What to do if your house floods
Floods are the most common natural disaster in
Nearby, property owners in
If your house floods, no matter when it happens, you can rest assured you’re not the only one dealing with this. Here’s what to do about it:
Here’s the reality: If you have one inch of water in your home, fixing the damage can cost about
But remember, it’s not just weather that causes flooding. Plumbing problems and clogged gutters can cause floods, too. But, the good news: Your homeowners insurance will take care of some of this. Most policies cover sudden water damage, like an unexpected broken pipe. The exception: Damage caused by lack of maintenance, like a slow leak that’s been trickling for weeks, isn’t typically covered.
Depending on the source and severity of the flood, you may need to relocate immediately and deal with the damage later. In the case of a natural disaster, try your best to contact local authorities, and seek out a temporary shelter if needed.
When it’s safe to return indoors, the
If flooding is coming from a water source inside your own home, immediately locate your main water valve and turn it off.
Pull out your smartphone or camera before diving into cleaning. If you have insurance, photos and videos will help support your claim when you file. Document both damage to the house and its contents. (If renting, call your landlord immediately.)
Safety remains the priority here. Gear up with rubber boots and gloves before going into an area that’s been flooded. Floodwaters can carry sewage and other hazardous materials.
The first step in the cleaning process: Eliminating any remaining standing water by pumping, mopping, and/or opening clogged drains.
When pumping out a flooded basement, do it in stages. You also want to wait until there’s no standing water left in the yard around your home. Pumping too early or too fast could cause structural damage to your home.
When you pump water out all at once, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside of your home may cause your basement walls to collapse. The
After cleaning up the water, it’s time to start cleaning everything else. Again, wear protective gear, and open any windows or doors to improve ventilation.
Depending on the situation, floodwater may be contaminated with sewage or other dangerous bacteria. Be prepared to toss a lot, and take breaks when you need them. It’s normal for this process to feel overwhelming, both physically and emotionally.
Throw away food, medicine, and drinks that may have come in contact with floodwater. This includes canned goods, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and containers with food or liquid that has been sealed shut. “When in doubt, throw it out,” says the
Also toss items that absorb water and can’t be disinfected, like mattresses, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, and paper products. If you’re filing an insurance claim, store everything temporarily outside your home. You want to hang on to damaged items until your claim is processed.
Dispose of all wet ceiling tiles, wet insulation, baseboards, and drywall to a level roughly four feet above the flood water line, says the City’s Flood Guide. You may also need to rip up your carpet. You can try saving it by wet vacuuming and shampooing it, but if it isn’t able to dry completely, it needs to go.
Then it’s time to salvage what remains. Sanitize anything that was touched or may have been splashed by floodwater, including counters, cabinets, work surfaces, utensils, cookware, and toys. The City’s Flood Guide recommends using soap and water first, and then wiping down surfaces with a diluted bleach solution, made from one gallon of clean water mixed with 1/4 cup of bleach. Use the bleach to also wipe down wood and metal studs, twice over, before allowing them to air-dry.
If a flooded area isn’t taken care of properly, it will haunt you long after you’re finished cleaning up. Mold can harm both your furnishings and your health.
Mildew and mold develop within 24 to 48 hours of water exposure and will continue to grow until the source of moisture is eliminated, says
This makes it important to clean and dry the flooded area as soon as possible. It’s also one reason why you have to remove porous, slow-to-dry materials, like drywall, ceiling tiles, carpeting, and upholstery.
When finished cleaning, use fans and dehumidifiers to speed up drying times.
If mold develops, deal with it immediately.