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This is not my text but was put together by a community of people, mainly one particular user who has cleaned up houses after floods.

This information provided by the performanceforums.com community

Cleaning up after a flood

With my experience (which extends to managing flood damage mitigation of homes in Newcastle in 2007, just to give you an idea) this is what I would do if my house was inundated with flood water:

The key in these situations is to get the place clean and habitable as soon as possible – it’s always the best outcome.

1. Safety first

Gear:

  • face mask
  • sturdy gloves
  • wash water
  • hand wash soap
  • safety glasses

You are dealing with Category 3 water loss – this is the same category as raw sewage. You don’t know what is in the water, so you must treat it as contaminated and use some common sense.

Use a paper face mask simply to prevent water from splashing in your mouth. When working in affected areas, wear gloves, and have wash water and soap on hand, taking regular breaks to wash your hands and face. I’d also replace the mask if it gets splashed. Wear safety glasses to minimise splashing in your face and, hey, you’ll probably be working with power tools – it is common sense. This is the minimum protection I would suggest and is what I would do. If you have access to better protection, use it.

Switch house power off

Isolate power to the house if you can, the easiest way is to trip the main circuit-breaker. Use battery-powered tools where possible, instead of 240v tools, until you have the place cleaned up. If you use power tools, use a generator/genset, not mains power – leave the house isolated.

2. Cleaning

Gear:

  • large plastic tubs or cardboard boxes lined with heavy duty garbage bags
  • large sturdy garbage bags
  • friend with operational washing machine
  • friend with non-contaminated space to clean your belonging stuff
  • digital camera to take pics of your damaged stuff

Before you start, you’ll need a bunch of large plastic storage containers. Buy in bulk from a $2 shop as you will need enough to pack your household contents (at least the ones which copped flood water) into them.

3. Timing

Don’t be in a rush to get back to your house because I have seen first hand flood water recede and then come back with a vengeance. Check reports from several sources to make sure the flood is actually over and it is safe to return. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clean places twice in two days. And be careful driving through flood affected areas.

4. Where to start?

Don’t be in a massive rush to rip into the clean up. I’ve always found when dealing with floods – whether it’s one house or 1000 – you’ll be more productive if you stop, sit down with the team helping you and discuss the plan and objectives.

I’m going to pretend the water was 1m deep and go from there. If you had more or less water, the response might be slightly different, but the basic idea is the same: use your common sense.

Remove all clothing items and linen, stuff it into bags or put it in plastic tubs/lined boxes. Call a friend and put them on washing duty – this means everything, even shoes. Wash them thoroughly and dry them out, as you can then make an assessment as to whether they are salvageable.

If you leave them dirty, you don’t have a choice – they will be ruined. A good option is to wash everything twice, but the second time ‘round, use an anti-microbial in the rinse cycle. You can then be sure there will be nothing to fear lurking in the fabrics.

While your friend is washing clothing, remove any soft furnishings, furniture, carpet, underlay, beds and the like. Soft furnishings are anything porous or which can soak up water. Unfortunately for the kids, their soft toys and pillows, cushions and the like are all ruined. The only thing to do with that stuff is to dump it – sorry kids. For the time being, dump it on your footpath as the council will do curb-side collection – in some cases with a front-end loader!

At the same time as stuff is being dumped on the footpath have someone pack up the house. And that means everything, the whole house, from CDs to crockery, to china dolls to cutlery. Pack everything (and I stress, everything) into plastic storage tubs/lined boxes and give them to a friend.

Tell this friend to take care of your worldly belongings, but “scrub the bejesus out of them”. I’d scrub everything by hand, with brushes and detergent. Goods should be rinsed with an anti-microbial solution if possible and run everything that will fit through the dishwasher – it’s already been in practically sewerage, so going through a good scrub is not going to make it worse, just sanitary. Be careful with items that are not suitable for high temperate or scrubbing eg. CD’s and DVD’s – these are generally not affected by water and only require a gentle wash and rinse with anti-microbial.

Electronics are beyond the scope of my tips here. At this time, I’d assume everything electronic is ruined and dump it. This applies to appliances as well – everything from the fridge, to oven and cooktop, washing machine dryer and that nice new TV. Sorry, but it’s probably all stuffed.

That’s belongings and contents (electronics and furniture) taken care of. The house should have no carpets or anything like that left, and this includes removing fake timber floors and the like. Now, it is onto the house itself.

5. Once it is stripped of the belongings

Once the place is stripped we look at stuff like hard furniture. A lot of hard furniture, even timber furniture, may be ok to keep if it is cleaned properly (ie: scrub the bejesus out of it). It’s already been submersed, so putting it in water again to clean it won’t make it worse.

Make a judgement on what to keep and what to dump, but remember that water gets everywhere: you will have to disassemble every/anything that was affected and check everything closely and clean thoroughly.

Next up is the walls. Most places have Gyprock, so my advice is based on this fact. Gyprock panels are 1.2m so take your battery angle grinder with a blade, or your small hand saw, and cut out all Gyprock touched by flood water. Yes, all of it.

I’d advise cutting 100mm above where the water reached, and remember to take care around plumbing and wiring. You should have already isolated the power, so there is no risk of being zapped, but you don’t want to pay for electrical repairs when putting the house back together, so go easy. Once you’ve cut it all out, dump all the flood affected Gyprock on the curb.

By the end of this, you should, if you get on your knees, be able to see all the external walls of the house and be left with nothing but a timber frame from (just above) the height of the flood, down to ground. Skirtings need to be removed, as well as internal doors, too.

The concept is the same if your house went under to the roof. You just remove more Gyprock, so you are just left with the frame in the house and roof. However, be careful handling insulation in roofs it is generally extremely disgusting to handle (and smell) and you should use thick gloves when handling fibreglass insulation and the like.

If your house has been inundated up to the roof, be careful removing ceiling panels for 2 reasons:
1. Insulation may be soaked above the ceiling and it may come down with a crash.
2. Where do you think the local wildlife ends up in a flood? Watch for snakes and other creepys in your roof and walls as you pull the place apart.

6. Washing/sanitising the house

Gear:

  • detergent
  • scrubbing broom
  • pressure cleaner
  • or mop & bucket
  • large squidgy
  • or drying towels
  • anti-microbial liquid and garden sprayer

Next up is detergent and broom and pressure cleaner time. A fire hose is best, then the next best is a pressure washer (Karcher or Gerney type thing), then mop/bucket.

The detergent doesn’t matter too much, either – Truckwash will do. The most important factor is to “scrub the bejesus” out of everything from the inside of the external walls, to all the frame work and, of course, the floor. You can then towel dry the frame and mop the floor.

After it has been cleaned, you can go around with a decent pump pack and apply an anti-microbial to absolutely everything the flood water was in contact with. Let the anti-microbial dwell and drip dry. I’d apply a helping to the floor too, then after a couple of hours of dwell time, squeegee the floor again.

If you follow the above concept – mould etc will not be an issue so don’t listen to what will inevitably become the next lead story sensationalising massive mould problems. If you get it clean and dry in a reasonable timeframe you’ll have no problems.

7. It’s sanitary – what next?

Gear:

  • plastic sheets
  • staple gun
  • flatbed scanner

What you are left with is a gutted house that will dry quickly if there is adequate airflow. It should be ready for plasterers and paint, and you’re back in business.

Your friend will deliver your clothes and other stuff that could go through the washing machine. Your other friend will deliver all your kitchenware and other bits and pieces that could be salvaged. Leave all that stuff in tubs and live out of plastic tubs until the house is done as it will keep things clean.

Have an electrician come through and give your lights and power the OK. The electrician will probably put a single 10a GPO in and give you one circuit to live on, because the rest are basically exposed and will remain exposed until plasterers put up new Gyprock.

For privacy (only if you absolutely need it) inside, just staple heavy black plastic to the exposed frame. If you do this, it is very important to only put it on one side of the wall, as the frame needs to dry properly.

Council will look after sewage. Leave the toilet a few days, then flush it and clean it.

You’ll have friends helping – that’s what friends are for. Make sure one of them has a camera and they need to document the damage and document everything you dispose of – no matter how small! This is particularly important for electronic items, and they need to photograph serial numbers, too.

You will probably also have a lot of paperwork that is important and worth protecting. This is all stuff you can give to a friend who has a flat-bed scanner (and they need to be a good friend as their scanner is going in the bin when you are finished with it).

Try to scan everything/anything you can, including family photos, title deeds, receipts, tax info and the like. It’s not economical to have a commercial restorer try and salvage this stuff or your computer stuff – just have a savvy friend do their best and accept that if they get a good scan of one document or photo, it’s better than nothing.

8. Rebuilding your house

If you get your house clean, habitable and get some essentials in there, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get restorers/builders in. In fact, you are freeing them up those resources to help those that may not be able to do it themselves (i.e. the elderly/disabled).

Your house may be a bare frame/shell for a while, but it’s safe, sanitary and you can live in it for the time being. Your insurance will rebuild it, but who knows when and how long it will take? There are crews of restoration guys doing this for insurers, but who knows how long the queue is?

Feel free to copy and redistribute this document as required, it is important that information is shared. We only ask that you credit PerformanceForums (PF) for producing this original document.