First the floods; next the mold

13 Aug 2014

Metro floodingDetroit got a lot of national attention about the 4+ inches of rain that we received on Monday and the freeways that were flooded (so much so that Governor Snyder issued a disaster declaration today).  Less discussed are the basements that filled with water and in some cases sewage that backed up because the sewer systems couldn’t keep up.  As the waters recede, people all over southeast Michigan are trying to figure out what to do next.  Once electricity is safely addressed and the water is gone, the question becomes what to keep and what to pitch.   The basic rule is that if it is hard and non-porous, you can clean it; if not, it must be professionally cleaned or disposed of.  Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • For insurance purposes, take pictures of your basement before beginning any work.
  • Shovel out as much mud as you can as quickly as possible. The mud left behind by floodwaters poses a health hazard, and it is a lot easier to remove before it dries out.
  • Hose off the walls and floors with clean water and then disinfect them with a solution of 1 ½ cups of liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of fresh water.  NEVER mix bleach and ammonia cleaning products. This will produce deadly chlorine gas.
  • Disinfect all surfaces that were soaked by flood waters with “disinfecting” or “sanitizing” products.  An alternative is to use a mixture of 1/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach mixed into one gallon of water. Remove mildew using household mildew removers or fungicides.
  • Remove the vents or registers of heating and air conditioning ducts, the wall covers for wall switches and outlets that were flooded. Clean and disinfect them as above.
  • All flexible ducting, including dryer connections, should be replaced.

Now comes the truly difficult part – the finished basement-

  • Interior plaster walls will need to be drained if they are still holding water. Flood soaked sections of wallboard will usually have to be removed and thrown away. Paneled walls may be dried out by prying off the paneling and propping it out away from the wall studs.
  • Flood soaked insulation should be disposed of so the other building materials can dry properly. Once the insulation is gone, the wall must be disinfected and thoroughly dried. Dehumidifiers and portable heaters can speed this process up. In many cases, you may want an expert with heavy duty equipment to help with this task.

Mold can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. Some mold spores are always in the air but a flood like the recent one is like a call to a five star dinner for mold.  Molds digest organic material (think sewage, cardboard, wood and plaster). In addition to the damage mold can cause in your home, it may cause mild to severe health problems – particularly for those with allergies or asthma.  You are now in a race with mold; it will continue to grow until you eliminate all sources of moisture and mold growth.   Additional information about mold and clean up can be found at: CDC – Protect Yourself from Mold

Leave a Comment to “First the floods; next the mold”

  1. Jim Newman 24. Aug, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Nicely done, Arthur, as always.
    One of the more concise blogs on what to do after a flood or sewage backup – concise and to the point.

Leave a Reply