How to Care for Your Belongings if You've Experienced Flooding
Follow these steps to help protect your personal property and minimize the damage during the water cleanup process.
Flooding can affect many parts of a home—the infrastructure, plumbing system, walls, and flooring—as well as damage the items inside. If you’ve experienced some type of flooding, whether from a natural disaster or a busted pipe, there are a number of steps you can take to help protect your belongings and minimize the amount of damage before and during the flood cleanup process. The key to saving your belongings from water damage is to act quickly and carefully; that way, they will be either completely salvageable or only minimally damaged. A professional water damage restoration company can help you dry the affected area and a licensed general contractor can make any necessary repairs caused by the flooding to help get your house back in working order.
How Water Can Cause Unexpected Damage
Unfortunately, when an item gets wet, it usually can’t simply be dried off and considered as good as new again. If something comes into contact with flood water, even if it’s not submerged, the water can be muddy or contaminated, which means the item could possibly be ruined. In addition to water damage, furniture and upholstered articles could begin growing mold if not properly cleaned, sanitized and dried during the water cleanup process. While you may want to try to save and restore certain things (especially if they are valuable or have sentimental value), if they are noticeably damaged, moldy, and/or beyond repair, it’s best to discard them. This way, you won’t risk using something that could be defective or affect your health.
Water can cause wood or wooden furniture to become weak, rot, break apart and grow mold if it isn’t protected before coming into contact with water or quickly moved from an area where flooding has occurred. Even if a wood surface doesn’t have direct contact with water, if a house is very humid or the air has a lot of moisture, these are perfect conditions for mold and mildew to grow. Keep in mind that restoring certain types of wood items could be very expensive. Wood veneer may not be worth the cost or effort to try and repair. You may be better off throwing away the item and replacing it altogether. Solid wood furniture can usually be restored unless it is very badly damaged. When wood is saturated it expands and then shrinks when it dries, which can cause warping, swelling or loose joints. One way to tell if you’re dealing with severe water damage is if wood easily chips or breaks apart.
Cloth items, such as couches/sofas, curtains and clothing can be damaged during flooding because they soak up contaminants and become discolored or stained by dirty water. If upholstered furniture is near the area of your home that’s flooded, even if not submerged, the cloth can become damp and develop white spots or a light film. During water cleanup, consider having items such as upholstered furniture cleaned by a professional and clothing dry cleaned—instead of attempting to do it yourself—so that they are properly restored to their original condition.
Certain antiques, collectibles, and valuable items may be able to be restored after flooding. While the restoration process may be costly, it may also be worth the time, effort and expense. You’ll need to consider the extent of the water damage and the value of the piece before you decide to repair it. It’s important not to try and do too much to an antique before taking it to a professional, other than letting it dry, cleaning it and preserving the original finish. When it comes to antiques (specifically wood) and water cleanup, it’s important that they dry out naturally without any extra air or heat sources. This will help reduce any uneven shrinkage which could lead to warping, cracking and splitting.
What You Can Do to Minimize Water Damage After Flooding
There are a number of steps you can take before the professional water cleanup contractors arrive to help remove the water and begin addressing water damage issues from the flooding. And even if you haven’t experienced flooding in your home, there are preventative measures you can take in the event that your home could flood. These include taking an inventory of your belongings (photos and written documentation), modifying your electrical system so sockets, switches, and wires are at least one foot above your property’s flood level, and elevating and anchoring your furnace and water heater.
BEFORE PROFESSIONALS ARRIVE:
- Move items to a safer location. This includes furniture, area rugs, appliances and electronics that are in the basement or lower levels of a home and moving them to higher ground if possible. You may need to completely remove more expensive items such as jewelry, antiques and collectibles from your home to a safe place to ensure they won’t get ruined. Keep in mind if there’s standing water present, it’s best to leave all items where they are and wait for a professional to arrive to ensure your safety.
- Cover belongings with plastic sheets. Protect your furniture with large plastic sheets, tarps or any waterproof material to help shield them from water and any repairs that may be made during the water cleanup or when the general contractor arrives. Since plastic sheets may not protect the bottom part of furniture, you should elevate the legs and stands on something sturdy such as cinder blocks.
- Shut off the water supply. If your house is flooding due to an issue with your plumbing system, you can manually turn off the water supply to your entire home with the main water valve, or isolate it depending on where the flooding is occurring. Toilets and sinks have a small valve underneath them that you turn clockwise, and appliances that use water usually have a shut-off valve or mechanism.
Get Professional Flood Cleanup Services
After a major episode of flooding, it’s best to call the professionals for help. First contact a water damage restoration contractor or company that can safely remove the water from your home and start the drying process. Depending on the types of services they offer, you may be able to use one company to perform both the water removal and the restoration work if your home requires repairs. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to hire a general contractor to fix any damaged parts that need rebuilding or repairs beyond the flood cleanup.
The information and advice contained in this article is intended as a general guide for informational purposes only. It does not take into account your personal situation. While we at Resolve have significant experience and history operating in the home restoration industry and working closely with construction contractors, we are not licensed as a general or specialty contractor. We encourage you to consider the information we’ve provided but urge you not to rely upon it in place of appropriate professional advice from a licensed, experienced construction contractor.