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Help for homeowners recovering from a flood

Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 9:57 a.m. CDT

Mold, clean well water and contractors with integrity are all issues homeowners should consider as they rehabilitate their homes after a flood.

If there has been water damage, the best rule of thumb is “when in doubt, throw it out.” According to University of Illinois Extension Disaster Education Chair Richard Atterberry, every textile or porous substance has the potential to trap moisture and grow mold. Carpet padding should be discarded, but carpet and some furniture might be salvageable.  A free publication, “First Steps to Flood Recovery” can be picked up at the DeKalb County Extension office, 1350 W. Prairie Drive in Sycamore, or viewed online at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/ag/issues/documents/FloodRecoveryPurdue.pdf.

Anything that is porous, including wood, should be completely dry before it is covered. Wooden subfloors and even concrete slabs can take weeks or months to dry completely. Drywall, other wallboard and insulation should be discarded if it has come into contact with water. Wood framing and studs should be dry to a level of 15 percent or less before new drywall, sheetrock or paneling is installed.

If a well has been flooded, the EPA recommends running a hose until the water is clear and free of sediment. Next, open the well and carefully pour one gallon of bleach into the well. Run the hose again until there is an odor of bleach, then open faucets one at a time until an odor of bleach can be detected in each. Turn off the faucets and let the system sit overnight.  Do not drink or cook with the water. The next day, run all of the faucets until the bleach smell goes away. Have the water tested, wait about a week and test it again. Do not drink it in the meantime.

Another concern for homeowners is choosing the right professional help. Unscrupulous “contractors” often descend on an area after a disaster. Atterberry says that they may try to convince you to remove the drywall and install new immediately.

“A fan can help accelerate drying time, but there is no real way to hurry the process,” he said. “As always, be sure that any contractors you are considering hiring are bonded/insured, ideally have local references you can check, and don’t ask for large sums of money up front.”

Stop by the University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County office at 1350 W. Prairie Drive in Sycamore for free copies of the following publications to help you safely rehabilitate your home after a flood: “First Steps to Flood Recovery,” “Plan Today for Tomorrow’s Flood,” “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home,” “Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home” and “From Moisture and Mold to Healthy Homes.”

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