What to do if you have a flood, leak, or other water damage

The first 24 hours after a flood, fire sprinkler activation, or other water disaster at your home or business are the most important. Why? It's essential to take steps to dry out your home as soon as possible. This will keep home and building occupants safe, will often enable recovery of more of your important property, and will reduce expenses. There is a big difference in time and cost between a simple, professional drying-out operation and having to remodel half of a house in which mold grew after two or three days of inaction.

7 Things You Should Do After a Flood

As the homeowner you can help to mitigate damage to your home and possessions. Your insurance company will expect that you take reasonable action to prevent further damage to your home. This helps keep costs down and gets you back in your house faster. But, you should only do those things that you deem safe! Do not do anything that puts you, friends, or loved ones in a position of danger.

If you're able and can safely do so, run down the following list. We start with the items that are most important and will keep you an your loved ones safe, and move on to items that will protect your property.

1) Turn off the water source if possible.

You may have a main shutoff inside your house and in most areas houses that have a city water will have a shutoff valve at the street. You'll likely have to call the water company to have them shut this off.

2) Shut off any power to flooded areas.

This will involve shutting off circuit breakers to affected areas of your home. Unplug any electrical items in the same areas. Remember that water conducts electricity. If your safety is in question, leave it to a professional.

3) Call water restoration professionals immediately.

Especially in the event of a hurricane, river or ocean flooding, or other type of wide-ranging disaster. Disaster restoration professionals will be busy and it's important that you're quickly scheduled.

4) Secure your valuable and sentimental items.

These include pictures, important papers, computer disk drives, smart phones, breakable items, and items with a high value. It's best to remove these items from the premises if possible.

5) Protect your carpets and floors.

There are several things you should do:

  1. Use plastic bags under table legs, chair feet, and any other items that touch the floor to prevent them from staining the floor. Wood furniture will often cause wood staining and metal furniture will rust and leave rust stains. If you can help it, don't seal the bag around the furniture leg - it will need to dry out as well.
  2. Lift and secure draperies and furniture skirts that touch the floor. Capillary action causes water to travel from one area to the other. It can cause staining and result in water traveling even farther.
  3. Pick up any small cloth or paper items from the floor and put them elsewhere. This includes shoes, books, magazines, papers, clothing, cardboard boxes, and dog beds. All of these hold water and have the potential to stain your floor and carpet.

6) Large pieces of furniture may need to be moved and you may need to empty them to do so.

While the water restoration crew can move your furniture, you should empty out dishes, linens, books to make your china closets, chests, and bookshelves easier to move. If you have a fish tank or water bed, each will need to be drained.

7) Preserve evidence.

If a component in your plumbing fails and causes a flood and you replace that component, keep the old component. Keep receipts, old parts, photographs, and documentation that relates to your flooding. The evidence you gather will likely be used in your insurance claim.

6 Things You Should NOT Do After a Flood

1) Do not enter areas with standing water.

Entering standing water exposes you to biological contaminants and risk of electrical shock. Stay out of these areas.

2) Do not use your wet or dry vacuum to clean or dry out wet areas.

You should not be using anything that uses electricity in the wet area. Besides the risk of electric shock, dry vacuums can be easily damaged by water and wet vacuums aren't designed for the amount of water you likely need to remove.

3) Do not turn on heating or air conditioning unless the water restoration professional has instructed you to.

We're trying to prevent two problems here:

  1. Heating and AC ducting can provide a dispersal pathway for bacteria and mold. When you turn them on it's like creating a pathogen subway system.
  2. Heating and AC components can be easily damaged if they've been in contact with water - running them will exacerbate any problems quite a bit. These are expensive components to replace.

4) Do not change indoor temperatures unless the water restoration professional has instructed you to.

Warm temperatures and humidity can cause mold growth. Cold temperatures can cause your pipes to freeze and burst. Wait for a professional to tell you what to do.

5) Minimize walking on or through wet areas.

Some flood disasters can result in significant bacterial contamination. While this is a particular problem with sewage disasters, it's good to stay out of wet areas as much as possible.

6) Do not enter areas that have been wet for longer than 24 hours.

24 to 48 hours after a flood event, it's likely that mold growth will have begun. Mold can have significant effects on the health of you and your loved ones and it's imperative that you reduce your exposure to it. If you must enter your home for some reason, discuss it with your water damage professional.