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The First Things to Do When Your Home Floods

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Photo: michelmond (Shutterstock)

A burst pipe or leaky water heater can cause water damage just as well as a flood, and either spells bad news for your home. If your home has standing water somewhere it shouldn’t, there are a few things you can right away do to limit the damage. While restoration often has to be handled by a pro, these basic steps can get the process started and save you time, hassle, and money down the road.

Prevent water damage in the first place

One preventative measure you can take is to install water detection alarms that will notify right away you if there’s water where there shouldn’t be. These come in traditional noisemaking types as well as smart varieties that will send you alerts. A smart water detectors will often also will notify you when temperatures drops below freezing, a useful tipoff if your home is prone to frozen pipes.  

Find the source of the leak(s)

If it’s not obvious where the water came from, you’ll first want to find the source and address it. Check the walls and ceiling for damage or signs of where the water came from, whether it’s running down a wall or dripping from the ceiling. If the water is still coming in and you know the source isn’t a flooded street, shut your water off until the leak can be found and addressed. If there is water coming in from the roof, cover it with tarps as a temporary measure until repairs can be made. Water damage in the corners of windows or exterior walls is harder to address, but if there’s a way to cover over it outside and then dry it out inside, you may be able to keep the damage from getting worse until you can bring in expert help.

Dry everything out

If you do get water damage from flooding or a plumbing failure, the first thing to do is dry out the area as much as possible. Ventilation is key to allowing the water to evaporate and preventing condensation forming on other surfaces in your home. As a first step, open windows and doors and run fans to dry out the area. You can also use a dehumidifier to help dry things out as quickly as you can.

Clean out the gunk

If your water damage is as the result of a flood or a storm, there might also be debris or mud inside your home. This material can hold onto moisture and keep things damp for longer. It’s important to get rid of as much of it as possible as quickly as possible. Using a push broom for small amounts of dirt is a good option. For larger areas, a shovel and a wet/dry shop vac is the way to go. Use a snow shovel to remove the solid debris first, then use the vacuum to get the rest off of the floor. And it’s not just floors—clearing all surfaces of debris will help to dry out the damaged area more quickly.

Get furniture off the floor

The next step is to get furniture and other belongings off the floor. If you have a porch or other covered, dry area outside, put the furniture there to help it air off and dry out—but getting off of the wet floor should be the priority. If you don’t have a good place outdoors to keep furniture while drying, elevate it with bricks or up-turned buckets to keep it out of the water. Soft furniture might not be salvageable, as it can get saturated and trap mold and bacteria.

Clean the damaged area

Once the floor is cleared, mop with a mild detergent like dish soap to cut down on active spores that can cause mold and mildew. Make sure to scrub away dirt, as this provides a fertile breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. Mildew is a big cause for damage after a flood, so keeping it off of your floor and walls can make restoration much more simple.

  

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