After a Flood Restoration

Mold Remediation and Water Damage Restoration After a Flood

During flooding cleanup, the indoor air quality in homes, offices or any type of building may at first glance be the last thing on anyone’s mind, but failure to completely and properly dry building interiors and remove any and all contaminated materials can result in serious long-term health risks to a home or building workers.

Standing water and wet materials can be a breeding ground for microorganisms, including bacteria and mold. They can be allergy triggers or make asthma symptoms worse, and continue to damage building materials, and furnishings long after the flood.

Safety First

Safety is the first concern when entering a home or building that has been damaged by floodwaters.

Here are some general guidelines:

Next Priority – Drying Out

Once the building has been judged structurally sound, the next priority is to dry it out!

Many microorganisms, including mold begin growing within 24 to 48 hours. As a result, it is imperative to begin the drying process as soon as possible. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Remove standing water
  2. Identify and remove animal carcasses and materials affected by the water
  3. Dry out the area
  4. Wear protective clothing
  5. Clean and disinfect
  6. Hire professional help

Remove Any Standing Water

Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and be inhaled. In addition, floodwater that contains sewage or decaying animal carcasses may also harbor infectious microorganisms. To minimize health problems and lessen structural damage, all standing water should be removed as quickly as possible.

Identify and Remove Animal and Materials Affected by the Water

If a flood involves sewage-contaminated water or has animal matter floating in it, do not try to save any of the materials as exposure to this kind of water carries the additional hazard of infection with the hepatitis A virus.

Bag and throw away any materials that can trap mold. Also, make sure that there is no asbestos or lead in the materials to be thrown out. Disturbing or removing materials containing asbestos (such as in insulation) or lead (such as in lead-based paint) may result in elevated concentrations of those hazardous materials in the air. Just looking will not yield a definitive answer. Sampling may need to be done to verify the materials’ composition.

Some materials tend to absorb and keep water more than others. If these materials get wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried, discard them. Otherwise, they can remain a source of future microbial growth. Mold may begin growing 24 hours after the materials become wet although there may not be any visible signs of it. Molds are mistakenly considered more of a nuisance than a health threat, but their damage can be long lasting. Examples of water-absorbing materials that must be removed and thrown out include:

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Insulation
  • Paper
  • Rags
  • Drywall
  • Mattresses
  • Wicker furniture
  • Straw baskets
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Old boxes
  • Stuffed toys
  • Drapes
  • Plaster
  • Cork bulletin boards
  • Old clothing
  • Books

These items can retain water and begin growing mold even if they appear to be dry. Some may become contaminated with mold while wet and continue to be a source of mold spores and exposure even after drying. Flooded carpet, for example, can store mold spores for years. Any carpet if not properly maintained can store mold spores, and flooded carpet allows the mold to grow further. Running fans and opening windows is not enough. Once carpet becomes colonized (mold growing in the material), it needs to be discarded unless professional cleaning can effectively remove the microbiological contaminants.

Remove all drywall and insulation damaged by water at least 12 inches above the high water mark. Visually inspect the wall interior and remove any other materials with visible mold growth. (This step may have to be carried out by a licensed contractor.) This removal of mold-contaminated material from the walls is crucial because both allergic and toxic effects can remain in dead spores.

Dry Out the Area

If areas are wet, yet have not suffered from a flood, set up fans and turn on the HVAC system to help dry things out. It is important to do this because microorganisms like mold can quickly begin growing in materials. These can later be released into the air and trigger allergies and asthma attacks along with other health problems. If humidity levels are increased for a long time then dust mites may grow. Dust mites prefer humidity levels above 60 percent.

Be patient! The proper drying out process can take a long time.

In large buildings, the typical drying out period may be 7 to 10 days. It is imperative to not only dry the building, but to dry it out correctly. Drying out large buildings is a very complex process and will require the help of professionals. Believe it or not, if a building is dried out too quickly, interior furnishing materials can become damaged.

If the structure does not have electricity, do not use internal combustion engines indoors since they can quickly emit deadly levels of carbon monoxide. Examples include gasoline-powered generators, camp stoves and lanterns, or charcoal-burning devices. Do not use combustion devices designed for outdoor use inside, even in an emergency, since that can be deadly!

Dress the Part

Because mold may have begun growing in some of the materials that will be removed, be sure to wear appropriate protective clothing. Cleaning up mold can be hazardous to health since mold counts are typically 10 to 1,000 times higher than background levels during the cleaning of mold damaged materials. Here are some steps to follow:

Clean and Disinfect

All surfaces that are exposed to food, children or pets will need to be thoroughly cleaned. Also clean and disinfect non-porous materials such as glass, plastic or metal. Materials such as the tops of metal desks or file cabinets and concrete, cement, or tile floors can be cleaned using a solution of one (1) part bleach to 10 parts water. Be sure the area is well ventilated.

Hire Professional Help

Most mold remediation guidelines advise that if the area of mold growth is larger than 10 sq. ft. to hire a professional contractor to remove the mold and any contaminated materials. But be careful! After a major storm, unqualified opportunists may offer to help. Be wary of people who drive through neighborhoods offering help in cleaning up or repairs. Be sure that any contractors that are hired for cleanup or repairs are qualified to do the job. Check their credentials and their references. Insurance adjusters may be able to assist in finding reputable and qualified contractors.

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