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Flood preparedness and cleaning

Floods can happen any time of year, usually as a result of rapid snowmelt or heavy rainfall. Being prepared for a flood can help mitigate potential damage and speed up the cleaning process. Here's how to get your home ready.

Prepare your home

Any time and effort put into prevention before a flood occurs will save you a lot of trouble after the fact. By taking the following steps, you can minimize the amount of water that comes into your home.

Seal ground-level doors and windows
Ground-level doors, basement windows, and other windows at or below ground level can all be prime spots for water infiltration. There are a variety of weather protection sealants and caulks that you can use to create a tight seal around windows and doors and keep water from getting in.

Inspect your home's exterior
Take a walk around your home and check the exterior for holes, cracks, loose siding, missing shingles, and any other issues that could lead to a leak. A pair of binoculars can come in handy for getting a good look at the roof and the top of your siding. Potential problems should be repaired as soon as possible.

Prepare your drainage system
Your eavestroughs and downspouts are responsible for directing water away from your home, so they need to be clean and in good repair. Downspouts should drain well away from the basement walls. You can use a downspout extension to keep runoff from pooling around your foundation.

Make sure you have a working sump pump
Any home with a foundation below the water table needs to have a sump pump to remove water that accumulates in the sump pit. To test a sump pump, simply pour enough water into the sump pit to raise the float. The sump pump should turn on and begin pumping the water away. A home that has a sump pump should also have a battery-operated backup sump pump installed. In the event of a power outage or a primary pump failure, the battery backup will automatically take over and protect your basement from flooding.

Make a plan

Your household needs to have a plan in place for what to do in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood. Discuss how you would evacuate from different rooms, how you should transport pets, and where you would go if it is not safe to stay in your home.

As a flood can create numerous fire hazards, make sure you also have a fire safety plan in place. This should include keeping a fire extinguisher on each floor and having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed. Check them to ensure that they are still up to code and that the batteries are working.

To help rescue workers locate your home in any type of emergency, make sure that your street number is clearly displayed and visible from the road. Install bold numbering and trim back any trees or shrubs that might obscure it.

Prepare a disaster kit

Every home should have a disaster kit in an accessible location that everyone in the household is aware of. Keep it in a duffle bag or a backpack so that it will be easy to grab and carry, and store the supplies in waterproof containers.

A disaster kit should include the following items:

Do a clean-up checklist

When the flood waters have receded, it's time to tackle the clean-up. The recovery process can feel daunting, but being well-prepared will help you get off to a good start.

Here are some recommended flood cleaning supplies to have on-hand:

Clean up

If you had to evacuate during a flood, then be careful when coming back home. Return only when local authorities have cleared the area. Check your home for signs of structural damage and make sure that there are no nearby hazards such as loose power lines.

Getting started
Make sure you wear the proper protective clothing when cleaning up after a flood (see list above). You should also wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt to protect your skin. Open doors and windows to let in air and set up box fans around your home to promote ventilation.

Pumping a basement
You may be tempted to pump out a flooded basement as quickly as possible, but this can create even more damage. The walls are likely under a lot of pressure from water-saturated soil, and pumping the water too quickly can cause them to collapse. A good rule of thumb is to pump about a third of the water volume a day.

Cleaning and disinfecting
Items and materials that were soaked and damaged during a flood will need to be discarded. This includes rugs, furniture, carpet, vinyl flooring, buckled wood flooring, drapes, mattresses, and toys. Any food, toiletries, or medications that came into contact with the water should be discarded as well.
Next, you will need to clean and disinfect hard surfaces that were submerged or near the flooded area. For disinfecting, you can use trisodium phosphate (TSP), being sure to avoid contact with skin and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. TSP can be used on walls, tile, linoleum flooring, cabinets, and woodwork.

Removing drywall
Drywall that was submerged during a flood should be removed quickly to prevent warping, buckling, rotting, and mould growth. It is recommended that you cut the drywall at least 50 cm above the height reached by the water. You can install new drywall panels once clean-up is complete and finish the joints to hide any signs of past flood damage. Once the majority of the standing water left behind after a flood has been removed by pumps and buckets, you can use a wet/dry shop vacuum to finish the job. These specialized vacuums are made to handle water and wet debris.

Get rid of mould and mildew

The moisture and humidity left behind by a flood can easily encourage mould and mildew growth. Here are some tips for cleaning mould and mildew and preventing the further spread of spores throughout your home:
  • Open blinds and windows to let in sunlight and increase air circulation.
  • Ventilate closed areas such as cabinets and closets with fans, and use desiccants to draw moisture from the air.
  • Use a dehumidifier to speed up the process of drying walls.
  • Clean mould and mildew with mould control products specifically designed to stop spores from spreading.
  • Remove mildew stains on hard surfaces with fine-grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand gently.

Keep an eye out for stains

In the months following a flood and the flood clean-up, you'll want to keep an eye out for any water stains, mould and mildew stains, musty smells, and warping floors. Take immediate action to clean and disinfect any mould and mildew and repair water leaks.

After the restoration process is complete, the repairs are finished, and new drywall is installed, you can repaint the affected area. Use this as an opportunity to make your home look even better than it did before by choosing the right interior paint.

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