Flood water damage restoration – what to do after a flood
Water damage in your home might seem like something that only happens in movies or to people who live in flood-prone areas. But it can happen unexpectedly. And when it does it can feel overwhelming.
There are many reasons why flooding and water damage could impact your home. Some of the reasons we’ve seen include:
- The washing machine or dishwasher leaks water during the wash cycle.
- The washing machine or dishwasher waste hose comes loose or leaks water.
- The hot water system leaks. This can lead to large amounts of water impacting your home in a short space of time (particularly if you’re not home to catch it early!)
- Broken pipes and hoses (for example going to the dishwasher) under sinks and basins.
- And overrun bath.
- External issues, such as sewage backup in the street causing a backflow into bathrooms and showers.
- A leaking roof in a storm.
- A storm-damaged roof, window or wall caused by falling trees (or other structures) allowing water into homes.
- Water run-off from the road entering your property during heavy rain.
- Over-flow from the neighbour’s swimming pool entering your house during rain.
There are three different types of water that you may deal with when you have a flooding issue in your home.
- Clean water (category 1) might come from rain or leaky pipes and doesn’t have harmful bacteria growing in it.
- Grey water (category 2) comes from sources like your dishwasher or washing machine, and may be slightly contaminated.
- Black water (category 3) can come from sewers or flooding from a nearby body of water.
In this article we’ll talk about what to do if your house is flooded with category 1 or 2 water. For information about category 3 water, or black water, you can read our specialty article.
What do I do if my home floods?
- The first thing you should do is get your family and pets to safety.
- Once everyone is safe, stop the source of the water entering the home if possible and safe to do so.
- This about who needs to be notified. If it seems to be a big problem impacting multiple properties, emergency services should be notified. If it’s isolated to your property, report it to your water company and local council. If you rent, make sure you let the landlord know.
- Call the State Emergency Service if you need support to secure your home.
- Contact your insurance company to let them know what has happened.
What should I do when I go back into my home?
- The first important step is to make sure the property doesn’t pose a danger to yourself or anyone who is cleaning up.
- Make sure children and pets are kept out of the affected area until the clean-up has been completed. This is particularly important if grey water or black water is present.
- Make sure there are no electrical hazards. Switch off the power at the switchboard. If you’re unsure, consult an electrician.
- Document everything. Although the first thing on your mind is cleaning up the mess you need to take photos and videos to capture all aspects of the damage.
- The water that’s flooding your home may be contaminated, so don’t touch it. It’s a good idea to wear appropriate protective gear, such as waders, waterproof boots and rubber gloves.
- Use a torch when entering a building, never use matches or cigarette lighters.
How do I clean-up after a flood?
- Sweep out water. Remove any mud and silt that has built up in the house.
- Remove all wet items from the house as soon as possible so they can be cleaned and dry properly. This also allows for more airflow inside the house to assist it to dry out.
- Throw away items that can’t be salvaged. If grey water or black water is present this will include household materials that can’t be effectively cleaned or disinfected such as carpet, upholstered furniture and mattresses.
- If plasterboard is waterlogged it will need to be removed and thrown away.
- Throw away any food and medication that has been in contact with flood water.
- Thoroughly wash with soap, detergent or a bleach solution all affected surfaces.
- Remove kickers from beneath kitchen cabinets so the air can circulate underneath and assist things to dry out.
- Check under the house to make sure there is no water pooling under there. Use a pump or dig a drain if necessary to remove the water. This is important to allow the house to dry out properly.
- If it’s not raining, keep windows and doors open to maximise ventilation and drying. On wet days, leave the windows ajar so there is still some ventilation.
- Heaters, fans, air conditioners and dehumidifiers can be used, but don’t use too much heat or it can cause wood to warp and split.
Safety and hygiene
- Get an electrician to check electrical appliances before you turn them back on. Most have the electric motor mounted very low to the floor, so even a small amount of water can cause damage.
- Make sure you disinfect cleaning mops, brooms and brushes at the end of each cleaning session. A bleach-based cleaning solution is recommended.
- Clean and dry your dirty boots, waders and gloves and wash your clothes in hot water and soap separately from uncontaminated items at the end of each cleaning session.
- Any cuts, grazes or wounds need to be treated immediately. Disinfect the wounded area and cover with a waterproof dressing. Keep wounds clean by washing well with soap and clean water at the end of each cleaning session.
Can I live in my house while it’s being restored?
Sometimes you can live in the house while the restoration and repair work is being carried out, but other times it’s best if the house is left vacant for health and safety reasons, or to best enable it to properly dry out.
Your local council will be able to help you assess if you can live in your house, however, in general a house can be lived in when:
- There is no health or safety risk.
- The initial clean-up of water and debris is complete.
- The power and gas supply has been checked and safely restored.
- All water supply and sewage systems have been checked and declared safe.