold. And remember, mold does not go away simply by taking away the source of moisture. It only goes dormant. If dormant mold becomes wet again, it comes back to life and starts to grow. It either has to be removed physically or killed.

7. Any electrical component, HVAC component such as furnaces, air conditioners, humidifiers etc, that was fully or partially submerged needs to be inspected by a licensed specialist before it is used.

8. Sit down, take a break. You have earned it. But, while you are sitting there, pick up the phone and start lining up contractors for the repairs. If the flooding is widespread, the demand for contractors will be high and the earlier you get in the queue the better. Since you have the phone in your hand, also call the local codes department to see if you need a permit to rebuild your home. The answer is probably YES.

9. After about a week, and before you start to rebuild, consider having the areas of the home that were affected by the flood tested for mold and moisture. An air test is the most likely test to be done for mold. Assuming you are not seeing anything visible that looks like mold, to be safe, have an air sample taken in each room that was affected. A separate air sample will have to be taken outside to establish a baseline to compare to the inside. Air samples test for the invisible mold spores that can indicate a source of mold growth in the room, even if you cannot see it. If the test comes back negative, you’re done with the cleanup and can begin the task of rebuilding. If the test comes back positive for mold, there may still be a source of mold in the building and a full protocol-based mold assessment is probably necessary to find the source. As a part of this process, a mold assessor should also be able to randomly check your accessible wood components to verify they are dry. They should use a moisture meter to do this. If the wood or other building materials are still wet, continue the drying process. Have the humidity checked in the room(s) that were affected as well. Interior humidity should be at least below 70% under normal conditions, below 60% is preferred. If above 70% humidity, keep up the drying and ventilation processes until humidity drops below 70%. Again, below 60% is preferred.

To comment or ask questions about this article please email to richard@habitecinspections.com.

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