Now that Hurricane Isaac has passed, restoration is on the mind of many residents of south Louisiana. There are some considerations to take before tackling the job, according to LSU AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel.
“As soon as floodwaters recede, make sure the power is off and check for structural damage and infestations – snakes, fire ants, etc. – then get started as soon as possible to clean and dry everything quickly and thoroughly to prevent mold and rot,” Reichel said.
All wet materials, including wood, should be allowed to dry thoroughly before being covered or enclosed.
A professional water-damage restoration contractor with special drying equipment is the best and safest way to go. Yet, after a flood, many homeowners don’t have that option.
Reichel said if you’re doing the restoration yourself, you should follow these simple rules:
– For safety, wear protective clothing on legs, arms, feet and hands while cleaning up debris. Wear rubber gloves and goggles while handling flood-damaged items.
– Because flood water can be contaminated with sewage and other biohazards, cleanable surfaces should be disinfected as well as cleaned. Disinfectants should be chosen and used carefully because they can pose a hazard, too.
– Commercial disinfecting cleaners need to be diluted as directed to be effective. Bleach solutions – such as 1/4 to 1/2 cup liquid chlorine laundry bleach to a gallon of water – are economical, general-purpose disinfectants, but they can damage finishes, colors and metals and pose hazards to people. Never use chlorine bleach in or near the air conditioning system. Never mix bleach with products containing ammonia or acids because it can produce toxic fumes.
– In general, porous materials that have absorbed flood water should be removed and properly discarded, except for solid wood and sometimes plywood. Solid materials, such as plastics, metals, glass, solid wood, masonry, etc., can be cleaned.
– Do not sand or scrape painted surfaces in homes built before 1978, unless it has been inspected and found free of lead-based paint. If you hire help, be sure the contractor is certified by EPA as a Lead Certified Renovator. Visit www.epa.gov/lead for more information.
– Begin by removing wet carpets, carpet pads and rugs within 24 hours. Disinfect the slab. You may be able to have valuable rugs cleaned, disinfected and dried, but flooded carpet pads should always be replaced.
– Remove vinyl, laminate and other impermeable flooring over wood subfloors immediately after the flood has receded. Clean the subfloor. Drying could take weeks in our humid climate, but much less time if you can dehumidify the space. A buckled subfloor may flatten out on drying.
– For wood floors, carefully remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling. Leave it open until the flooring is dry. Solid wood, if not split, can settle back as it dries and be restored. Don’t sand it until it is dry and stable. If you use a polyurethane finish, search for one that is water vapor permeable.
– Check inside exterior walls and attics for wet insulation. Remove and discard all wet fibrous or open cell foam insulation, even if it means cutting into wallboard. Saturated insulation will hold water, even if the wall looks dry, and eventually cause wood rot and mold problems. Flush out the insides of the walls, then allow thorough drying before installing new insulation. If possible, air condition and use a dehumidifier to speed the drying of materials.
– Remove and discard vinyl wallpaper to allow drywall or paneling to dry inward. Refinish interior walls with latex paint (never use vinyl wallpaper) to allow the walls to continue to dry to the inside. However, a shellac-based sealer may be needed over ceiling water stains before repainting.
– Consider restoring your home with flood-hardy materials that can withstand future flooding and need only cleaning. Choose ceramic tile, solid vinyl tile or solid wood flooring and elevate equipment when feasible.
– If your flooded walls have solid wood studs and plywood or board sheathing, consider insulating with two inches of closed cell foam spray insulation or rigid foam boards, and finish with paperless drywall leaving gaps behind molding.
Reichel said after the next flood, you could then remove moldings, flush out the wall cavity and avoid having to gut and replace all the materials.
See and learn more about hazard-resistant and high-performance housing online at www.LSUAgCenter.com/LaHouse and by visiting LaHouse Resource Center in Baton Rouge. Find more recovery information at www.LSUAgCenter.com/Isaac or visit your parish AgCenter office.
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