The flooding has been horrific these past three months. According to accountancy firm, PwC, the bad weather caused £630m worth of damage to homes and buildings in December and January alone, and James Rakow, insurance partner at Deloitte, expects household insurance claims to average out at £30,000 to £40,000 each, once processed.
If you’ve fallen victim to the recent flooding, don’t panic. Our post-flood recovery plan will help you get organised and regain control, so that you own your property rather than have your property owning you. Our timescale indicates the optimum period for carrying out certain tasks, however this isn’t mandatory. You may find that it takes you longer to complete the list. The first 48 hours are crucial, since the sooner you can complete tasks the less lasting damage is likely to be inflicted on your home, but it’ll take a few months for your property to recover fully.
Start with the checks
Our first instinct is to enter our properties to try and rescue prized possessions but hold back if you haven’t already done so. Before you enter your home, make sure that it’s safe to do so. Wear gloves, rubber boots and protective clothing and look for standing water around the outside walls. If water is still present, don’t enter as the building could be structurally unsound. Look for cracks in the foundations, loose power lines, dislodged floor panels and missing supports in any overhangs. If there are any warning signs, don’t go in and instead contact the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors to find a property surveyor to come and investigate.
Turn off the power
We all know that water and electricity doesn’t mix, so make sure that your electrical supply is turned off. Your power company may have turned off the power in the area but should they turn it on while you’re working in your home, this will put you at risk. Make sure that it’s disconnected. Also turn off your gas until you’re sure that your oven and gas pipes haven’t been damaged or moved in the flood, exposing you to a gas leak. If you suspect a leak, head outside and hire a Gas Safe registered heating engineer to inspect your home.
Inspect your front door
How easy is it to open your front door? If it’s sticking at the bottom, it has probably just warped but a sticking door at the top can be an indication that your ceiling’s in danger of collapse. Hire a surveyor or roofer to help if need be.
Record the damage
Make a written and visual record of the damage to your home to help you with any insurance claims. If you have flood insurance, complete the ‘Proof of Loss’ form within 60 days of the flood itself and call your insurance company to make a claim. Your own records will help you fill out the form and also liase with the adjuster who will visit your property to assess the damage firsthand.
Clean the most important items
Flood water can damage possessions, particularly fabric, so wash off any mud and algae with clean water as soon as possible, being sure to use the least amount of water as you can, before applying the appropriate disinfectant for the material that you’re working with. While upholstered furniture and mattresses can rarely be saved (for hygiene reasons rather than visual appeal), wooden furniture such as a dining table may fare better if it hasn’t been left in water for too long.
Remove it to a dry place and clean it with fresh water, removing any signs of mould with turpentine or a solution that’s 50/50 ammonia and water, before wiping it dry. If the furniture was sitting in water for a long time, it can take at least 2 weeks, running into a month or two to dry out after cleaning so be patient and take the furniture apart to try and speed things up. In the case of a wooden staircase, refrain from climbing up it for two months until you’re sure that it’s dry and that there are no loose parts rendering it a safety hazard.
Commence with the drying process
Flood water doesn’t just damage the structure of your home and its possessions, it can cause harm to yourself and your family too if you don’t take care. Wear gloves at all times and don’t use washing machines or wash dinner plates until you’re sure that the water entering your home is clean. The next step is to pump out the flood water with a pump and (outside) generator but only if the water level is lower outside than inside your home, otherwise you risk damaging its structure. Keep the water pressure as stable as you can by pumping in stages, taking breaks in between. If your heating is gas or oil based and has been declared safe, turn it on at 20 degrees celcius to aid the process.
Open all your drawers and cabinets to let the air circulate and run dehumidifiers to draw out the moisture within the four walls of your home. If you suspect that there’s water trapped within your walls, remove your skirting board and make a small hole 2 inches from the base of the wall. Should water drip out, drill a hole to let it pass through and hire a professional damp proofing specialist to assess the wall as this may need to be removed. Brickwork needs to dry out through evaporation, so make sure that your air vents are open and don’t be tempted to repaint bricks until they’re completely dry. If after three weeks, they still don’t seem fully dry, hire a damp proofing specialist to check these for you in case you’ve developed a case of rising damp.
Make temporary adjustments before contacting your suppliers
Cover any gaps in your roof, windows and walls with plastic sheets to prevent further damage. Once the water has been removed and the risk of electrocution has disappeared, you can contact your gas and electricity companies to switch your supplies back on. This is only worth doing however, if you’re going to move back into your home immediately.
Start repairs and assess your flood proofing
In your rush to get things back to normal, don’t make the mistake of decorating just yet. Wait until 3-4 months have passed following your attempt to dry out your home before you repaint, plaster or lay new flooring. You may think the materials are dry on the surface but if they’re not completely dry beneath, they will start to falter – blistering and peeling on your walls or crumbling beneath your feet.
Before you start with that new coat of paint, have a damp proof specialist visit to assess how well your home would cope with the threat of damp in the future. You may find that better insulation for example could make flood repairs easier should you be unlucky enough to suffer from flooding again.
Whether you need a damp proof specialist, Gas Safe heating engineer, roofer, flooring specialist or painter and decorator to help you fix your flood-damaged home, post your job and up to three local tradesmen will get in touch to help. You’ll be sent links to their profile pages, complete with previous customer recommendations, to help you decide who to hire. Note that damp proofing specialists can be found within our ‘Specialist Tradesman’ category.