After a Flood: What to Do While waiting for Help

Jason Michael White
Updated September 20, 2013
Standing water leads to mold growth. If your home is ever flooded, cut up and toss out flood-soaked carpets and ventilate your rooms as soon as possible. (Photo courtesy of Teresa K., Beachwood, Ohio)

Colorado restoration companies say they’re overwhelmed with calls. Read tips for cleaning flood damage on your own or until you can hire a professional.

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Angie’s List member Phyllis Rheiner needed a restoration company to clean her flood-damaged basement after historic flooding in Colorado, but she ended up doing the work with her husband, she says.

They ripped up flood-soaked carpet and padding, tore out baseboards and bought fans for ventilation, says Rheiner, of Boulder.

“We were very fortunate because the only item damaged in the finished section of the basement was the carpeting,” she says of her basement, which she and her husband used as a workout room. “The basement was designed so everything was up about six inches.”

The Boulder area was hit hard by floods, mud slides and rock slides that started last week. The disaster swept across 17 counties, destroyed more than 1,500 homes and damaged nearly 18,000 residences, according to the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

As residents return to their flood-damaged homes, they need help with repairs. Highly rated service providers in the area report an outpouring of calls for remediation and restoration work, but can’t help everyone due to limitations of manpower, equipment and impassable roadways.

Homeowners such as Rheiner struggled to find helpbecause of the high demand, she says.

High demand for repair

Rheiner called highly rated NewSeason Restoration in Englewood, Colo. first, but the business couldn’t travel to her location, she says. NewSeason referred her to another company, but that business didn’t return her calls.

Luckily, NewSeason Restoration gave her tips on how to clean her basement on her own, or at least until she could get help from a professional, she says.

“They’re south of Denver, we’re north of Denver, so it wasn’t feasible for them to come and help us,” Rheiner says. “They gave us some great information, though.”

“We’ve kind of had to pick an area, so to speak,” says Sonja Frick, owner of Newseason Restoration. “Normally we would travel as far as 50 miles, but with an event like this, we had to be more thoughtful. Our motto has been to go where we can do the most good.”

Highly rated Remcon Cleaning and Restoration needed to rent equipment from out-of-state restoration companies that came to Colorado to help overburdened businesses, says Larry Pearce, owner of highly rated Remcon Cleaning and Restoration.

He’s also asked his two office and warehouse workers to help his employees on the field during flood cleanup, which required back-to-back 12 hour shifts during the past seven days, he says.

What to do while you wait for a professional

Residents who wait for a remediation company should focus on drying their homes, Pearce says. He recommends opening windows and doors and setting up fans to blow air outside.

“You don’t have to have fancy equipment like us,” he says. “Oscillating fans, box fans, any fans are paramount. Just get the air flow going.”

Secondly, tear up and throw away their flood-soaked carpet and padding, he says.

Need to hire a mold expert? Read why you should choose separate companies for mold testing and remediation.

“The carpet and pad are never salvageable,” he says. “Cut the carpet and pad out. Drag them outside.”

Lastly, blow air against perimeter walls to help prevent mold, he says. Mold favors wet and dark areas with no airflow

“Those are the things we tell everyone: Get the fresh air going, get the windows and doors open, get airflow on the perimeter walls, get rid of the carpet and padding,” he says. “That’s the best thing you can do for yourself until people can come and help you.”

How to clean up on your own

Follow these tips from service providers and Colorado 211, a non-profit group assisting with flood recovery, for cleanup work you do on your own.

Dry out your home

Remove standing water. Use a wet-dry shop vacuum, an electric powered water transfer pump or sump pump. Wear rubber boots if you’re standing in a wet area. Open doors and windows. Set up fans to blow air outside the home. Don’t turn your HVAC unit back on right away if vents were exposed to floodwater. First, have the ducts inspected and cleaned by a professional.

Toss what you can’t save

Remove and throw away flood-damaged carpet and padding — they’re never salvageable after floods. Throwaway flood-soaked items that can’t be repaired or disinfected. These include: mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings and most paper products. Tear out and throw away flood-soaked drywall and insulation if you can. If you can’t, use fans to blow air against the walls until you can hire a professional.

Remove mold and sanitize the area

You should hire a professional mold remediation company if the mold spread greater than 10 square feet. If the mold spread less than 10 square feet, you can try to clean up the growth on your own. To prevent or remove mold, clean hard surfaces with hot water and laundry or dish detergent. Then, disinfect with a 10-percent bleach solution (one cup of bleach with one gallon of water). Apply a thin coat of the bleach to the entire area. Use a sprayer or sponge, but avoid excessive amounts of runoff or standing pools. Never mix bleach and ammonia. The mixture creates a deadly, toxic gas. Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves goggles and a N-95 mask. Keep children and pets out of the flooded area until you’re done cleaning up. Dry thoroughly afterward. Wash clothes contaminated with floodwater in hot water and detergent.

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