One of my Houston clients called me in April. It was the morning after they’d been evacuated by boat from their home in the middle of the night as north west Houston flooded. The water eventually reached 10 feet deep in the street and topped out about 2 plus feet on the first floor of her and her husband’s home. I used that conversation to review the preparations she and her husband made in advance of the floodwaters and outline a plan of what to do when the water receded. They good news is they have flood insurance!
The first step I advised was to go ahead and file an insurance claim with the flood insurance company. Doing so then, while water was in the home, would place them higher in the queue for having an adjuster come out to their home. I provided her with their policy number, amount of coverage on their home and contents, deductibles, and the claim number so she could start the process.
We next reviewed their preparations. Since they live in a 2 story home, they were able to place most of their smaller furniture electronics, and other personal property upstairs away from the floodwaters. Cabinets and anything that was too heavy to move, was used as a base to stack other items on top of minimizing the loss of personal property. It was a great move on their part.
The second step, which was the bulk of the conversation, focused on developing a plan for their home when the water receded and the work of the flood insurance claim begins. This is were the parts of the home damaged by floodwaters is remediated so the process of drying the home out can begin. I usually recommend this be done by a remediation firm who specializes in flood clean up. In the best of circumstances, floodwater usually contains chemicals and bacteria. If sewage treatment facilities are overrun, it can carry much worse items.
Flooring: Water logged carpet, padding, wood, and wood laminate flooring should be removed. They are usually unsalvageable. If water permeates beneath ceramic tile and it begins to pop, it and any permeable sub flooring or plywood should be removed too. Wood warps and cups and may have absorbed the same pollutants as carpet and padding will.
Walls and Windows: Sheetrock acts as a sponge and water will “climb” the walls. It should be removed up to an inch beyond where it’s wet. The studs behind the sheetrock will need to be treated to prevent mold from occurring. Baseboards, wood trim, and wooden frame windows may warp similar to wood flooring and need to also be replaced. Fabric window treatments that get wet also need to be replaced for the same reason as carpet and padding. Fans should be brought into the home to aid in the drying process.
Cabinets and Doors: Cabinets made of particle board or plywood will need to be replaced. They glue they are made with is not designed to withstand being in standing water. They are susceptible to falling apart or warping like wood flooring. The same may go for wooden doors.
Electrical Inspection: The higher the water rises, the greater they likelihood it may have impacted plugs and electrical appliances (ovens, washing machines, dryers, outlets, etc.). I recommend having a certified electrician inspect the system before you put new sheetrock up.
Before removing anything, take pictures of each room (one picture per wall) to document all damage. You may need these pictures to support your claim if it takes a while for an adjuster to arrive at your home. If furniture and other personal property was affected, pull records you may have, including receipts, to help document value. You’ll get more for your claim if you do.
Floods can create an awful mess. With a little preparation, however, putting your home and life back together while working through a flood insurance claim can be easier. Share your suggestions, questions, comments,, and experiences with me on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!