real estate

Cleaning up after a basement flood

If the carpet is too wet, towels can be used to sop up the extra water before removing the carpet. Wet and ruined furniture should be removed as soon as possible as well, along with anything else that may have gotten wet in the flood.

Preventing mold

"Mold has two natural enemies," says Lynch, "ventilation and sunlight." While it may not be possible to bring sunlight into certain parts of the basement, it is possible to increase the ventilation by opening windows and using fans.

Lynch also recommends immediately throwing out anything that's wet and made of a porous organic substance, such as cardboard boxes or newspaper, as they are food for mold.

If significant parts of the drywall have been saturated, you'll need to cut it out and replace it, says Lynch. "However, if there is just superficial wetness, 10 square feet or less, it can be dried out."

Once the basement is dry, Lynch recommends using a bleach product to kill mold on a preventive basis. When using the bleach, "wear protective eye covering and a mask," he says.

Lynch adds that mold test kits, available online, are an inexpensive way to ensure you don't have mold. "You can do a mold test in one minute. They work really well for people who think they have mold but really don't, and it gives them peace of mind."

Stone says that after ripping out their damaged walls, they put in mold and water-resistant walls instead. "When you pick up drywall, it's white. This is green," she says. "It's not supposed to grow mold." Now, if the newly installed sump pump and battery backup sump pump fail, "I'd like to think the walls wouldn't be ruined."

To prevent future basement floods, Stone says their battery backup sump pump should last six to 12 hours, and they ordered a generator to use in case of longer power outages. Longer-term battery backup systems are available, says Lynch, who sells a seven-day battery backup pump and a water-powered emergency sump pump that work after power failure.

Staying warm

Following Superstorm Sandy, the temperature significantly dropped. Having a damp house without power can mean you and your family could be facing extreme cold indoors because "most alternative heating sources involve electricity," MacDonald says.

"If there's no heat and it's cold inside, frankly you shouldn't be there. It's an unsafe condition," he says. He suggests finding an available hotel or staying with friends and family if you can't afford a room.

However, if you are unable to leave, wearing additional clothes and blankets is the most obvious safe solution, as you risk carbon monoxide poisoning by using a gas stove or anything burning fossil fuel inside, says MacDonald.

If you're able to hook up a generator, MacDonald urges you to keep it outside and away from windows where fumes can enter the house. He also advises keeping portable heaters away from anything flammable. "The rule is to keep combustible material at least 3 feet away from it," he says. Remember, too, that portable heaters are meant to augment an existing heating system, not be the sole source of heat.

Fireplaces can also be a good alternative, says MacDonald, though only while you're alert. "If it's in good working order, you can safely have a fire in the fireplace. That's the purpose -- to burn logs," he says, as long as you do it with caution. "You don't put a roaring fire in there and try to sleep. This isn't the great outdoors or the Wild West. You don't leave a fire roaring in the fireplace unattended."


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