Shane DeMott has 10 years of experience in the insurance industry and is currently a water mitigation professional employed by the Brighton, MI branch of 1-800-Water Damage. Founded in 2010 by Fred and Lisa Arthur, 1-800-Water Damage provides water mitigation and mold remediation throughout Southeast Michigan.
If your basement or home has ever flooded, you know it can be a very unpleasant and costly experience. Many Southeast Michigan homeowners are finding this out now. The storms that drenched metro Detroit on August 11, 2014, created unprecedented damages for communities and homeowners throughout the region. The damage from the 4.5 inches that fell could top $1 billion once the final cost is tallied.
The worst part about the recent storm might just be that much of the damage isn’t covered by insurance. Since the flooding, in most cases, came from the backup of the sewer systems, the damages aren’t covered by the standard homeowner policy. Many homeowners are discovering at the worst possible time that the coverage they purchased will only scratch the surface of the cost it will take to return their home and their life to normal.
With the floodwaters gone, many homeowners are left wondering what to do. If you’re facing flood damages, there are some things you can do to minimize the costs of restoring your home. Here are the steps you should take to repair the damage, dry out your home and minimize flooding effects in the future.
Think Safety First
Before you can restore your home, you have to clean up the mess. As with any project, think safety first. The molds and bacteria present can be very dangerous. Anyone working in the area will want to wear personal protective gear (masks, gloves, footwear, etc.).
Move Damaged Items
Get those damaged items out of the basement and out to the curb. While it can be grueling and even nasty work, removing water-logged and damaged personal items is incredibly time consuming. The water mitigation professionals will do this for you, but the cost can add up quickly. If you can, slip on a pair of rubber gloves and something with a thick rubber soul. Do as much of this yourself as you can, and save the money for something else.
Remove Water and Dry Out Your Basement
In some scenarios, the amount of water in a basement is simply too great to remove yourself, and your water damage professional will have to help you extract the water. In cases where the amount of water is smaller, you can fire up a shop vacuum or two and extract the water yourself. It might mean more than a few trips up the stairs or to the laundry basin, but doing your own water removal will translate to money back in your pocket.
Clean and Disinfect
Once the water and damaged contents (personal items and porous building materials like drywall, carpeting, padding, paneling, etc.) are removed, clean up the affected remaining areas, floors and walls with a good disinfectant such as Pine Sol or Lysol and warm water. Once everything’s cleaned up, you can then disinfect everything a final time.
While it is still common practice to use a bleach solution for disinfecting, professionals generally use professional products. There are a few green products that are highly effective and very safe to use. Always read the labels and ensure you are wearing protective gear when required.
Get the Air Moving
Bacterial and microbial growth can begin forming in 48–72 hours, but this depends on a number of factors such as temperature, moisture level and “food source” (paper, drywall, wood, etc.). If significant microbial growth develops, this can greatly increase remediation costs. That’s why it’s important to start the drying process as soon as possible.
While your box fans and dehumidifier can’t compete with the professional equipment that will soon occupy your home, they can certainly help. Place several fans throughout the affected area. This will help get the water granules into the air through evaporation. Running a dehumidifier will help remove this humidity from the air.
While the build-back and reconstruction phase of your unintended and unwanted remodeling project takes a skill level most of us don’t have, the demolition work can serve as a cathartic money saver. In the case of the metro Detroit storm, the majority of the water that flooded area homes was from a combination of storm sewer water and sanitary sewer water, meaning any porous materials the water touched were contaminated and needed to find their way to the local landfill.
If you’re so inclined, you can remove the affected building materials. Carpets and pads can be pulled and removed from the home. Affected baseboard and drywall can also be cut and removed if they sustained water damage. Be very careful with tile that was there before you moved in; your home could have asbestos tiles that will require professional abatement. Generally, with this kind of loss, floor tiles should be removed since the water will surely have gotten underneath the tiles.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
It’s possible this finds you as one of the lucky ones who escaped from the waters unscathed. Maybe you weren’t so fortunate, but the mitigation company has come and gone, so insurance check in hand, you’ve started rebuilding. Regardless, you always face the possibility that this could happen again. Take some simple steps just in case there is a next time.
Basements often become a final resting place of those things that don’t have another home. Take the time at least once a year to go through your basement and get the old clothes and random clutter to the recycling bin. Should the time come, you’ll be glad the clutter is gone.
Put Items Up High
Boxes and items on the floor can quickly become a nightmare once the water starts to rise. Metal or plastic shelving units are recommended. Solid wood shelves are fine and cleanable; however, plywood and particle board items are non-salvageable. Getting contents off the floor will be a cheap solution to a future problem.
Use Plastic Storage Bins
If vertical space is an issue, consider the use of plastic or rubber bins as a means of storage. They provide a cheap and clutter-free option for the items you might need to store. It’s important to purchase secure tops for the bins in the event the water comes from pipes or appliances above. It’s best to keep your plastic bins on shelves a couple of feet off the ground in case you get enough flooding that they capsize and fill with water.
The stress and worry of a flood cannot be overstated. The emotional and economic costs can be staggering, and unfortunately, insurance often doesn’t cover everything. Remembering these tips and taking preventive action could end up saving you money in the long run.