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FAQs: Things to Know if your Home has been Flooded, By Guest Blogger, RJ Cavalier

Posted: August 16, 2016

We are excited to introduce our guest blogger, RJ Cavalier ! RJ has been an invaluable resource to many during the recent natural disasters. He is a tenured construction management professional with vast experience in remodel and new construction for both residential and commercial industries, and disaster recovery. His passion is missions work, both locally by serving his community and internationally. He has visited Haiti twice to aid in the rebuild process after the devastating earthquake in 2010 and also South Africa. He has worked in disaster rescue and recovery, assisting hundreds of homeowners after major disaster events such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes…..and now RJ is partnering with Paul’s House to bring you much-needed information about how to recover from flooding. He also has his own blog at

We hope you will find the following article by RJ Cavalier helpful in your rebuilding efforts.

For those of you who may be potentially flooding over the next 24 to 48 hours, I recommend that you take pictures of your house all four sides and try to inventory everything you have prior to the flooding. This will go a long way with the insurance company and expedite your claim.

If your home gets flooded, it’s imperative that you ripped out all your carpeting bedding and Furniture as soon as possible. Get a sheetrock knife and cut off sheetrock if a four-foot level even though you may have had one foot of damage. Rip out the sheetrock to get the insulation out of the wall. The installation will act as a sponge and the water will creep up the wall. Get fans in every room if possible turn on your air conditioning system and crack your windows. Do not under any circumstances leave the house closed up. Get a licensed mold professional to test you home BEFORE you close the walls back up. Bleach is NOT the cure all!!!!! Get a clear mold test before re-rocking!!! Use a local GC {General Contractor}, and get referrals!!! If you need recommendations for mold remediation and GC’s, please call. Get on the list now so you are not waiting forever for someone.

No insurance, what do we do??? 
I have seen this a bunch. FEMA in most cases has done a great job (sometimes better than insurance) of a giving a grant to those in need. Then, if that runs out you have availability for an SBA loan at a great rate. I have heard horror stories dealing with FEMA, but if you stay vigilant and do your part, you can do well through the process. I would encourage those with good results from FEMA to post their experience so that it may help others know what to do and encourage them that the world is not over because of the flood! KEEP THE QUESTIONS COMING!!! 

Do we need to wait for insurance before I do anything? 
NO!!!! Insurance has to make you whole. Do your job, file your claim, take pictures and get bids. Keep all receipts!!!! You do what you need to do to get your home whole as fast as possible and give them the evidence a sad long as you can prove that the work was justified by having 3 bids by licensed contractors, you have the right to use whoever you want. What insurance will not cover is if you do not do your job and let mold take over your home. They will not pay for that! I cannot over emphasize enough, get a licensed mold remediation company out to your home and have it mold tested before closing the walls. ALWAYS have a different company do the test than the one who remediated. I have used Servepro, Service Master, and many others, but All-Dry came through at the last flood event when other could not. I am getting nothing for saying this. Ask people who used them, they were great!!!!! Tell Paul at All-Dry I sent you and he will put you at the top of the list! (504) 952-3030. 

Should we take out wood flooring if it lays back down after dried? 
Although your wood may look fine, under your wood floors if there is any moisture, mold will grow, it may take months to show itself and you may never see it but just find your allergies and sicknesses get more frequent. I recommend taking out all carpet, and wood. Tile can stay because there is no organic material for mold to grow on. 

If you had roof leaks, those are similar problems. Attic insulation, especially if it jean or cellulose insulation, will mold. You have to get the wet insulation out ASAP. Once complete, make sure anything wet is dried and follow the other recommended steps in my previous post. 

What about cabinets? Should they be removed?
Unfortunately, this is a question that is hard for people. I say ALL lower cabinets need to go. If someone says different, you are more than welcome to take your chances. Sheetrock wicks moisture, and in doing so it gets between the Rock and the back of the cabinet as well as below the cabinet. This is a perfect breeding ground for mold. Many cabinets can be saved if you are careful and then the kick plates and sides can be re-skinned once dry. It is very difficult to get most counters off in one piece. I know this is a place many people try to save money and really fight to not do, but you should remove them. 

Should I mitigate the mold myself?

I already see a bunch of posts that talk about how to mitigate mold yourself, and some that talk about not taking out cabinets. (Just take out swollen shelves and open doors to dry out). BE CAREFUL!!! If you will mitigate yourself, do yourself a favor and get your home tested before you close the walls. Lower cabinets SHOULD come off. Even if you save them, they should come off so the area between the cabinet and wall dry. Don’t believe everything you read. 

How long before I should start gutting my home?
In March, we came across homes, that after 2 weeks, had not been gutted because people were on a list waiting for their GC. Let me start by saying, “If you have a GC that says it’s okay to keep your home wet for 2 weeks or more than 48 hours waiting on him, get another GC!!!!!” Once you have gutted your home, and started the drying process, you can wait as long as you want, but until then, don’t wait on a contractor because he is costing you money every hour you wait!!!!

Do you recommend leaving a couple inches of Sheetrock for proof for insurance?
No, just document with photos, try to get time stamped.  I believe most phones now encrypts time stamp of the time and date in the file. Date/time, as well as GPS location in most cases, is encrypted in the descriptive metadata of the photo. There are some apps you can use to see it. 

Should you run your a/c if it is still partially under water?  
Typically the condenser is pretty water proof. I would rather get the humidity out of your home with dehumidifier than your a/c due to spreading mold spores throughout your duct work, but if all you have is a/c, I would say go for it. When asking an A/C professional, they said “let a service tech make the call when he looks at it. I can’t tell someone it’s OK to run it without putting my eyes on it, for safety and liability reasons. If water is just touching the bottom of the coils I don’t see a problem. When it starts getting close to electrical wires, bad things can happen. Once the water is not in the unit I say run it. It will help dehumidify the house.” Also please buy the best filter you can buy and change regularly for the coming weeks. You want to prevent spreading contaminants and dust as best as possible.

What do people need and how can we help? 
This is a very common question. To start people need boxes, garbage bags, lunches (since they may not have refrigerators), waters, and people. Most of the time the work of gutting, and cleanup does not take any skill. Just packing up items from cabinets and closets and pulling wet items to bring them to the street. Please, if you are helping wear gloves, dust masks, and boots. Also, people being there so the person going through the flood doesn’t feel alone and feels hope.

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