2017’s hurricane season is finally over. Unfortunately, the people impacted by the monster storms that made landfall this year are still cleaning up and picking up the pieces. Houston and the surrounding areas were dramatically impacted by rising floodwaters, but the job isn’t done once the water recedes. There are complications, often unseen, that can arise in the days or weeks after the floodwaters have evaporated. What sort of damage can flooding do, and what signs should you look for after the rain has stopped?
Signs of Foundation Damage
If your home didn’t float away, you might think your foundation is intact. But since it rests beneath your home, it can be difficult to see if the slab was damaged by rising and falling waters. If you start noticing things like your porch steps sinking, your basement walls bowing in, or doors and windows that don’t open or close properly anymore, it could be a sign your foundation has cracked.
It could be something as little as spotting exposed wood where there wasn’t any before. Or, a screen door that won’t close anymore even though the door itself looks undamaged. That’s what one woman in Clermont, Florida, experienced after Hurricane Irma passed over her home.
You can take some steps to help reduce your chance of foundation damage. Keep any and all downspouts at least 5 feet away from your foundation, and build your home so the soil slopes away from your foundation rather than toward it. If you plant trees, keep them away from the edge of our house — the roots can disrupt the foundation.
Signs of Mold
Mold is one of the biggest problems that appears after a flood. Any part of your home that was underwater is susceptible to mold. You may be able to see the mold growth, but in many cases, you might not know you’ve got mold growing in your home until you start to smell it or start sneezing.
Any fabric or upholstered items that can’t be washed and dried will need to be thrown away. This includes carpets and padding, furniture and mattresses. Wood floors will probably need to be removed and replaced, in addition to any wood or particleboard furniture and cabinets. Basically, anything that isn’t waterproof has the potential to be a breeding ground for mold.
You can reduce your chances of mold growing in your home by keeping your internal humidity level below 50 percent, and keep the air moving with fans or other forms of ventilation. Places that are normally wet or humid, like your kitchen, bathroom or basement, shouldn’t be carpeted in the first place.
Signs of Electrical Damage
Our homes run on electricity, and these devices are easily damaged or even destroyed by water. And that’s even if you turn off the main breakers before the water starts encroaching on your home. Many devices, like air conditioners, heaters, lights, motors and more need to be replaced if they’ve been submerged. They can’t be safely dried out, and even if they are, there is always the risk they will create a fire hazard if plugged back in.
If you notice a burning odor, sparks, or outlets and sockets that don’t work at all even after power has been restored, it might be time to call an electrician. If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding, it might be a good idea to hire an electrician to raise your breaker box, plugs and other electrical items above flood level. It won’t stop the floodwaters from rising, but it will prevent your entire electrical system from getting shorted out if a flood does occur.
Moving your air conditioning/heating unit to higher ground can also save you from expensive replacement costs, though flood insurance might cover the cost of replacements for things like HVAC units, appliances and furniture.
We can’t do anything to change the weather. All we can do is pick up the pieces and prepare in case it happens again. By taking steps during the off season to waterproof your home and getting the proper home insurance plan, you can reduce the impact of rising waters. The best thing you can do as a homeowner is to prepare for every eventuality.