Returning Home After the Harvey Leaves

The sun peeked out Wednesday afternoon for a few minutes over west Houston reminding everyone briefly that it still is there. This was followed by heavy rains stretching from Houston to almost New Orleans as Tropical Storm Harvey moved back onshore and headed in a northeasterly direction. The end of the rain may be in sight but it will take weeks or months before all the floodwaters in Houston and elsewhere recede and dry ground reappears.

Homeowners whose homes have been flooded, will be anxious to review the damage as quickly as possible. Here are some guidelines from FEMA I believe is important to share.

  • The floodwater in and around your home is likely polluted and may contain raw sewage, mold, oil, gasoline, and other pollutants. Wear rubber boots or waders when walking through the water to avoid exposure.
  • Wear rubber boots, gloves, and goggles during cleanup of your home.
  • Turn off electricity and gas to avoid risk of fire, shock, or electrocution.
  • Have a licensed electrician check the house before turning power on.
  • If you have flood insurance, photograph all damage before you demo anything to help with claim processing.
  • Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.

I’ve had several discussions with flood victims, and here’s what I’ve recommended they do once the water has receded from their home.

  • Remove all carpet and padding and throw them away due to the contaminants in the water.
  • Clean all tile, vinyl, hardwoods, and laminate flooring with bleach water.
  • Watch for cupping or warping on any natural wood flooring. If tiles “pop” or vinyl lifts you may have water underneath it which may require the floor covering be removed so the slab can be cleaned and dried.
  • Sheetrock acts as a sponge and floodwater will “climb” up walls as it soaks into it. Find the dry area above the water line, about 2 to 6 inches above the waterline, and remove it. Dispose of it like the carpet and padding.
  • Be careful removing sheetrock around wiring and plumbing in the walls.
  • Remove all wet insulation from exterior walls. Like carpet, it will need to be replaced.
  • Remove baseboards and wipe down with bleach water to clean them and allow them to dry for at least a week before attempting to reuse them. If they warp, replace them with new baseboards.
  • Wipe down all cabinetry with bleach water to clean them.
  • Before attempting to use any appliance (stove, refrigerator, dish washer, washer, dryer, etc.) have it checked by a licensed technician to see if it’s safe to operate.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to hang new sheetrock. The studs need to be treated with bleach water to prevent mold from occurring and allowed to completely dry.

As damaged items are removed from the home, FEMA suggests separating the debris into six categories when you put them curbside.

  • Electronics – TV, computer, stereo, etc.
  • Large appliances – ovens, refrigerators, freezers, etc. (secure the doors to keep children out.
  • Hazardous waste – oil, batteries, paint, etc.
  • Vegetative debris – trees, limbs, plants, etc.
  • Construction debris – drywall, lumber, carpet, padding, etc.
  • Household garbage

Check with local city laws to confirm the above FEMA recommendations are compliant.

Lastly, be wary of hiring anyone to do demo or repair work who knocks on your door. Hire local professionals who have an office. They’ll be around long to help make things right while the out of state person may not be. Have a suggestion, question, or experience you’d like to share? Please share them on my Facebook, Google +, or LinkedIn page. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks!

Ed Wise

Wise Insurance Group

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