Consider Potential for Future Floods When Making Post Flood Restorations - UNL CropWatch, 2011

Consider Potential for Future Floods When Making Post Flood Restorations - UNL CropWatch, 2011

August 16, 2011

Recent flooding and heavy rains have many Midwesterners either preparing for or cleaning and drying out homes, basements and crawlspaces.

After the damage is assessed, decisions will be made as to the fate of these homes. For those restoring their homes, now is the time to reduce the potential for future water and flood damage by incorporating flood resistant building materials and practices, said Caroll Welte, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator in Burt County.

Draining water away from the foundation, moving items up and out of harm's way, allowing materials to drain and dry faster and making repairs easier all can help reduce flooding potential and time spent cleaning up the mess, said Shirley Niemeyer, UNL professor emeritus.

"By planning for a potential water or flood event, you can prevent some damage to interior contents and reduce the loss of important items," Niemeyer said.

"However, be sure to check with local housing and code officials about local codes before making changes," Welte said.

Items that can be moved up and out of harm's way include utility systems and other equipment. Hire a professional to do the following:

  • Raise the main breaker or fuse box and the utility meter above the potential flood level for your home or to a higher floor.
  • Raise outlets and switches to higher levels in rooms if allowed by local or state codes.
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters to prevent electrical hazards.

These items also can be raised to avoid damage:

  • Heating equipment and air conditioners can be put on higher levels or a higher floor or possibly in the attic. Floor reinforcements may be needed to handle the extra weight.
  • Outside air conditioners can be installed on a higher platform above potential water levels.
  • Washers, dryers and water-conditioning equipment can be relocated to higher floors or raised onto secure platforms inside the lower levels. Provide spillage pans and overflow drains to prevent water damage from leaks. Floor reinforcement may be needed.

If equipment can't be moved to higher levels, construct sturdy platforms and raise them up from the existing floor level.

Interior lower floodwalls can be built around equipment to protect against shallow water if the equipment can't be raised. A concrete or block floodwall can be made water resistant using plastic and water sealant products. However, the exterior water pressure may collapse the floodwall and water still may seep through.

Consider relocating the home to a higher level on the property or to another location out of the potential flood area. Compare costs to raising the home above flood stage, and to the costs of future flooding.

To make repairs easier and to allow for faster drying in the event of another flood, follow these tips:

  • Use non-paper gypsum wallboard or cement board. Place it horizontally on the wall to make it easier to remove and replace. If the water level is less than a few feet, the lower wallboard and insulation may only need to be removed. Wicking frequently will wet wallboard above the initial water level. Mold can occur within a wet wall cavity.
  • Leave a gap between the lower and upper horizontal wallboards to allow for drying and to prevent wicking between the two. However, this may reduce the energy efficiency of the wall materials. Caulk the gap to reduce moisture wicking from one wallboard to the other. Cover the gap with a trim or railing that is easy to remove for faster drying.
  • Metal studs and sill plates that are corrosion resistant may be easier to clean. Use lighter weight and smaller furniture that is easily moved to higher levels or out of the home.
  • Use flooring materials, such as tiles and concrete, that resist water damage. If you think you must use soft coverings (carpet), use area rugs that can be rolled up and removed before the water enters. Rugs also are easier to clean because they can be moved outside to dry and to be cleaned professionally. Installed carpets and especially pads should be removed and disposed of after a water or flood event unless the water is clean or it is a minor clean water event.

To reduce water and flood damage in homes, these other tips also can help:

  • Install check valves or back-flow valves in plumbing and sanitary sewer lines to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains.
  • If items must be stored in the lowest levels, store them high off the floor where they will be less likely to be damaged by water.
  • Keep valuable items out of basements and off the first floor if it is subject to flooding.
  • Keep copies of valuable documents and photos at another location, in a safety deposit box, or with relatives or friends outside the area.

To be sure water drains away from the home and foundation:

  • If possible, create a 5-10% slope away from the home for a minimum of 10 feet to help reduce foundation leakage. Then continue the slope away from the house.
  • Clean and repair gutters, downspouts and extenders. Downspout extenders should empty the water well away from the foundation or to about 6 to 10 feet. Add gutters and downspouts if there are none. If gutters overflow, consider larger gutters or adding more downspouts to remove the water.
  • Fill in any low spots and make sure the soil around the foundation is compacted.
  • Use a hose on the foundation exterior to find water entry locations. Repair foundation cracks and holes.
  • Check window wells. They should be well drained and carry water away from the foundation. If there is no drainage system in the window well, make sure water flows well away from the well. Consider making a modified roof over the window well to reduce water entry. Windows should be carefully caulked and weatherstripped.

For more information about minimizing damage from flooding, go to http://flood.unl.edu/ or go to www.eXtension.org and click on disasters and floods.

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service