We Hope It never Happens, But…
I might begin by saying that I hope you never have a flood or fire in your home, but it does happen and can be a very traumatic time for you and your household. I have friends who live beside a beautiful little creek that meanders through their back yard and under a little bridge. Sadly, a couple of years ago it rained too many times and the little creek became a raging river that rose high enough to flood their lower story and do some pretty serious damage to the walls and floors. Water damage can also come from any plumbing source within your house as well. Smoke damage can be caused by something as simple as a cheap candle expelling waxy vapor onto walls and ceilings, or a poorly vented fireplace. I want to discuss some ideas for repairing water and fire or smoke damage.
Water Damaged Interiors:
- Degree of Damage. Water leaks can cause stains. Major water intrusion can cause structural damage that requires extensive repairs and remodeling.
- Drywall. If the drywall is sagging or bulging it needs to be replaced. Often it is what you don’t see behind the wall board that is the deeper problem. Wet insulation and mold build-up can only be resolved by removing the drywall and replacing it. If left unattended mold build-up can lead to expensive mold cleanup project requiring the services of a professional remediation company. My friends with the flooded creek had to have the first three feet of drywall above the floor removed, the area dried, and the wall board replaced.
- Woodwork. If water has caused painted wood surfaces to blister or start to peel, you will need to strip the surface with a quality paint stripper, scrape and sand, and then prime and re-paint.
- Carpets. A major problem with wet carpets is mold cultures forming in the wet environment. You must get the water out as soon as possible using commercial vacs and fans, and run your heating system with windows cracked open to allow the humid air to escape. If flooding has caused sewage back up onto your floors, you should plan on having the carpet and the carpet pad removed and area thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the new installation. Sewage poses serious health hazards and should be handled water and sewage damage professionals who have the experience and equipment to get the job done safely.
- Hints. If you have valuable papers that are water damaged, you can store them in your freezer until you have time to work on them. Concrete surfaces can be cleaned with a TSP solution (it is corrosive, so wear gloves and protective glasses). Rapid drying is essential if you want to rid yourself of mold production.
Smoke Damaged Interiors:
- How serious is it? Smoke will leave some discoloration or black marks on your walls and ceilings. Smoke leaves a residue called soot. If fire is close to walls or ceilings, there may be more serious charring, which is caused by the paint actually burning.
- Smoke. Use a gallon bucket of warm water with a tablespoon of TSP, taking precautions with gloves and eye protection. Use a large sponge and scrub a small area at a time. Rinse it with clean water.
- Soot. Use the same solution as above, but you will need to repeat the process because the residue is heavier. Do not put too much water on at a time, or you will be dealing with water damage as well.
- Charring. Clean as above, but you will need to prime the areas and re-paint them. Severe charring may require replacing some sections of drywall.
- The smell of smoke. This is the legacy of a house fire that hangs on well beyond the initial cleaning process. White vinegar is a good cleaning agent that also destroys odors. Baking soda (as oftenused in a refrigerator) absorbs odors very well and can be sprinkled on floors and fabric-covered furniture. Activated charcoal can be placed around the room in bowls to help deodorize the air. Of course you can open the doors and windows to air-out the house. Severe smoke odors that have permeated the carpets, drapes and furniture usually cannot be removed, and replacement of these items may be the only solution.
If all of this DIY stuff scares you, you can find professional water damage restoration companies who will come in and do the work for you. If you are concerned about harsh chemicals or other environmental issues, remember to ask about these things before signing any contracts. Happy cleaning!