How To Protect Your Home From Mold After Heavy Rain & Floods
Those long hours leading up to natural water events like hurricanes can be terrifying. Between keeping yourself and your family safe, as well as preparing your home as much as possible, it's a chaotic and adrenaline-infused time.
And no matter how much you prepare, sometimes Mother Nature just has other plans. As we just saw with Hurricane Ida, massive flooding can destroy homes and livelihoods and lead to serious water damage in the era of climate change.
If you're in the middle of dealing with a water-damaged home or want to be prepared for the situation in case it ever happens, here are six pro steps for protecting your home from mold after flooding.
Be mindful that this process should be adhered to right away. With water damage, time is always of the essence because mold can grow as quickly as 24 to 48 hours. (If you've arrived home and that time window has passed, you'll want to immediately treat it as a mold remediation project instead of a water mitigation project.)
Pump out excess water.
Safety first! Make sure the electricity is off in the location before venturing into any standing water, taking a moment to check both the breaker and power meter. If the meter is still on, do not enter the water until a professional can come to remedy the situation.
If the power is off, take photos for your insurance company and then move on to your first objective: removing the water using a submersible pump. If you don't have a submersible pump now, I'd consider it a worthy investment if you live in a flood zone. For around $50 you can get yourself a good submersible pump. Keep in mind when purchasing, the more horsepower it has, the faster the pump can remove water. I'd recommend one that is 1/2HP to 1HP.
Place your pump at the lowest part of the water-filled room. That way, it can get as much of the standing water out as possible. Take the other end of the hose as far away from your home as you can, preferably near a drainage area. Direct the water you are pumping away from the home; otherwise, it will just keep coming back in as fast as you're pumping it out.
Most pumps can connect to a garden hose, so make sure you own a hose long enough to get from the bottom of your basement to a significant distance away from your house.
Remove remaining water using a shop vacuum.
These amazing pieces of machinery are like regular vacuums, but you can use them for water. Like the submersible pump, if you don't already own a shop vac, it's a smart precautionary investment to make now before a water event occurs. (You can get a RIDGID wet-vac at your local Home Depot or Lowe's for around $100.)
Make sure to remove the filter first before starting, then it's pretty simple: Use the hose and attachment to suck up any remaining water from all of the surfaces that were flooded. As you go, pay attention to the tank to make sure it doesn't overflow with water. If it starts to look too full, dump it before continuing. This is also a great opportunity to continue taking pictures for the insurance company as you go through the space.
Mop and dry thoroughly.
Again, mold can grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours. It's a balancing act of hurrying to dry out the space but also ensuring that it actually gets dry. Once you've sucked up as much water as possible, take everything wet out of the affected area and thoroughly mop the floors and towel down all surfaces so they're dry. Outside water can contain lots of bacteria, and this step will help protect your home from getting contaminated.
Be sure to wash and dry your towels immediately afterward; don't just let them sit around.
Crank up the dehumidifiers.
Stay away from the fans! That's usually a go-to method for airing out a room, but it can circulate outside contaminants and make moist areas even more humid. Instead, hook up a dehumidifier (or two, if it's a larger room) to continue drying the area. This will help draw any remaining water molecules out of the air and off of surfaces.
Perform a mold inspection ASAP.
If you had severe flood damage, within 72 to 96 hours of the event, I'd recommend hiring a mold inspector to come test the air quality inside your home. They'll be able to let you know if mold managed to start growing, if bacteria or toxins are present, and if you'll need a remediation company. This may seem like an over-the-top step, but stopping a problem before it escalates can help ensure the mold doesn't begin to spread to other parts of the home and cause adverse health reactions.
Make sure that they assess your entire home. Flooding affects the lowest levels of the home first, like basements and crawl spaces, because the water travels down due to gravity, and only evens out as it hits resistance. But after a water event, you have to not only consider the flooded area, but also the path the water took to get there.
Hang in there.
Dealing with the fallout of natural disasters is stressful and exhausting. The worst part is that these events happen so unexpectedly. However, a little preparation can go a long way. Understanding mold and maintaining a healthy awareness of air quality can help us all get through those tough times safely. Remember, you're not alone. If you have questions, call a remediation expert that you trust to offer suggestions and address your concerns.
Michael Rubino, "The Mold Medic," is an international authority on mold remediation and the author of The Mold Medic: An Expert’s Guide on Mold Removal.
As President of All American Restoration, Rubino specializes in working with people who are immunocompromised or have acute and sustained reactions to mold exposure. He is a council certified Mold Remediator by IICRC and ACAC and a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker for the Indoor Air Quality Association.