After the flood, some expert advice on how to dry the
By JUDY STARK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 11, 2004
Thanks to Hurricane Frances, many of us have a new understanding of what
"heavy rain" and "storm surge" mean. If you were canoeing through Shore
Acres in St. Petersburg or through South Tampa last Monday, you're familiar
with another term: "flooding."
As soon as you're allowed back in the house and it's safe to turn the
electricity on, "Turn the air conditioning on," said Michael Smith, customer
service manager for Servpro, a restoration franchise with three branches in
Pinellas County. That will start the movement of cool, dry air throughout
the house to begin the drying-out.
What if you have no power? Should you open the doors and windows to get
some air movement?
No, says Pete Duncanson, a mitigation specialist with Servicemaster,
another national restoration service. "The humidity outside is probably
higher than inside your house. All that wet air from outside goes inside.
You're just creating another problem."
Your home air conditioning will help, and so will a box fan. "The more
air movement and the more dehumidification you can provide, the better off
you are," Duncanson said. "Let 'em run."
But if your house is truly soaked, you may need professional drying equipment
high-velocity air movers and several large dehumidifiers. Your home AC and household fans
just don't have the power to do the job. Remove soaked carpets and pads.
Insurers will regard them as unsalvageable if they've been soaked in water
from a storm. Homeowners insurance does not cover damage from rising water;
separate flood coverage is required. Visit
www.floodsmart.gov the Web site of
the National Flood Insurance Program, for details.
If you have hard-surface floors (wood or tile), a wet vacuum can help
suck up the water.
A hurricane's heavy rains may also cause damage from above. If water
penetrates the roof, ceilings may collapse, insulation is soaked, water
soaks walls and drips down through air conditioning vents. That's what Smith
saw after Hurricane Charley in Port Charlotte.
The big post-flooding headache is mold, which thrives in warmth and
moisture. Washing surfaces with a bleach solution or painting over mold with
shellacs such as Kilz "will hide mold, but the only real solution is
physical removal," Duncanson said. "There is no miracle cure, no product you
can just spray on that will kill mold forever." That means cutting out
drywall, removing soaked insulation, sanding wood studs.
Drywall can be dried, he said, and will be harder than the original, but
speed is of the essence. If it remains wet for any length of time, mold can
start to grow behind the walls. Drywall should be cut in 2-foot increments
to eliminate waste from a new sheet of 4- by 8-foot drywall.
Vinyl wall covering should be removed. It acts as a vapor barrier so the
wall behind it can't dry.
Some homeowners cover everything with plastic after a storm. If furniture
and household items are wet under that plastic, you're creating a mini
greenhouse where you'll grow a bumper crop of mold. Dry the items before you
wrap them in plastic.
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St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved