How to dry your home after a flood

How to dry your home after a flood

Unwelcome water problems resulting in flooding create heartache, health problems and financial hardship. Knowing how to protect yourself and recover from the water event can keep a bad situation from getting worse. 

Frozen pipes, burst washing machine hoses and many other common occurrences can result in serious water damage. Flooding can occur almost anywhere.

Weeks, months and possibly years after leaks and flooding occurs, new problems can arise from improper or incomplete restoration. Plaster can fall, wood can rot, and building exteriors collapse all as a result of uncorrected moisture problems. Allergies, neural and respiratory diseases as well as other serious health threats can result from improperly or untreated water problems.

Lessons from gym class

You may have learned about life in kindergarten, but water restoration education is learned from sweat soaked gym clothes left in a locker. If you doubt this, just remember the waft of stink while walking past a locker containing very ripe gym cloths on a Monday morning.

The distinctive nasty locker smell is the product of fungi, mold and bacteria growing on the sweat soaked towel and cloths. The odor problem goes from bad to worse until the stinky gym clothes left the building.

Wall and furniture cavities and hidden surfaces such as carpet pad can create the same conditions as the dirty gym clothes. Nasty bacteria, mold and fungi can be found on every surface of a home. Flowing water drives the organic pollutants into every recess. Floodwaters can also deposit the bacteria from sewage. 

Drying only the exposed surfaces of a building does not kill the hidden mold and bacteria any more effectively than cleaning the outside of the nasty smelling locker. 

The necessity of removing the water

Pumping and draining of standing water in a building is the obvious first course of action. However, be careful to not pump out standing water until the outside water has subsided. Many homes and foundations have collapsed when the inside water was removed while the outside water was still pushing against the foundation. 

The next course of action is the removal of the water absorbed by exposed materials using vacuum suction. “Extraction” is the industry word for this process. 

The final and most often ignored step in the process is “drying” or dehumidification to remove the trapped moisture from a building. 

Restorative drying is simple but critical chemistry 

One way to dry out gym clothes is to hang them on a clothesline. Rolled up tight gym cloths will not dry out even in the open air. We know to unroll the wad of gym cloths if we ever want them to stop smelling.

The same chemistry applies to buildings. The way to achieve this is to install vents or cut openings that allow air to ventilate on as many sides of damp materials as possible. The trick is to know the locations where the ventilation is needed. 

Killing the organic growth is important. Washing, exposure to ultra-violet light, soap and many approved commercial chemicals can disinfect gym cloths. The same processes can be used to clean contents and building materials. 

Managing the humidity

The gym locker is easier to disinfect and less smelly in a dry hallway than in a humid area close to the hot showers. Simply heating the air in a building is not the magic answer to drying out the property. Heat without dehumidification can increase the extent of property damage just as a hot shower room can make gym cloths smell worse. 

Imagine a schoolbook inside the locker with the wet gym cloths. The damp environment will also damage the book. Warm moisture inside of a property can warp woodwork and have other nasty and unexpected effects. The drying rate must be managed based upon the materials found in the property including the contents. 

No matter what the cause of water damage, quick action can protect your investment and treasures. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Dan Howard is the president of Envirospect, providing home inspection services in Pittsburgh. Since 1980, Envirospect has specialized in complete home inspection services and they are certified as senior home safety inspectors. They also provide full service mold, indoor air, allergen and environmental testing.

As of February 5, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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