Tips & resources: Cleaning up after a flood or water leak

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• Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, dust masks and eye protection to minimize chances of injury or infection.

• Never assume that water-damaged structures are safe; leave immediately if shifting or unusual noises occur.

• Electrical risk: If flood water is several inches deep or above the outlet line, turn off the power. If the circuit-breaker box is out of reach, call an electrician.

• If the gas water heater’s pilot light is out, call a plumber or gas utility to ask about relighting it or replacing submerged parts to avoid disaster.

• Remove important possessions quickly to avoid mold and mildew.

• Clear indoor and outdoor drains. A wet vac can handle a couple of inches of standing water. For deeper standing water, call a professional service. Look in the Yellow Pages under Fire and Water Damage Restoration.

• Anything that has been touched by standing water must be disinfected. Use hot water and soap to scrub floors, walls and other surfaces people are likely to touch. Then wipe with a disinfectant solution of 1 ounce of household bleach to 4 gallons of water. Open windows and doors, and allow everything inside to dry thoroughly. Do not occupy until 10 hours after drying is complete.

• Open doors, windows, closets and storage spaces. Run fans and a dehumidifier. (Using a fan without a dehumidifier can cause moisture to evaporate into the air, where it can penetrate furnishings.)

• For roof leaks, poke a hole in sagging ceilings to prevent collapse, and use buckets to catch draining water.

• Keep sofa and chair skirts and draperies from touching wet surfaces.

• Inspect roof, especially areas around vents and flashing for damage or leaks. Also check gutters and downspouts.

• Inspect the grade of your property, making sure it slopes away from the foundation. Use fill dirt to eliminate low areas.

• Seal basement cracks with a masonry caulk or hydraulic cement.

• If small leaks are found, elevate any furniture or valuable items stored in basements on blocks or shelves.

• Inspect all basement windows for leaks.

• Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and particular filing requirements. Save all receipts.

• Be leery of uninvited “professionals” showing up on your doorstep. If you’re concerned about structural damage, have an engineer or inspector come take a look. For trees, contact a trained arborist. For tips on hiring contractors: