Clearing Up Flood Damage

Before you enter your home after a flood, walk around and check for structural damage, loose electrical wires and the smell and hissing sound of gas leaks. Call the authorities and leave if any of these problems exist. If your house is fire-damaged or has not been declared safe by authorities, do not enter. Turn on your flashlight before you go inside — the spark of flashlight battery could ignite pockets of leaked natural gas. Wear boots and rubber gloves. Wild animals may have taken refuge in you home because of the flood, so proceed slowly and carefully, watching for snakes and other creatures.

Once you are inside your home, be careful of loose, slippery and missing flooring. Do not smoke and do not bring lit candles, gas lanterns or any flaming object inside. If you hear a continuous blowing sound, leave immediately and call the gas company. If the main valve for gas is outside, you can try to turn it off yourself, but, if you do, do not attempt to turn it back on later — leave that task to a professional from the gas company.

When you enter your house, do not turn on any electrical switches. If the electricity is still on at the main panel, turn it off, unless doing so means standing in water. Unplug appliances and any other device powered by electricity if it is safe to do so.

Do not use water from any faucet in the house. Drink only bottled or treated water. Use treated water for cleaning yourself up. If there are water pipes leaking in the house, you can turn off the water supply at the home’s main valve. Do not flush any toilets in the home until you have been told by the authorities that the sewage lines in the neighborhood are intact and usable.

wall of sandbags to fend off raging river

If the basement is flooded, do not try to pump it dry all at once. Each day, pump out about one third of the water. Removing more than that amount may cause the floor to buckle and the walls to collapse, especially if the ground surrounding the home is saturated with water. Also, be aware that any chemicals that were kept in the basement may have escaped and contaminated the water. When the basement is pumped dry, use diluted bleach, 1 cup per gallon of water, to scrub down the foundation walls.

Clean up by throwing out just about everything touched by the floodwaters. Even canned goods are not safe. Some items, though, are irreplaceable and you can try to salvage them if you like. Such items as jewelry, photographs, books and family heirlooms can be washed clean of mud, sealed in plastic bags and, if possible, frozen. Freezing reduces the continued deterioration of these goods and allow restoration to be done later. Even money, whether paper currency or hard coins, can be saved this way.


Before you throw anything out, take photos of all damaged items for which you want to file an insurance claim. Take photos of the house before you begin your cleanup and then afterward. Once you get in touch with your insurance agent, ask for a estimated timeline on the entire process. You shouldn’t have to leave anything in a damaged state in order to get paid later for the repair by an insurance company. Do whatever you have to do to secure your home from further damage. For example, a temporary roof may be a necessity. Keep your receipts for the supplies and the records of the work you have done, but don’t make any permanent major repairs until your insurance agent approves the work.

Flood Damage Restoration Professionals

Some damage caused by flood or water may be so bad you will need to call in some professional help. Floors, ceilings and walls that have been submerged may need to be demolished, removed and replaced. Rely on the advice of a contractor who has had experience with flood damage repair and restoration.

Even after you’ve had your home cleaned up, repaired and sanitized, have an electrician check out all the electrical systems of the house and a plumber check the water supply, the water drainage and the sewage drainage systems. Don’t feel that you have to wait for the insurance company to approve reimbursement for all repairs. In fact, if you claim too much, you may find that your insurance premium will climb. Forego insurance reimbursement on some minor repairs and have them done by paying out of your own pocket.

Floods affect not just you and your family, but also the entire community in which you live and work. Look beyond the boundaries of your own lot to see what you can do to help your neighbors after a flood.