We are thanking our lucky stars that our house stayed dry, but our hearts go out to our friends, families and many others whose homes are among the large number of victims of the record flooding here in Rhode Island. Whether it's a few inches or a few feet, water in your basement is a serious matter. Here are a few tips and resources for how to deal with the situation before and after the waters recede.
Turn off the gas and electricity to flooded areas of the house. If the gas does not turn off automatically or you cannot safely turn off the electricity, contact the electric and gas companies to turn them off remotely. The systems should be inspected by a professional before they are turned back on.
Pump and dry the space. Pumping water too quickly from the basement or pumping before the waters outside have receded can cause damage to the walls so use caution. Smaller amounts of water can be cleaned with a wet vacuum or a mop. Use a dehumidifier and fans to circulate dry air through the house. The faster everything dries, the better the chance of avoiding permanent damage.
Photograph the damage. Once the water is gone you may want to get started on cleaning and repair immediately, but be sure to keep a record for your insurance company so that you can get reimbursement if you are entitled to it. A phone call to your insurance company is a good idea to find out the best way to keep track of everything.
Clean & Disinfect. Flood waters can be full of contaminants so be sure to clean everything including walls and floors with hot water and bleach (mix ¼ - ¾ cups bleach for every gallon of water). Dishes can be cleaned with a bleach mixture, but silverware should be sanitized by boiling them in water as the chemicals in bleach can damage the metals. Textiles, rugs and upholstered furniture should be thoroughly dried, outside if possible, but mattresses should be thrown away. Seek advice from a professional cleaner if necessary.
Repair. Mold inside walls can have serious health effects so be sure to replace drywall and insulation if necessary and take precautions for thoroughly drying the walls. Carpeting and tile should probably be removed so they can be properly cleaned and the subfloor can dry, but again seek advice from a professional on the best way to dry out your flooring materials.
• Providence Journal Article, "What to do about a basement that has been flooded"
• floodsafety.org, "Cleaning Up After a Flood"
• Environmental Protection Agency, "Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home"
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "After a Hurricane or Flood: Cleanup of Flood Water"
MORE FLOOD CLEANUP ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• How To: Clean Up Safely After a Flood
• Good Question: Green Cleanup for a Flooded Basement
• Uh Oh, Flood! Dealing with Disaster in Your Home
Image: Sarah Rainwater