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Can a Dehumidifier Help After a Flood?

March 23, 2016 • By

Can a Dehumidifier Help After a Flood?

As a homeowner, having your home flooded can be a complete and utter nightmare. From panic and disbelief to trying to figure out how to dry out your home as well as how you’re going to pay for it all, homeowners are left with damaged homes – paying large sums of money to have it fixed and feeling awfully stressed out. Caused by anything from torrential rain, a burst geyser, a flash flood, a hurricane or broken water main, these types of eventualities are often unexpected and extremely dangerous. After the panic of trying to save as much from your flooded area has died down and realization that your home has been flooded has settled in, it is time to think about fixing the problem.

Whether it is your basement, a room in your home or even part of your office space that is flooded, it is important for you to know what steps to take to dry the flooded areas out. With days (sometimes weeks) of repair work to be done, it can cost a homeowner hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars.  If you are not covered by insurance you will be responsible for forking out the cash. Getting a professional in to do a mammoth job like this one can be very expensive and force you to have your home invaded by numerous strangers. Because of all the above reasons, many home or office owners prefer restoring their flooded area themselves.

Getting your place together after a flood can be rough, but, unless you like the idea of swimming in a soggy bed of mildew-covered carpeting or slipping around on moldy floors, then you will need to find a way to get it dry quickly. A natural dry-out is possible, but this often takes weeks (even months) to completely dry out a room. Unfortunately, this process could potentially cause more serious problems like the formation of odors, mildew, dust mites, mold, allergies, and asthma as well. But there is a way for you to dry out areas or rooms of your home or office space without professional help that is not only cost effective, but also efficient. This process will include dehumidifying your flooded area to restore it to its original state.

The initial process of getting your home ready to be dried out with a dehumidifier is very important. By following these seven simple steps, you’ll soon have an area ready for drying out.

Step 1 – Protect Yourself

The water that flooded your area could be swimming with all manner of nasties. It could be boiling water from a geyser or water filled with various bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella or Hepatitis (yes, even hepatitis!). Thus, it is important to protect yourself by wearing gloves and waterproof boots. It might also be useful to keep a pair of goggles and a face mask close by – just in case they are needed.

Step 2 – Do a Flood Safety Inspection

It is important to check for hazardous conditions in the flooded area of your home and if any are found they need to be immediately dealt with. Hazardous conditions include the following:

  • Structural damage – Large bodies of water can easily move and break the heaviest of objects – making accidents like a bookshelf falling on you happen very easily. Be aware of your surroundings and proceed with caution through the flooded area.
  • Electrical hazards – Even if your flooded area only has an inch of standing water, remember that water conducts electricity. Do not head into a flooded room without switching off the electricity or else you might get electrocuted.
  • Pathogenic bacteria
  • Mold and mildew

You will also need to inspect the space and determine to what extent the water has actually migrated into your home by using a moisture meter. You can often find an inexpensive version of a moisture meter at your local hardware store that does exactly the same thing as the professional ones.

Step 3 – Determining the Cause of the Flood

Flooding can be caused by anything from natural disasters to man-made errors. It is important to identify the problem as one or the other and then take action accordingly. Unlike natural disasters, man made errors that cause flooding can usually quickly be stopped by doing the following:

  • Broken pipe or burst geyser:  turn off the water at the shut-off valve.
  • Backup from a blocked drain: do your best to unblock the drain by renting an auger or removing any visible blockages.
  • Water main breaks: call your local municipality office and report it immediately.

Step 4 – Open up The Windows & Doors

As mentioned above, opening your windows and doors won’t completely dry out your flooded area, but it will allow fresh air in. It may also get rid of any odors that may occur.

Step 5 – Move or Elevate Building Contents

Once you’ve done your flood safety inspection, you can move onto moving or elevating any building content which might get permanently damaged. Once the area is free of any or most content, you can then start to remove as much water as possible via pumps. When the water is at a level that the pumps can no longer reach, vacuum the rest of the water up with a portable extraction unit. You can rent a portable extraction unit at industrial equipment rental store or purchase a wet and dry vacuum at your local hardware store.

Step 6 – Remove the Carpet Padding & Dispose

Carpet padding is the most difficult to dry. Professional water damage restorers have specialized equipment to save most of the carpet padding, but you are fixing a flooded area of your home by yourself so you’ll just need to remove it and dispose of it. If you don’t remove the carpet padding, and continue onward with these steps, what will happen in a few days is that your carpet will feel dry, but the pad will still be wet which can cause more problems.

Start in the corner of the flooded area and, using a pair of needle nose pliers, grab a piece of the carpet and gently pull up. This will disengage the carpeting from the tackless strip holding it down. Pull the carpeting back as far as you can and then cut out the water soaked padding. Do this from all four corners until you have removed all of the padding.

Step 7 – Disinfect the Flooded Basement

Before you can start disinfecting the flooded area you need to get pine oil and bleach. Make sure that you dilute the bleach with water and that you have the proper dilution rate for disinfecting which can be found on the packaging. Use a pump sprayer to apply the bleach mixture to all hard surfaces – including the floors and up on the walls. It is important to use the bleach mixture to the height that the moisture meter indicates is wet.

Do not apply the bleach solution to the carpeting, but rather have it professionally cleaned once the carpet has dried. Pine oil is a phenolic disinfectant that is mildly antiseptic and is relatively inexpensive as well as widely available. Use your purchased pine oil on all non-porous household items. This will help prevent the growth of mold.

Dehumidifying Your Flooded Area

Now that your flooded area has been prepared for the dehumidifying process, you can finally dry it out by creating an artificially dry environment. The drier the air in your flooded area, the faster it will dry. To achieve this you’ll need a dehumidifier which can be rented from an industrial equipment rental store or bought on Amazon. Combined with the dehumidifier, we suggest using an air mover (a special fan) which will pull moisture out of your dry walls, carpeting and framing material.

What Does a Dehumidifier Do to the Flooded Area?

Once an air mover has extracted all the moisture from the drywall, carpets and framing material, the dehumidifier can be put to use. A dehumidifier pulls in the warm moisture over a cold coil which causes the water vapor in the air to condense. The condensed water is then collected in a tray or pumped away (depending on your dehumidifier model and make).

Problems can occur if you have too much or too little air movement and not enough dehumidification. If water damaged structures have too much air and too little dehumidification, there is the possibility of secondary damage happening. Secondary damage is the result of extremely high relative humidity which can cause the following:

  • damage of books
  • damage of electrical instruments
  • warped doors, drawers and ceilings
  • peeling wallpaper and corroded metal

The same can be said for the reverse situation when you use too little air movement. This can prolong the drying process. The longer the water is present, the higher the probability that there will be damage to structural elements such as:

  • sheet rock disintegrating
  • framework warping
  • carpet backing rotting

How to Get the Best Results

For the best results from drying out the flooded area, you’ll need approximately one air mover for every ten linear feet of wet walls. You will also need a dehumidifier capable of handling the amount of water that the air movers are going to put in the air.

 

Small Flooded Areas

If you already have a dehumidifier and the flooded area is fairly small, you can use the outside air as a natural dehumidifier.  By watching the local weather forecast or using a weather app on your smartphone, you can figure out a day with relatively low humidity. On that day you can open up all of your windows and then shut the windows if the humidity rises. This is called an “Open Drying System”.

 

Large Flooded Areas

If you’re dealing with a large area, you may have to go to your local rental store and rent a large commercial grade dehumidifier as the “Open Drying System” won’t work. You can also buy your own dehumidifier from Amazon like the “Ebac Kompact Dehumidifier” with a Built-in Pump which is compact in size, but packs all the punch of a larger, industrial dehumidifier. It is also designed for anyone who needs a dehumidifier that can be easily moved and is perfect for anyone who is  doing a DIY flood restoration, clean up or removal of moisture from a basement.

What Happens If I Don’t Dehumidify A Flooded Area?

Dehumidifiers are essential to use in a flooded area. Without using it you can get a serious mold problem. Mold can start breeding after just a day or two and cause secondary damage. It is therefore important to act as quickly as possible if your home has been flooded. Mold  can cause a number of health issues including breathing difficulty and is particularly dangerous for people with allergies and respiratory problems. It can also cause sneezing, stuffy nose, cough, postnasal drip irritated eyes, irritated nose and irritated throat.

If you haven’t dehumidified your flooded area, you’ll soon notice small black spots that are mold spores growing on the walls. Quickly, you’ll also start finding mold on your clothing, furniture and other linens such as curtains or bed sheets that are left in the area.

Other secondary problems start occurring from all the moisture that is still trapped in the walls, furnishings and other items in the flooded area as well as the moisture that is in the air. If you don’t dehumidify a flooded area, the following secondary problems may occur:

  • Odors that can accompany mold and mildew in your home. You will start smelling a rotten smell that is often caused by mildew.
  • Water stains on the walls or ceilings remain and don’t disappear.
  • Damp conditions that are favorable to microorganisms.
  • Metal surfaces become unpaintable.
  • Electronic equipment malfunctioning.
  • Damaged goods, building parts and furniture.  Your wooden furniture and flooring will start rotting away.
  • The air in the flooded area will constantly feel humid and unpleasant.

Whether you’ve had some plumbing problems or there’s been a flash flood through your neighborhood, getting a dehumidifier to help resolve flooding in your home or business is the best way to dry-out your flooded area. By following the seven steps before dehumidifying and using your dehumidifier in conjunction with an air mover, you’ll quickly have your home or business back to its original state in no time.