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After the flood: How to clean up your home

Severe flooding has devastated regions of the country, leaving homes damaged and homeowners struggling with what to do next. TODAY contributor and do-it-yourself expert Lou Manfredini offers suggestions for how to begin the process of cleaning up after a flood while avoiding potential hazards.

This year the early summer rains have caused a lot of damage. That is especially true in the middle of our country, where severe flooding has left disastrous results. This can be a time of great confusion as to what to do concerning safety, cleanup and even how to pay for all the restoration. While the payment issue is something you will need to address with your insurance company, I do have some simple steps to try to get your home back in order, a way to approach the cleanup so you avoid worse problems down the road.

The first step is to assess the damage and get all of the wet material out of your home. But before that happens you need to ensure that the home is safe to enter. Check with local officials to make sure the area is secure.

When severe flooding hits a home and several feet of water is present for a sustained amount of time, structural issues can occur. Never enter a basement area with standing water if the power is still connected to your home. If the water has receded, make sure the power is off before you enter. With high water levels, electrical devices can be under water, which can cause potential electrical hazards. In this scenario, all of the wiring and devices need to be removed and replaced. If your mechanical systems, including the furnace, water heater or gas valves, were under water, these entire units need to be replaced. Trying to repair them could cause potential hazards.

If you do not have power, a portable generator can help with providing power for some of the tools you’ll need. Try to locate a generator that is at least 5,000 watts, as that size of a unit can run tools, fans and even a refrigerator to keep you well fed during the cleanup. To learn more about generators, go to Honeywellgenerators.com. (Note: Never use a gas-powered generator in an enclosed area and always use the proper size extension cords.)

If you have finished walls in the home that were affected by standing water, those areas of the walls, including insulation, need to be cut out and disposed. Insulation left in place can lead to mildew and mold growth. Use a cordless reciprocating saw to cut out the drywall or plaster and pull out any wet insulation. If you can identify the water line, cut above that line by about four to six inches.

Once it is opened up, use strong fans to circulate the air. Air movement is the key to getting things dried out. Carpet fans and box fans can typically dry things out in just a couple of days. Once things are dry, the cleanup can begin. With the walls open, you can start to ensure that mildew and mold do not grow. Use basic cleaners like Oxy Clean Outdoor or Simple Green with some warm water and wash down and rinse clear all the affected areas. Again, let air blow on these cleaned areas to dry them.

After the areas are cleaned, you can apply a mold inhibitor like Mold Control Scottsliquidgold.com or a mold cleaner and inhibitor Moldexbrands.com. These products will ensure that mildew and mold won’t grow. 

The next step is to control odor. Fresh Wave is an available natural odor neutralizer that started as a commercial-based product. Their carpet shake, sprays and crystal gels will find the odors and eliminate them without a covering fragrance smell. You can find the product at many retailers across the country or at Fresh-wave.com.

Remember to take your time, use common sense and get as much help as you can. 

If you have more questions or comments, please visit Lou Manfredini at .

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