Hurricane Sandy will potentially reach us in the next couple of days. It isn't always possible to prevent flooding which is the motivation behind this blog posting. That is why we are posting this guide on what to do when flooding occurs in your home.
Flooding can occur for many different reasons, but it may still be possible to rescue your furniture. If flooding happens as a result of a severe storm or hurricane, you may even get some warning ahead of time to secure your furniture to prevent any damage in the first place. However, it is not always possible to do so.
First make sure it is safe to re-enter your home and that you are dressed appropriately. You can also download a PDF about flood cleanup from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
It is best to survey and evaluate the damage as quickly as possible as time is of the essence. Inspect your furniture and separate what is salvageable from what cannot be saved. Be aware that water damage may not be restricted to furniture that has been sitting in water. Excessive moisture in the atmosphere can also cause damage.
To determine whether a piece of furniture is worth saving, you have to look at the extent of damage. Take into account the cost of the item in relation to the cost of restoration. Finally, you have to also take into account its sentimental value to you. You may want to keep and repair a family heirloom despite damage.
Set aside furniture that is beyond repair for evaluation for insurance claims. Upholstered furniture that has been sitting in water for too long may be hard to salvage as water can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew, all of which which can have a long term bad effect on your health. Wood furniture that has become warped may also be difficult to save.
Move furniture to a dry area to facilitate drying. If it is too heavy to move place aluminum foil or wood blocks under the legs to keep it away from a damp carpet.
If there was only slight flooding and the furniture did not sit in water for too long, begin by separating upholstery fabrics and other colored items to prevent or stop any chance of color bleeding. It should be dried completely to prevent mold and mildew from forming which happens if it is more than 20% wet.
Unfortunately, by its very nature, it is easy for upholstered furniture to absorb contaminants from flood waters. Again, before investing a lot of money in it get a cost estimate to evaluate if it is worth saving. Usually, flood-soaked upholstered furniture should be thrown away unless it is an antique or very valuable.
If you do decide to keep your upholstered furniture owing to its high worth, it is best to have it cleaned only by a professional. The cleaning may involve stripping it down to its frame. Springs and webbing may have to be replaced depending on the extent of water damage.
Mattresses present the same problem as upholstered furniture. However, if the mattress was exposed to water for only a short time, and if the water was clean it may be salvaged. You can do so by cleaning the surface and putting the mattress out in the sun. Keep the wet side up to dry as much and as quickly as as possible.
Blocks that keep a mattress suspended above the ground will help facilitate drying. A fan can also help speed up the drying process. Any musty odor is an indication of mildew and you will then need a professional to sanitize it properly. If the odor still persists the mattress should be discarded.
If unfortunately, your mattress or boxspring has been submerged or sat in water for a long time, there is no option but to replace it. Mold will grow, and the mattress would have absorbed contaminants which are hazardous to your health.
Wood furniture may fare better, especially if it hasn't been sitting in water for too long. It is possible to restore solid wood furniture unless it has suffered severe damage.
It will need to be cleaned and dried at the very least. If it has been exposed to water for a long period, joints or veneers may have to be re-glued.
The first step is to clean and dry it so that you may be better able to assess the damage. Moisture in wood furniture can also encourage fungus and mold growth so drying it is crucial. Remove excess moisture by blotting or wiping wood furniture for furniture that is not submerged and was only lightly damaged.
White mildew spots may be cleaned with turpentine or a mixture of equal parts household ammonia and water. Wipe dry at once. Cream wood restorers with lanolin will help restore wood furniture. Lightly damaged veneers can be glued back on.
Heavily damaged wood furniture that was exposed to water for a longer time, expedite drying by removing all parts that are easy to take apart including back panels, drawers, and doors. Do not try to force them if they are sticking. You can take them apart later when the furniture has dried somewhat and the wood has begun shrinking back.
Hose off the mud and dirt and dry in a ventilated place away from the sun. Drying out in the sun may cause warping. Drying out time may run into several weeks or months. Only when the furniture is completely dry can you begin to repair and refinish.