By Cathy Lara, Houzz

As a first step, “any structural or building material that got wet has to be removed from inside the house,” says Mike Belk, a flood and mold specialist certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Then everything must be thoroughly dried out and any mold-contaminated materials must be removed before new construction can begin.

Related: How to Get Rid of Household Mold

If your home has been soaked, here’s what to do.

 American Red Cross, original photo on Houzz

A home’s dry standard differs per city and state. Most coastal homes already have a relatively high moisture content, but you generally want to have less than 16 percent moisture content in your home, Belk says.

Gold Coast Flood Restorations, original photo on Houzz

Get rid of all mold. Mold is the biggest concern with waterlogged homes; it can grow within 48 hours of water contact. Belk adds that in perfect conditions, mold can actually grow in as little as 24 hours.

If mold is present but the affected area is less than 10 square feet, it can be removed safely by applying the general water damage techniques mentioned above. “But for something like a waterlogged house from floodwater, homeowners should contact professionals after the storm’s cleared out, no matter how small they think the damage is,” says Belk. “If the damage is minor, an ethical company can recommend simple DIY procedures and the use of a mild detergent for affected surfaces. A good antimicrobial broad-spectrum sanitizer should be used when mold is present.”

Whether you have flood insurance and you’re waiting for a professional to assess and work on your home, or you think you’d like to do some damage control yourself, it’s best to:
●      Prevent new water from coming in.
●      Get rid of the water that’s in your home already.
“You can buy wet-dry vacuums, sump pumps, even a mop and a bucket combo — do what you can to get rid of the water before the professionals come,” Belk says. “It could make a huge difference in staving off more damage and mold.”

●      Ventilate. Keep your windows open for as long as you can, day and night. Turn fans toward the walls and reposition them throughout the day so the walls dry evenly. Keep the fans on 24/7 so that air can circulate through to the drywall.

●      Move items away from the walls. Move saturated rugs, furniture and other items outside of the home to air dry. “I highly recommend that people not just move but discard any item that’s been contaminated by the floodwater. It could carry an incredible amount of bacteria and cause health problems in the long run,” says Belk.

Related: Replace Ruined Furniture

 Gold Coast Flood Restorations, original photo on Houzz

A note on bleach. Builder Brian Rigney says homeowners get mixed signals about bleach. “Bleach may be good for nonporous surfaces, but it doesn’t permeate into wood, tile, Sheetrock, carpet or concrete. Professional steps should be taken to ensure the home is safe and mold free,” says Rigney, who often recommends clients to restoration specialists in his area.

Taylor agrees that bleach is not a long-term solution. “Only trained professionals can tell you if the mold levels or ecology in your home is roughly the same as it is outside of your home, because oftentimes mold exists on a microbial level.”

What indoor environmental professionals do. An indoor environmental professional — sometimes referred to as an industrial hygienist — works with the restoration specialist on sanitizing, drying and testing affected areas. “We all work on the affected areas in a negative air chamber so mold spores are contained,” Belk says. “All moldy surfaces are then treated with an antimicrobial agent; after, a HEPA filter removes impurities that may have been launched into the air.”

Homeowner Mary Kozma found mold growing in her Massachusetts basement after it flooded. “Restoration specialists came in to inspect and treat the walls properly before we did any work on the basement,” she says, adding that restoration work was not something that she and her builder-husband wanted to do themselves.

“No matter how small the damage is, I really think that now is not the time to do it yourself. Seek professionals with the training and experience to identify moisture sources, evaluate mold growth, contain damage, remove contamination and dry materials to ensure that mold will not return.”

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