What To Do When Your Home Is Flooded – First Steps

The learning process is steep when your home is flooded.

I discovered that from personal experience in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

You’re not only dealing with the sudden and unexpected loss of your home and all your stuff, but also with a total disruption of your life and everything you were previously doing.

All your regular habits, work, family time, cooking, eating, sleeping, tv watching, even just going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth, are all tossed upside down. Things you didn’t even realize you depended on are gone.

Along with the disruptions, there are suddenly thousands of decisions you need to make. Where to stay? How to get your family’s basic needs met? What to spend money on now and what can wait? What can you save in your home? How to contact insurance companies? What assistance is available? What to do with wet stuff? What can you do/not-do yourself when it comes to cleanup and demolition?

It’s an odd feeling, but you can actually feel your brain getting sluggish. It gets hard to think. It’s overwhelming.

“Take a breath”

That’s the advice from Will Southcombe, who is the regional director of PuroClean. He deals with disasters such as floods on a regular basis.

“Hopefully, no one was seriously injured. Property can be repaired/replaced,” said Southcombe in an interview with Consumer Press.

He told us that the first thing to do upon reaching the flooded property is to take pictures and contact the insurance company.

“Cameras are ubiquitous these days, but no one really wants to take pictures of their damaged property.  However, this is one of the BEST things you can do.  Pictures from every corner of every room; do not forget closets and storage areas!

“The pictures show the true extent of the damage, and the pictures will help owners to make a more accurate list of what was damaged/lost by the event.”

Southcombe also said homeowners need to consider safety as they enter the property.

“Be especially careful and safe when dealing with electrical items.  If power lines are down, do not enter the area until the power company confirms all power is off. If there is flood water inside that means there may also be critters inside, especially in basements.  Explore carefully.”

When it comes to insurance, “every policy requires immediate notification,” said Southcombe.

“Many times insurance companies will set up ‘mobile offices’ to assist their policy holders.  They do not, typically, call individual homeowners to check on the home.  However, every insurance company has designated phone banks to handle calls, email, etc., to assist owners as much as possible.  It is important not to wait.

“Every policy also requires mitigation by the owner, as much as possible, to prevent further damage. This will involve removing excess water and all material that cannot be restored:  all floor coverings, dry wall, un-restorable contents (clothes, bedding, particle board furniture, etc)  It also involves cleaning and sanitizing all materials.  Finally, the property will need to be dried back to normal conditions, as quickly as possible. If the job is larger than the owner would normally do – contact a restoration company.  A national franchise, such as PuroClean, offers the assurance of high quality work and a large network of service providers.”

When choosing a restoration company, Southcombe said professionals “look” professional. Their uniforms and vehicles are identified, and they’ll have prepared forms and information sheets to assist the homeowner.

The best companies offer “extraction of water and demolition of all unsalvageable materials, cleaning and sanitation all remaining materials, and professional drying of all remaining materials in the structure.”

They will also offer a homeowner “a reasonable down-payment, to hold the job – maybe, 10%.” Work should begin that day, or the next, and successive payments are made as the work proceeds.  “This allows the customer to be in control throughout the process.”

Southcombe said a professional restoration company will provide documentation to give to the insurance company. The insurance company will use that to reimburse the owner to the full extent allowed by the insurance policy.

Dealing with a flooded home can be slow process, as I am learning first hand.

Southcombe agreed, “Sadly, the volume of these losses means that work will continue for several weeks, maybe months.  That would be the time for the mitigation and restoration.  The rebuild will take many months longer.”

Last tip for now, and this also comes from my experience – within days of hurricane Matthew, many restoration companies were stopping by our home to offer their services. The first one I considered pulled out a contract that said that $15,000 was the standard fee for mudout and cleanup/removal of flooring, carpets, drywall, doors, etc.

Since then I have found through neighbors that $15,000 was on the high side for our size of house, but above $10,000 is pretty normal.

In our case, we opted to do the cleanup and demo ourselves. Our goal was to save as much insurance money for repairs as possible. But it was a bigger job than I expected. It would have been impossible to do ourselves without the assistance of about twenty friends and family members that spent a weekend helping out.

After the fact, I found a booklet from FEMA that would have been useful in guiding us through the cleanup process. It’s available as a PDF – “Protecting Your Home and Property from Flood Damage.

I’ll have more on what to do when your home floods, so stay tuned by following CP on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll add links below this article to new posts in this series as they are written.

In the meantime, if you have questions or tips about what to do in the immediate aftermath of a flood, post your comments.

And be sure to share this article! Your friends, followers and family members will appreciate the info if they ever need it!