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cleaning up your home after water leaks or flooding

How to Dry Out Your Home after Water Damage or Flooding

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Drying out a building after a flood or other water damage is a time consuming effort. We’ve put together a few tips to help you through the task.

Be safe

In any water clean-up situation, safety should be your top priority. Prepare for work by ensuring power has been completely turned off in any flooded spaces. Don’t operate any electrical equipment in rooms with standing water. Protect your hands, eyes, and mouth as flood water might be contaminated with harmful substances.

Next, determine the type of water damage. The Family Handyman suggests that homeowners can address damage from clean water (from rain, leaky pipes, and so on) and gray water (slightly dirty water from washing machines, clean toilets, etc.). However, they state that damage from black water (sewage leaks or flooding from nearby rivers, etc.) is too dangerous and should be managed by trained professionals. Call in a professional with specialized flood/water remediation equipment if you are at all unsure about your situation.

Before you begin

Take plenty of photographs of the damage before beginning work. This will help with insurance claims and adjustments. Be sure to include photos of damaged structures, as well as items from the affected areas.

Repair any locations where water can reenter the building, including roof damage. Repairs can be temporary, but plan on them needing to last several weeks. Use tarps or plywood covered with tar paper to patch a roof, for example.

Circulate air

Drying and circulating air is crucial in dealing with water damage. Open the windows once conditions outside are suitable. If it’s safe to use electricity, set up fans to help circulate air throughout the space. Pedestal fans can be directed to dry higher areas, circulator and blower fans can powerfully move air lower to floor level, and window fans can bring in and circulate fresh air from outside.

Now, open cabinet and closet doors, take out drawers in furniture or cabinetry to allow air to move and dry out impacted areas. Avoid using a central air or heating system with any ductwork that has been submerged, as that could blow mold, dirt or other contaminants into the living space.

Remove moisture sources

Once the air is flowing, it’s time to start dealing with the items in your rooms. For larger jobs, you might want to rent or buy a portable dehumidifier to remove excess water vapor from the air. Be sure to empty the water drawer frequently to ensure it can work at maximum capacity, or attach to a hose that drains outside of the home.

Remove any soaked items and place outdoors, preferably in sunlight, to dry or for disposal. It’s important to focus on larger water-soaked items first, like rugs and upholstered furniture. If these soft items have been affected by dirty water, they should be thrown away to avoid harmful bacteria and other contaminants.

Pull up flooring that traps water, like vinyl or linoleum, to allow sub-floors to dry. Remove and throw away wet insulation from walls and under floors. Pull down drywall that was in water, as it usually deteriorates, and mold grows easily on backing paper.

Clean and prevent mold

If recovering from a significant flood, it’s important that all surfaces that could have been in contact with bacteria that came up through sewers, etc. are fully disinfected by professionals. If dealing with a clean leak from rain water or pipes, disinfection isn’t as high of a priority, but always a safe choice.

Using a bleach mixture or other mold preventative solution, address any surface area that was exposed to the water leak or flood. Apply specialty mold preventative according to manufacturer directions, or lightly spray and wipe down a bleach mix to ensure no mold spores survive.

Once you’ve gone through the process of drying out your space, it will be time to start the repair and rebuilding phase.


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