We have had unprecedented rains in Texas this spring, and the resulting flooding has been horrible. I did a story on my Time Warner News Austin show "Your Home" on this topic, and we filmed at the epicenter of the Austin flooding from last week. The pictures to follow are all from Whole Earth Provision Co on Lamar Blvd in downtown Austin. This is a locally owned business and I know the owners, who are terrific people. Please support their other stores as they endeavor to get this store cleaned up!
If you get flooded out, remember the three D's of flood cleanup: Demo, Dry, and Disinfect
Once the waters recede, the first step in the cleanup is demolition. Building materials like drywall, insulation, and carpet pads all need to get pitched. These are absorbent materials that are generally "low cost" and need to be torn out. Look for the flood line on the walls and demo everything from 1 foot above that line to the floor. Studs and structure will have soaked up water too, but these can be dried without losing structural integrity. Do the demo as quickly as possible, as mold and mildew start to be active about 72 hours after flooding. Wiring can usually be saved, but bring in a licensed electrician to verify. Plumbing pipes are OK too. If HVAC duct work has been flooded, it most likely needs to be removed. Demo back to dry and hard surfaces to get ready for step #2.
Once you've removed all the absorbent materials, it's time to bring in fans and dehumidifiers. Carpet dryer fans are best for this because they move a lot of air right along the floor line. They can dry a soaked carpet pretty quickly if you had a "clean" flood and are salvaging the carpet. Dehumidifiers are key to drying, as a fan won't do much good if the humidity is high. Commercial-grade equipment is pricey to buy unless you are a contractor who can use it in the future. I use a ton of this equipment in my remodel/new construction company, and I like Quest equipment. You can also rent these from a local construction equipment rental house, or you can call a restoration contractor, which will own these and may rent to their clients. Remember to check the moisture content of your framing lumber to know if it's dry enough. Get the framing below 20% and ideally below 17% before moving on with rebuilding efforts. (Wood is considered saturated at 30% moisture content and mold will grow when wood is consistently above 20% MC. For more on drying wood and how I use Quest equipment, see "Conditioning Homes," Nov/14)
This area is the one that gets people spooked the most. Take a deep breath. Mold and mildew have been with us since the start of time. Mold is all around us in the air and is no more harmful than than the black stuff on the grout in your shower. Remember, however, that there are a certain number of people who are more affected: those with mold allergies or asthma, and certainly anyone who has a compromised immune system.
Mold generally likes warm/moist areas and will grow on any "food" that contains wood sugars. The back of drywall, studs, and other wood-based materials are good places for mold to grow. Do a good job on the demo/dry and this last step is the least important one. If you fall into the allergen/asthma/compromised Immune category, then disinfect all the hard surfaces in your flood zone with a mildewcide like Microban. My common sense advice on this is use your nose as a guide. If it smells OK inside, then you don't need this last step. If it smells bad (read "musty") after a solid week+ of drying then use a disinfectant. Remember that mold needs moisture to grow, and if your house stays dry, it won't return.
For more reading on this topic see my Journal of Light Construction article "Drying Wet Framing", or my blog post on that topic.
I wish you the best in your re-build. It seems daunting, but it can be done!
Risinger Homes is a custom builder and whole house remodeling contractor that specializes in Architect driven and fine craftsmanship work. We utilize an in-house carpentry staff and the latest building science research to build dramatically more efficient, healthy and durable homes.