Water Damage Restoration Checklist: 8 Steps to Save Your Home After a Flood

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated September 22, 2022
Two-story stucco house with concrete drive
Photo: aamrand / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Inspect the damage, extract the water, and protect your home

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Whether it’s a burst pipe or a hurricane, flooding from any source can devastate homeowners and their property. Even more stressful is the fact that water remediation needs to start immediately to prevent dangerous mold growth and permanent damage.

To start remediation as soon as possible, follow this water damage restoration checklist and be sure to hire a local water damage restoration professional to avoid long-term water damage. Note: It's always safer to hire a pro to inspect and repair flooding damage for you.

1. Perform a Water Damage Inspection

Again, to be safe, you may want to hire a water damage restoration pro to inspect your home. Depending on the size of the flood, your home could be unstable and unsafe to conduct a water damage inspection yourself.

You may be able to determine how hazardous the situation is based on the water’s color, and the water damage restoration pro may ask you this before they arrive onsite. White water is typically not contaminated and may originate from a burst pipe or broken water heater. Gray or black water is more hazardous, with gray water often coming from dishwashers or washing machines and black water coming from contaminated sources like toilets, sewage, or flood waters from a natural disaster. Do not attempt to clean up hazardous water yourself.

  • Determine the stability of the structure: look for any buckling or caving before and after entering the structure. If you see this, do not enter, or leave immediately

  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety goggles, rubber boots, a hard hat, a face mask, and gloves, before entering the property

  • Find the source of the flood and shut it off, if possible

  • Turn off electricity and gas to the structure. If the breaker box is in a wet area, use a dry object, like a stick to turn it off while standing in a dry area and wearing rubber boots. If you can't safely turn off the power from a dry area, do not attempt to do this yourself: It's time to call in a pro.

  • Identify the color of flood waters to get an idea of the contamination level

  • Calculate the water damage based on the wetness of materials, like carpets, textiles, or insulation

2. Call Your Insurance Companies

For your home, you’ll need to contact your homeowners or renters insurance company; for vehicle damage, contact your car insurance company. You’ll also need to document the damage for your insurance companies, so be sure to take photos.

Here’s what you will want to ask your insurance companies:

  • Discuss what your policy covers for floods

  • Ask if the policy covers living expenses if you need to relocate during flood remediation

  • For vehicles, tell the insurance company where the claims adjuster will find the vehicle

  • Ask if your policy covers car rentals

3. Gather Your Essential Documents

There are several important documents you need to secure if you don’t have them on you already. Some of these items will help for insurance purposes, and others are just important documents to have on you. Remember only to gather the documents if you can do so safely while wearing your protective gear.

Gather the following documents as part of your flood remediation checklist:

  • Mortgage or deed and proof of mortgage payments

  • Drivers’ licenses

  • Social security cards and birth certificates

  • Credit and debit cards

  • List of prescribed medications

  • List of bank account numbers

4. Start Extracting Water and Cleaning Up

With the water damage assessed and documented, it’s time to start cleaning up. It’s important to extract any standing water and clean the area as soon as possible. The longer the water stands, the more damage it can cause, and it gives mold more time to grow, posing long-term health risks to your family.

However, you need to make sure you do so in a safe way, and that could mean doing so in stages. Again, with major flooding, hiring a pro is always your best bet.

  • Extract standing water with industrial wet/dry vacuums, pumps, or buckets. Note: If the flooding is severe, you'll have to do this in stages, so you don't risk the basement caving in. FEMA recommends that you mark the water's height on the wall, and start by removing 1 foot at a time. Wait overnight, and then remove another foot, waiting another 24 hours. If the water continues to stay at that level, and everything seems stable, you can up the amount to around 2 to 3 feet per 24 hours until the water is gone.

  • Remove furniture, rugs, carpeting, and other items that may be wet. Place items in a shady, but dry, place. 

  • Use a shovel to clear away any mud or other dirt that flowed into the home

  • Open up wet walls and take out any wet insulation to prevent mold growth and decay

  • Pull up floors to inspect for water damage and prepare for the drying process

5. Dry the Area

Large fans work to dry subfloor after flood
Photo: Ceneri / E+ / Getty Images

Once the standing water is gone, you need to start drying out the home immediately. Ideally, extraction and drying should start within 48 hours after the flooding stops. Be patient because it may take several weeks for the house to fully dry after a flood.

  • Set up dehumidifiers around the home to pull moisture from the air as the floors and walls dry out

  • Put industrial-size fans throughout the house to speed up the drying process

  • Run the air conditioning 

  • If the weather forecast is sunny and dry, you can also open doors and windows to facilitate drying out the home

6. Sanitize to Prevent Mold

Even after removing wet furniture, carpets, floors, and subfloors, your home is still at risk of harboring mold after a flood. You’ll need to sanitize the affected areas to stop mold and fungi from spreading.

  • Make a disinfectant by combining about 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water

  • Use the disinfectant on walls, floors, and other hard surfaces

  • Inspect textiles and furniture for water damage to determine what can be cleaned and sanitized

  • Hire a professional carpet cleaner near you to properly clean and disinfect salvageable textiles

  • Consider hiring a local furniture repair specialist to clean any affected furniture

  • Toss waterlogged items that are too damaged to sanitize and repair

7. Clean and Dry Personal Belongings

After a flood, the primary focus is typically on large items, like furniture, and the building itself. But don’t forget that everything in your home will need attention, including personal belongings.

Check the following items off your flood remediation checklist:

  • Soft items like mattresses and stuffed animals are likely unsalvageable. Bag them up and move them outside for the adjuster to review

  • Dry photographs and art and store them away until you can get help from a restoration professional

  • Move clothing, curtains, and other fabrics outdoors until a restoration professional can evaluate whether to salvage them

  • Move electronics to a safe, dry place. These items are sometimes salvageable with help from restoration professionals

  • Dry and disinfect hard, durable items like vases, dishware, and utensils

8. Start Home Repairs

House with flooded yard and flood line visible
Photo: michelmond / Adobe Stock

It may take weeks, but you’ll want to wait until your home is fully dry before finishing out the water damage restoration checklist by making repairs.

  • Replace subfloors that show signs of damage after drying, like buckling or warping

  • Restore or replace hardwood, tile, or carpet floors

  • Replace insulation before repairing or replacing drywall

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