Tanya Ruffin | 6/21/2017 3:51:57 PM
For detailed “how-to” guidance, see the U.S. HUD “Rebuild Healthy Homes: Guide to Post-disaster Restoration for a Safe and Healthy Home,” a free, online manual at www.hud.gov/healthyhomes and free mobile app from Apple and Android app stores.
In this article:
|Food and Water Safety|
|Water Well Purification|
|Foods and Food Preparation Items|
|Assessing Damage and Dangers|
|Avoiding Lead and Asbestos Hazards|
|Avoiding Mold Hazards|
|Salvaging Furniture Cleaning and Caution Tips:|
|Wood Furniture Submerged or wet wooden furniture:|
|Damp furniture - removing white spots:|
|Other Furniture and Items|
|Cleaning Carpets and Floors|
|Carpets and Rugs|
For instructions on water safety and purifying water, follow guidance from your community water supplier or Department of Health.
After a flood, it is important to take every precaution to ensure the safety of your well water. First, it is necessary to inspect and clean the well and pump before using them. You may want to have your water well contractor check out the well before using it.
Have the water sampled and tested. The water IS NOT safe for drinking until lab results show no indication of total coliform bacteria. You can discuss the final lab results with the lab or local public health unit. It is important to remember that disinfection or boiling water will not remove chemicals that may have contaminated your well during a flood.
Never enter a building that might have structural damage. Look for signs such a cracks, sagging, leaning and foundation shifts. Make sure electrical and gas supplies are disconnected, and inspect for chemical and bio-hazards. Be alert to possible invasion by snakes, fire ants and other creatures.
Important Alert! If your home was built before 1978, it may contain lead-based paint and/or asbestos containing materials. Disturbing lead and asbestos materials during cleanup and restoration can create very serious and long-term health hazards. Even tiny amounts of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to children’s developing brains and hearing. It can also harm adults. Asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer.
Do not gut walls or remove damaged materials before learning about lead- and asbestos-safe work practices, or getting a hazard assessment by a qualified professional. Refer to the "Rebuild Healthy Homes” guide, www.epa.gov/lead and www.epa.gov/asbestos for more information and to find qualified professionals.
Also, hire ONLY EPA lead-safe certified firms to repair and restore a pre-1978 home. All contractors who do any work that could disturb paint in pre-1978 homes are required by law to be certified.
A flood-damaged building requires special attention to avoid or correct a mold population explosion. Molds produce spores that float and spread easily through the air, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions – moisture, nutrients (nearly anything organic) and a place to grow.
Mold problems can result in damage to materials and health. The longer mold is allowed to grow, the greater the risk and the harder it is to remedy. So as soon as the floodwaters recede and it is safe to return, don’t delay cleanup and dry out.
People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or fragments, and can also be exposed through skin contact. Wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator that can filter mold spores (rated N95 or better) is strongly recommended. Note that a dust mask is NOT the same and does not provide adequate protection.
Although there is wide variation in how people are affected by mold, long-term or high exposure is unhealthy for anyone. Exposure to mold can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks, may suppress the immune system or have other effects. Some types of mold can produce mycotoxins in certain conditions, which can be present in live and dead spores and fragments in the air. “Black mold” is a misleading term since many types are black, and many species of mold can produce toxins.
Mold testing is not usually needed and is rarely useful. Some insurance companies and legal services may require sampling as a form of documentation. Professional mold remediation contractors may test before and after cleanup to provide evidence of the cleanup’s effectiveness. Otherwise, if you see or smell mold, you have mold and should remove it as soon as possible.
A properly trained mold remediation contractor with specialized equipment can provide the safest and most effective result. In Louisiana, find licensed Mold Remediation contractors at www.lslbc.louisiana.gov. If you need to clean up mold, follow these steps and refer to EPA guidelines online at www.epa.gov/moldww.epa.gov/mold to do it as safely and effectively as you can.
1. Wear Protective Gear. Always wear a respirator rated N95 or higher when inside a moldy space. During cleanup, also wear gloves and goggles. Go outside frequently to breathe fresh air. Some types of respirators have valves to make it easier to breathe. A properly fitted N100 half-face or full-face respirator with filter cartridges provides greater protection and comfort than the mask types.
2. Isolate Work Area and Ventilate to Outdoors. Disturbing mold colonies during cleanup can cause a huge release of spores in the air, so seal off the moldy areas from the rest of the house. Open windows, and don’t run the central air system during cleanup. Tape plastic over air grilles, and drape plastic in the stairwell if the second story is dry and clean. If power is on, put a box fan in a window to blow outward and exhaust mold-filled air to the outdoors.
3. Remove Moldy Porous Materials. Porous, moldy or sewage-contaminated materials should be removed, put in plastic bags, if possible, and thrown away. To reduce the release and spread of mold spores, it is helpful to cover moldy material with plastic sheeting before removing it. (IMPORTANT: Use lead-safe work practices in pre-1978 homes.)
After cleaning, you may choose to use a disinfectant to kill any mold missed by the cleaning. If there was sewage contamination, disinfection is a must. If you disinfect, always read and follow label directions and warnings, handle carefully, wear rubber gloves and never mix bleach with ammonia or acids. Many disinfectants, including bleach, can kill molds, but do not prevent regrowth of new colonies.
5. Consider Borate Treatment. Applying a borate treatment to wood framing can provide some resistance to termites, decay and mold. The type of borate solution that can penetrate wood over time is more expensive but offers greater protection. Other mold inhibitors such as latex zinc paints and fungicides also may help inhibit mold growth during drying. Do NOT apply sealants or coatings that can hamper drying. Framing materials that are difficult to clean or replace (such as “blackboard,” OSB sheathing, rough surfaces, etc.) can be painted with latex paint to help “encapsulate” mold and reduce its release into the air.
6. Flush the Air. After cleaning and disinfecting, air out the building. Use fans in windows to pull mold spores to the outdoors.
7. Speed Dry. Dry all wet materials as quickly as possible. Close windows and air condition or heat, and use a dehumidifier, if possible. If there is no power, keep windows open.
8. Remain on Mold Alert: Continue looking for signs of moisture or new mold growth. New mold can form in as little as 2-3 days if materials stay wet. Wood and other materials that may look dry can still be wet enough to support new growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning, and, if possible, use speed-drying equipment and moisture meters. Regrowth may signal that the material was not dry enough or should be removed.
9. Do Not Restore Until All Materials Are Dry. Check wood moisture content with a reliable moisture meter. It’s recommended to wait until wood moisture content drops to less than 16% before replacing insulation and wallboard. Never restore when any wood exceeds 19% moisture content, the danger zone for decay fungi. Do NOT use vinyl wallpaper, oil-based paint or other interior finishes that block drying to the inside. Walls finished with gypsum wallboard and latex paint allow continued drying, especially when air conditioning in warm weather.
10. Restore With Flood-resistant Materials. If possible, “wet floodproof” your home so it can withstand a fl ood with less damage. Use closed-cell foam insulation in walls, or rigid foam insulating sheathing that does not absorb water. Choose solid wood or water-resistant composite materials. Elevate wiring and equipment. Consider removable, cleanable wainscoting or paneling. Use paperless drywall (with fiberglass matt facing) that does not provide a food source for mold. Use restorable flooring such as ceramic tile, solid wood, stained concrete, etc.
Pressed wood pieces and cabinets tend to disintegrate in water and may collapse when moved. Veneered furniture may not be worth the cost and effort of repair unless it is very valuable to you. Printed vinyl surfaces and low-pressure laminates tend to come unglued and may not be repairable,
Furniture made with solid wood and plywood may be restorable.
White spots or a cloudy haze may develop on damp furniture with shellac or lacquer finishes.
Submerged upholstery and mattresses should be discarded. If you wish to restore valuable upholstered furniture, do not attempt to dry and restore padding. It should always be replaced due to risk of contamination.
Professional furniture restoration is safest and may provide best results. Get an estimate from a reliable furniture repair shop and consider replacement cost and value of each piece. If your insurance covers part value on contents, it may be financially better to apply the money to new articles, rather than pay for extensive repairs.
To attempt restoration yourself:
Cleaning and drying water-soaked carpets and floors can be difficult, but in the aftermath of a flood, contamination by mud, silt, sewage and mold compounds the problem. Surfaces exposed to rising flood water or sewage should be cleaned and disinfected. Moldy carpet and paper backed flooring should be replaced.
It’s best to replace flooded carpets and get professional cleaners to work on floors, but if that’s not be possible, begin cleanup as soon as it’s safe to enter your home.
This fact sheet highlights key guidelines to help you safely and effectively clean and restore your storm-damaged home.