The shock of Harvey flooding your home can cause feelings of despair. The feeling of not knowing what to do first can be overwhelming. Once the the flood waters have receded, there’s no time to waste. There is much work to be done. Here are some tips.
File with your insurance company –
Before starting clean up, file a claim with your insurance company. Schedule a time to meet an adjuster at your home to view your property. If you plan to start demolition before the meeting with the adjuster, make sure to take lots of pictures and consider leaving one wall area untouched as proof of the high water level. Ask the adjuster about any requirements for clean up such as what can be salvaged and what needs to be replaced. If you can’t locate your local agent contact the national office.
Safety first –
If you have never had a tetanus shot or if your shots are not current, get your shot. They are available at Walgreen’s and CVS for about $50. Nails, splinters and scraps of metal can easily puncture the skin and you may not notice as you work. In your home’s environment you could easily contract tetanus from all of the bacteria floating around. Get Clorox disinfecting wipes or an equivalent product to clean your hands and face occasionally. Wear gloves to protect your hands and safety glasses for your eyes. Jeans provide more protection than shorts. Cover your mouth with a disposable mask.
Rest frequently –
Construction work is highly demanding on the body. If you are not accustomed to such intense physical labor, get some people to help and rest frequently. Over exertion can cause back injury or even a stroke or heart attack.
Child care –
Don’t bring your kids back home unless they are old enough to help. They can easily be injured in a construction zone. Find a close friend or relative where you can leave them.
Mold is your enemy –
If mold gets a foothold it spreads like wild fire and is very expensive to professionally remove. With the high humidity of a flooded house coupled with temperatures above 80 °F, mold can begin to grow within three days. You must get things started to reduce the humidity in your home. Take the following actions in this order:
- If the high water line went above your electrical outlets or if you have any question about your home’s electrical system, call a qualified, licensed electrician to verify or repair your electrical system. You will need it to run the a/c, fans and provide lighting. Have him check major appliances. If they are ruined beyond repair, get them out of your home.
- Call an a/c repairman to check out and repair your a/c unit. It will be working overtime as you lower the humidity in your home. If the wall filters are wet remove and replace them immediately.
- Rent a dehumidifier from a reputable rental company to help lower humidity levels in your home.
- Secure the exterior of your home. You will have rental equipment, tools and personal items that could be stolen if not secure. Don’t be concerned about the appearance of the security (you can use plywood, nailed to wood siding or attached with screws and moly bolts for brick siding). The exterior will likely require attention as part of the rebuilding process.
- Contact a local remodeling/rebuilding contractor to reserve his services so that you minimize the time your home is unlivable.
- Remove any wet carpeting that has been covered with water for more that 24 hours. It will have to be replaced anyway and this helps get rid of humidity.
- Remove chair cushions or upholstered furniture and decide whether you want to have them reupholstered. It is probably less expensive to buy new.
- Begin demolition – the purpose of demolition is to prepare for rebuilding but more importantly to remove any places for mold to begin to grow. It is a good idea to have someone treat all surfaces (including the inside of framing) with a mold retardant as you work. You can make this yourself using one cup of household bleach added to one gallon of water.
- Remove soaked drywall up to six inches above the water line.
- If the interior doors are ruined, remove the door and door frame.
- Remove ruined paneling all the way to the ceiling. It will be impossible to cut off the ruined portion of the paneling and then match it with new paneling later. You want to deny access to mold wherever it might grow.
- Remove countertops so that you can remove ruined base cabinets. This is probably not a job you want to do yourself if you intend to reuse the countertop. You should contract with a granite countertop company to remove and store your countertop for you. If you want to replace the countertops just demo them. Here is a video that shows how difficult removal can be: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTvqZFgUKaM
- It will be nearly impossible to match the stain of ruined base cabinets that must be removed with stained wall cabinets. If your cabinets are painted or if they are stained but you would be satisfied to have them painted then remove the drawers and doors and pull out the cabinet frames which will be rebuilt from new materials. Note: a very experienced cabinet maker may be able to match cabinet stains, especially if you do not have any places where the base and wall cabinets touch.
- Tile floors may be saved if no water has gotten under the tile. Tap on all the tiles and try to determine if they are still sound. You can hire companies that can professionally clean the grout on tile and make it look like new.
- Make one more pass with the bleach solution on all exposed surfaces, wipe up any remaining puddles and remove any remaining dirt on the floors.
We hope this helps you as you recover from the worst hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast. Best of luck, be Houston Strong and we would be honored to help you rebuild your home.