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It is a sad fact of life that, from time to time, natural disasters occur, mostly but not entirely as a result of adverse weather conditions. Most parts of the world suffer, as we do in the UK, with floods, storms, unusually low temperatures and other very damaging occurrences.
The damage is to our prized homes and gardens and our lives are affected too.
Being able to cope with such disasters; knowing who to go to for help; knowing what to do to reduce the damaging effect of the disaster putting your life and property back together again, is vital. The purpose of this leaflet is to provide you with helpful advice.
Flooding is particularly damaging since it can affect the structure of a property, the fixtures and fittings in it and your own personal possessions. The chances are you will not have had the opportunity to move all your prized possessions to higher, safer places.
In the event of an unexpected flood, your first step should always be to contact your home and contents insurance company. Advise them of the occurrence and obtain their instructions on how you should proceed. Very often they will provide you with their own safety guidelines, which will be similar to much of the advice in this leaflet. Serious as the disaster may be, you should always remember that your insurance company has plenty of experience in flooding and will help you in every way possible, even arranging for your stay in alternative accommodation if your property is totally uninhabitable.Your local authority will also be able to provide you with both written and practical help so contact them and find out what they are planning.
If flooding has been deep inside the property - several feet up the walls - you should not attempt to re-enter the property until the flood water has subsided. Structural damage may have occurred and saturated walls may have been weakened. If water has reached ceiling height stay out until the building has been inspected by a qualified Building Surveyor.Your insurers will insists upon this.
An inch or two of water only will not normally have caused structural damage but will, naturally, have affected timber floors and floor coverings.
Doors will almost certainly have soaked up water, will have swollen and twisted, and will be unusable. In due course they will have to be replaced. If you have to force your way into the property, break a window rather than a door and then obtain some OSB or external plywood to secure the opening. See Good Idea Leaflet 29
Since your domestic water supply may have been contaminated you should boil all drinking and cooking water before use. The same applies to water used for cleaning your teeth.
You must not attempt to turn electricity supplies back on if any flood water has reached underfloor junction boxes or wall sockets.
Any part of the electrical system which may have been soaked must be thoroughly checked by a qualified electrician.
If you have suspended timber floors remember that water may still be trapped, unable to drain away. A pump may be required to remove it. When, in due course, your property is put back into good order it is advisable to ask your contractor to treat all the timbers of suspended floors with a wood preservative to further protect against rot.
If you have a cellar this too will probably still be full of water and this should be cleared a bit at a time - not all at once - since the ground outside will be heavy with floodwater and the weight of this could cause the cellar walls to collapse.
Once you are sure that the property is safe to enter, you can start to clean up and dry everything out. You'll need buckets and shovels, rubble bags possibly and brooms. A set of drain rods will prove useful to help clear out mud and sludge from the main underground drains.
Remove everything you can from the affected part of the property to leave bare floors and walls. If carpets and other items are beyond recovery put them out in the garden but do not throw them away, your insurance company may want to see them. If you have no garden, photograph them if you can and then dispose of the items. It is also a good idea to photograph floodwater tide marks on walls, to have record of the extent of the flooding. Disposable cameras are cheap and easily available.
If you have decorative timber flooring such as laminated or parquet flooring this will be beyond repair and will have to be removed but, again, try to photograph it before it is lifted and put outside. Before starting to dry out the interior check around the outside to ensure that the floodwater has not shifted soil or other debris against the property walls to block airbricks. It is important to ensure that underfloor ventilation is restored to assist with the drying out processs.
Ventilation is important elsewhere too so open all the windows that you can on dry days.
Don't rush the drying out by using high powered heaters. Drying out too quickly could cause even more damage to woodwork. Use fan or convector heaters once your electricity supply is safely back on. Wherever possible ensure that the power supply to heaters comes from an RCD protected source - perhaps as an integral part of an extension lead.
Dehumidifiers will prove invaluable when attempting to dry out rooms but you will, in the early stages, need to empty the water collection containers drainage to the outside of the house.
There is every chance that tiled concrete floors will still be intact but obviously very dirty. Bare concrete which has been soaked will take many months to dry out and you should not expect to be able to lay new flooring for up to six months.
It is not all doom and gloom. Although any flooding causes massive disruption and distress very little of the remedial work has to be carried out by you. Your insurance company will have a register of trades people who will make repairs for you as quickly as they can or they will approve a local builder and decorator. Don't be tempted to employ unknown callers who offer to carry out repairs for you. Your insurance company may not accept their charges.
If something has to be purchased in an emergency, make sure that you keep a receipt for the goods.
When the time comes to make your claim for the replacement of destroyed items you'll need to know what they cost. Wickes can give you prices and even written quotations for everything from paints to wall coverings and from a new floor to a complete kitchen or bathroom. Don't hesitate to ask for help.
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