Storm-battered Easterners try to dry out

Consumer Reports News: October 01, 2010 02:27 PM

If this week’s heavy rains have dripped through your ceiling or seeped into your basement, you need to assess and redress the damage as soon as possible. Damp walls, floors and carpeting can create other problems or attract unwanted pests. “You’ve basically got 24 to 48 hours to dry out what got wet before mold starts growing,” says Dr. Laura Kolb, an indoor air specialist for the Environmental Protection Agency. “If something gets wet, you want to dry it out as soon as possible.”

Here's how to start returning your home to the condition it was in before the deluge:
  • When the rains stop, open up the doors and windows to ventilate the area.
  • Use fans and dehumidifiers to reduce moisture and a wet/dry vacuum to remove remaining puddles.
  • If the water in your home contains mud or sediment, wear gloves, goggles, and a dust respirator or face mask when cleaning up. The EPA says that muddy water can contain such pollutants as fuel oil and human and animal waste.
  • If the water reached shelves where food was stored, consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of what to keep and what to toss (when in doubt, toss it).
  • Wet rugs and carpets may have to go. “Once porous items like carpets start sprouting mold stains, throw them out. If you have something expensive like a Persian carpet, you can consult a professional cleaning service,” says Kolb.
  • For wet drywall, you can cut out and replace just the affected portion, “You don’t have to tear it down if it’s all not wet,” says Kolb.
  • Replace any insulation behind the soaked drywall and use a fan to help dry out the exposed beams.

Outdoors, check for fallen trees and broken branches. If you need to take action, read our tips on how to  safely use a chain saw.

Walk around the house and be sure to move piles of sodden leaves or wet firewood well away from your home. Termites and carpenter ants are attracted to moisture and decaying wood.

To avoid costly damage in the future, Our Five Essential Home Repairs lists ways that an average homeowner can check how well gutters, leaders, roofing and siding, foundation walls and landscaping will help deflect and divert water next time around.

Many of the fixes—such as adding extension pipes to your leaders—are cheap and easy. Others may cost more, but when you consider that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood-damage tracker shows that an inch of water can cause more than $10,000 damage to an average home, it could be money very well spent.

--Gian Trotta

More ways to weather storms: Our Storm and Emergency Guide includes more ways to modify your home's structure and insurance policies to protect against floods and hurricanes, high winds, and tornadoes.

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