Island Life: Home Help Flood Damage Safe Clean-up & Repair

Samui has had this year and the end of 2018 more than its fair share of bad weather. Seems the flooding issues are still severe when the weather turns sour. Without sounding like I’m closing the gate on the horse that has already bolted, here is some good advice on what to do on flood damage clean ups and renovation.

I hope that you don’t need it but if you have sadly been affected by the heavy rain and flooding here are a few tips that might help you out. Properties do not need be near rivers, lakes or the coast to be at risk. The majority of flooding events are due to heavy rainfall and surface water not draining fast enough. We are now seeing this more frequently as rain is becoming more intense and urbanisation is increasing impervious surfaces. Urban environments where drainage has not been upgraded are particularly vulnerable.

Initial Precautions Before Clean-up Begins
Make sure that everyone is out of danger of new flood crests, fire, and falling buildings. Assume flood water and flooded materials are contaminated, to a certain extent they will be.

Also take these certain precautions:
• Electrical safety is extremely important in floods. Check for fire hazards and gas leaks. Use battery-powered light sources.
• Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines and other exterior damage and determine if it is safe to enter. Also, be watchful for fire ants, snakes, or other dangerous animals and insects that might have tried to seek shelter in your home.
• Check all ceilings and floors for signs of sagging or other potentially dangerous structural damage.
• Open doors and windows so your house can air out before spending any length of time inside.
• Always wear protective clothing including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, rubber or plastic gloves and waterproof boots or shoes.
• Mould: If mould is present, wear a respirator that can filter spores.
• Never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia or vinegar as this produces a toxic vapour.

Electrical Systems
Be sure all electric and gas services are turned off before entering the premises for the first time.
• Disconnect the main switch and all circuits.
• Remove covers from all outlets and the fuse or breaker boxes; flush with clean water.
• Let dry, and spray with contact cleaner/lubricant.
• Have an electrician check for grounds and other unsafe conditions before reconnecting the system.

Furnishings and Carpets
Remove all furniture, bedding, and carpeting to outdoors to be cleaned and dried (or discarded).
• Flooded carpets and rugs are best replaced since flood water may contain contaminants. Flooded carpet pads should always be discarded and replaced.
• Remove water-logged rugs, carpets, and pads within 48 hours after flooding subsides.
• If salvage is attempted, spread out rugs and carpets outdoors. Hose off. If soiled, professionally clean or work in carpet shampoo with a broom. Rinse well with a solution of 1-gallon water and 2 tablespoons liquid household chlorine bleach to sanitize (if colourfast). If carpet is wool, do not add bleach.
• Dry the carpet and subfloor thoroughly as quickly as possible. If carpet is installed damp, it can mildew.
• Carpet might shrink, but a professional may be able to stretch it.
• All upholstered furniture and mattresses contaminated by flood water should be discarded. If an upholstered furniture piece is valuable, the stuffing and upholstering will need to be replaced. Solid wood, metal and plastic furniture may be cleaned and restored. Hose off any mud, clean, sanitize and let dry completely out of direct sunlight.

Walls
Open flooded walls, even if they appear undamaged, to prevent mould, odour, and structural decay later.
• Remove water from the structure as rapidly as possible. Ventilate.
• Remove baseboards and cut holes in wallboard to drain uninsulated walls.
• Remove the interior surface of insulated walls to a point above water height. Discard flooded drywall.
• Undamaged panelling may be propped open or reinstalled after cleaning.
• Remove and discard all wet fibrous insulation.
• Clean out mud. Wall studs and plates may be sprayed with disinfectant (1 cup bleach/gallon water) to kill any existing mould and fungi.
• Speed dry with dehumidifiers and fans.
• Leave walls open until they have thoroughly dried, which may take up to a month.
• Select replacement materials that will withstand future floods (such as rigid foam insulation, removable wainscoting, ceramic tile, etc.).

Next Steps
Long-term flooding or wetness is likely to ruin most interior finishes and contents, but the next steps may be possible when flooding is short term and clean-up begins promptly. Delay permanent repairs until the building is thoroughly dry, which may take weeks.

Subfloors
• Layers of submerged plywood or OSB subfloors will likely separate or swell. Affected sections must be replaced to keep the new floor covering from buckling.
• When floor coverings are removed, allow the subflooring to dry thoroughly, which may take months without a dehumidifier.
• Check for warping before installing new flooring.

Wood Floors
• Carefully remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling. If boards are tongue-and-grooved, consult a carpenter or flooring professional.
• Clean and dry the floor thoroughly, which may take weeks, before replacing boards and attempting repairs.

Tile and Sheet Flooring
• If a submerged wood subfloor swells or separates, flooring will need to be removed.
• If the subflooring is concrete, removal of the floor covering will hasten drying of the slab, but it might not be necessary if it would ruin an otherwise unharmed material.
• If water has seeped under loose sections of sheet flooring, remove the entire sheet. Ease of flooring removal depends on the type of material and adhesive.

Cleaning Wall Finishes, Woodwork, & Floors
To reduce mould and damage, clean and dry as soon as flood waters recede.
• Use a phosphate-free, all-purpose, or disinfecting cleaner. Wash from top to bottom. Rinse with clean water.
• One-half cup of household chlorine bleach to a gallon of water can be used on non-metallic, colourfast surfaces as a disinfectant (to kill surface mould and bacteria) after cleaning, but it will not prevent new mould growth on materials that stay damp.
• Dry thoroughly and quickly. If the utilities are on, use the air conditioning or heater, fans, and a dehumidifier or desiccants to speed drying.
5. Appliances and Equipment
Clean and dry the submerged household appliance before starting.
• With the electricity or fuel turned off, unplug and open as much as possible to rinse or wipe clean and let dry.
• Tilt to drain and aid quick drying. Three days to a week is necessary for drying.
• Appliance repair professionals should inspect before reconnecting. Many appliances can be saved.

Furniture
Take furniture outdoors to clean.
• Brush off mud. All parts (drawers, doors, etc.) should be removed. Remove or cut a hole in the back to push out stuck drawers and doors. Discard flooded padding.
• Use commercial furniture-cleaning products designed for the type of material. Do not refinish or wax until thoroughly dry.
• Dry slowly out of direct sunlight because sun will warp furniture. It may take several weeks to several months to dry.

Preventing Mould
Aggressively control mould in the weeks and months after the flood.
• When power is available, continuously use air plus a dehumidifier, if possible, to remove humidity.
• In an un air-conditioned home, open windows and use fans to circulate air.
• Turn on electric lights in closets, and leave doors open to facilitate drying.
• Try to reduce activities that add moisture to the indoor air and use exhaust fans when cooking and bathing.

Removing Mildew from Household Articles and Upholstery
Avoid disturbing and spreading mould spores indoors. Clean mildewed items outdoors. Learn and take precautions to minimize exposure to mould. Visit www.epa.gov/iaq.
• Use a HEPA vacuum, if available, to remove visible mould growth. Discard the vacuum bag. Otherwise, wipe with damp paper towels, discard, and seal in plastic bags.
• Dry items in the sun, if possible.
• Sponge any remaining mildew with thick suds or a commercial cleaner designed for the type of material.
• Wipe with a clean, barely damp cloth.
• Wipe mildew-stained areas with a cloth dampened with diluted alcohol (1 cup rubbing or denatured alcohol to 1 cup water). Dry thoroughly.

Food and Medicine Items
• Throw out all foods, beverages and medicines exposed to flood waters or mud including canned goods and containers with food or liquid.