When many people think about flood damage, they picture a catastrophe in which their home is completely submerged in water and they’ve lost everything they own. While insurance companies have their own legal definitions of what constitutes a flood zone, the term “flood” can apply to any situation in which you have water standing in your home. For instance, if a hose on your washing machine malfunctions and spews water across the room, you would recognize that your laundry room has flooded. The same could be said if a waterline under your kitchen sink breaks, or if something goes wrong with your shower.
When your home has been compromised by water, legal definitions don’t mean much. It’s vitally important that you protect your home from the lasting damage caused by water, even if it’s only a couple inches. While we don’t recommend that homeowners try to tackle major water remediation on their own, there are certain steps you can take to protect your home after a minor flood.
Whether you have a couple inches of water in a laundry room, or your basement took on a small amount of water during a major storm, mold growth is one of the biggest problems that homeowners face following a flood. It doesn’t take a lot of water to produce mold in your home, which means that you need to act quickly. This is especially true if you or someone in your home suffers from respiratory problems. Please note, if mold has already started to grow, it’s not advised that you try to clean the mold yourself. Instead, we’re going to look at how you can go about preventing mold in your home.
In order for mold to grow and reproduce, it requires temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a food source such as drywall, humidity levels that fall within the most common range, and oxygen. You don't have to be a scientist to understand that every home has those ingredients, meaning mold can grow anywhere.
When your home suffers a minor flood, there are some steps that you should take to help prevent mold growth. Mold begins growing quickly. In fact, mold can start growing on your drywall 24-48 hours after it is exposed to water. In addition to growing on your drywall, mold can also grow on the wood behind your drywall, and the insulation in your walls. Time is of the essence when your home has been exposed to water, and there are several steps that you can take to prevent the spread of mold.
The first, and perhaps most obvious step is to get rid of any standing water in your home. For instance, if the water has pooled up in the basement of your home, you probably have a floor drain somewhere in the space. While the process can take some time, you can help with mold prevention by taking a push broom and pushing the water into the floor drain. It’s also a good idea to use a wet/dry shop-vac to suck some of the standing water up. When the tub in the shop-vac fills up, you can pour it outside or use your floor drain. The main idea here is to get as much standing water out of the space as possible. Obviously, if the room in your home that has flooded doesn’t have a floor drain, you will need to take the water in your shop-vac outside to dump it.
If there is any furniture or appliances in the flooded space, get them away from the walls so you can remove any water that has gotten behind them. Since most large items sit against the walls of your home, water that is trapped behind them will quickly produce mold and compromise the structural integrity of your home. This will be a time-consuming process, but it’s among the most important. As long as water is present in the space, the chance for mold is high. Also, if there are any items in the space that are wet, get them out as quickly as possible. It may seem small, but when wet items are in the space, the air is moister, which facilitates the growth of mold.
Air It Out
This step actually comes with a caveat. If the air outside is very humid, airing the space out can do more harm than good, as you’re inviting more humidity into the flooded space. Remember, mold requires humidity to reproduce. However, if the air outside is “dry,” this can be a great way to help prevent the growth of mold in your home. Depending on the outside humidity levels, open up every window that you can to let the space air out naturally.
Was Your HVAC System Impacted?
One of the most effective ways to prevent mold from growing in your home is to circulate air in the space. However, if your HVAC system was impacted by the flood, you may be limited as to what you can do. If the system didn’t suffer any water damage, meaning that water didn’t flow down any of the vents in the space, you can make sure that your HVAC system is running. The circulation of air will help prevent mold from forming in a stagnant space. If the system was impacted, you can set up fans, preferably towards an open window or door, to help push moisture out of the space. It’s also a great idea to put a dehumidifier in the space to help dry the air out.
No matter what you’ve read online, scrubbing the sheetrock in your house with bleach will not remove mold. You may restore the outside of the sheetrock to its normal color but bleach itself will not kill mold. However, you can start scrubbing the surfaces in your home, including the walls, that have been exposed to water if mold has not had time to start growing. This is why acting quickly is important.
If you’re dealing with tile or stone surfaces, get a bristled scrub brush, a mixture of disinfectants and sanitizers, and scrub the surface vigorously. Be sure that you don’t use too much water, as you’re trying to dry the space out in addition to cleaning it. When you’re done scrubbing the surfaces, dry them as quickly as possible.
In most cases, minor floods are caused by a plumbing emergency, meaning the water that you’re working in and removing is probably clean. If you’re dealing with a damaged sewage pipe or flood mud, it’s highly recommended that you trust a professional who has the tools required to clean up the space safely.
In addition to cleanup steps that you can handle on your own, there are also ways that you can prevent the growth of mold in your home before a plumbing emergency. Installing a sump pump in any low-lying parts of your home can help ensure that standing water is quickly pumped out of the room and away from your home. Additionally, installing waterproof drywall like EnduraFlood Drywall can help ensure that your home doesn’t suffer water damage, mold growth, or any other problems that can stem from floods, both minor and major.