With the majority of floodwaters having now receded, many people have already begun, or even finished, the time- and energy-consuming work of tearing out any wet insulation, sheetrock or other belongings damaged by floodwaters. While we know those affected by the Great Flood of 2016 want to return their homes to normal as quickly as possible, what many homeowners may not realize is that cleaning up debris isn’t enough—floors, wall cavities and framing lumber must be given adequate time to dry before beginning to rebuild. In fact, rebuilding too quickly can cause a slew of major issues down the road.
We know it’s hard, but patience is key—this process takes time. It is recommended that affected structures are left open to dry for approximately two to three weeks or until moisture levels have dipped below 20 percent. Homeowners who rebuild while moisture levels remain above 20 percent are at a higher risk for:
– Mold growth which can lead to serious health problems for occupants
– Structural rotting
– Insect infestations
– Deterioration of wood and wall coverings
– Poor adhesion (blistering) of finishes
– Lifting and bubbling of vinyl floors
– Shifting of materials as they dry causing cosmetic cracking and limited functionality
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all moisture is easily identified. Moisture meters can help you to streamline this process by detecting water damage and moisture pockets within a surface for more effective and efficient remediation of trapped moisture. Moisture meters measure internal moisture content by converting the direct current conductance between two metal pins that are inserted into the affected surface. Before any wall linings or interior structures are replaced or sealed, moisture meters should be used bi-weekly to ascertain that moisture levels have dropped to a suitable level—preferably less than 15 to 20 percent.
Reducing the humidity of your home can help to speed up the drying process; however, achieving those lower humidity levels can prove to be a challenging feat in South Louisiana where opening up your home to high levels of oppressive humidity and heat is more likely to stunt your progress than advance it. Instead, the alternative options below are better-suited for effectively and efficiently drying affected homes in Acadiana:
- Open closet and cabinet doors and try to remove drawers to let air circulate. Some drawers may stick due to swelling, but don’t force their removal—help dry them by removing the back of the cabinet. Drawers should unstick as the cabinets begin to dry out.
- Fans help to keep air circulating, but don’t forget to allow for an entrance and exhaust opening to avoid cross-ventilation. Facing fans out of your doors or windows will seal the rest of the area to create a vacuum which allows air to move more effectively.
- Avoid using your central air conditioner if the ducts were submersed in floodwater. This could cause your unit to blow dirty air contaminated by sediment left from the floodwaters.
- Dehumidifiers and window air conditioner units will help to reduce moisture levels, especially in closed-up areas. If available, renting commercial dehumidifiers can help to reduce moisture up to three to four times faster than home models.
- Desiccants, materials designed to absorb moisture, are useful for hard-to-reach areas like closets where air cannot easily move through.
- For more severe flooding, it may be best to call a contractor who specialize in drying out flooded buildings. With access to large fans and dehumidifiers, these professionals are able to dry out a house in a few days. Be careful of contractors who inflate their prices in the wake of a catastrophe.
Dealing with Mold and Mildew
Any items exposed to floodwater for 24 hours or more can grow mold. Mold and mildew can be a health hazard and should be dealt with before a house is inhabited. When cleaning moldy or mildewed surfaces, it’s important to wear protective clothing such as boots, gloves and HEPA masks.
For non-porous materials, clean the surface using a normal cleaning agent—such as detergents or soaps—then sanitize with a chlorine bleach solution (½ cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water). The surface of the treated material should remain wet with the bleach solution for at least 10 minutes to effectively kill all mold on the surface. Thoroughly rinse any surfaces used by children or pets; otherwise, allow time to air dry.
For semi-porous materials such as wood, clean the surface using a normal cleaning agent—same as above—then use a phosphate cleaning solution to thoroughly sanitize and eliminate any mold growth from the material. Once fully dry, apply a coat of an anti-mildew or mold-resistant primer to eliminate surface and root spores to prevent any future growth.
Some houses can be lived in while restoration and repair are underway during the remediation process. Other, more severe cases, will need to be vacant in order to allow for the stripping of damaged materials, adequate time for drying out and the rebuilding process. A home can be inhabited during the remediation process if:
– Living in the home will not constitute a health or safety risk for its occupants
– The initial cleanup of mud, water and debris is completed
– All power has been safely restored
– The water supply and sewage system has been checked; repaired, if necessary; tested; and declared safe for use
– In the case of partially-removed wall sheeting, all exposed wall framing need to be safe of nails, all power outlets made safe and all exposed electrical wiring firmly clipped in position
We know you’re ready to get your home back to normal, but rushing the rebuilding process will only cause more damage to the health and safety of your family in the long run. We recommend having a professional contractor or building inspector confirm and certify your home or business affected by the flood as being safe and ready for rebuilding.
At Doug Ashy, we’re here to answer any questions you have about the remediation process to help protect your family and your home from the risks and dangers associated with undetected moisture.