Flood: experts offer advice on repairing home, recovering belongs from water damage

Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Sunday, October 13th, 2013 at 8:51am.

Probably the most damaging disasters to a home are fire and water – and tens of thousands of homes from Boulder to Northern Colorado suffered the effects of flooding in September.

We’ve compiled some tips from various websites about how to go about recovering and repairing a home as well as belongings following water damage.

Dry out before repairing

Hopefully flood victims gave their home plenty of time to dry before beginning  repairs, as rushing into repairing too soon may cause even more damage. A good rule of thumb for drying out your home is to double the amount of time it takes for visible wetness to dry, according to Aaliyah Arthur of ProCare Restoration Services.

“For example, if the visible moisture in your home takes one week to dry, the unseen moisture will probably take another week to completely dry out,” she writes, adding opening doors and windows and turning on a dehumidifier can speed the process up.

Arthur advises homeowners to consider using more water-resistant materials, such as Marine plywood for homes at higher risk for future water damage or exterior-grade plywood that withstands low-level moisture and humidity, for those that aren’t, as they begin repairs.

For homeowners needing to replace their baseboards, Arthur recommends synthetic baseboards instead of a wood base, and galvanized nails that aren’t as susceptible to rust as regular nails are. Use metal or vinyl windows and metal doorframes that won’t warp as wood does, she adds.

Repairing basement floors, walls and ceilings

The website Waterdamagerepairtips.com recommends installing the newer laminated flooring in basements because of the higher threat of water damage to basement carpets. Also, the site suggests that homes with water damage may need sheetrock replaced and the old sheetrock and carpet disposed of properly to prevent molding.

Water damage to ceilings is often apparent via stains around the base of a light fixture or at the junction of a chimney and wall, according to the site, explaining: “IIf the plaster or wallboard is stable and dry, paint it with a sealer such as Kilz then repaint. If the area is unstable, remove a section large enough to allow for easy nailing of the replacement material then prime and paint. If the ceiling is noticeably sagging it may have to be replaced entirely, which is usually a job for a pro.”

Cleaning up belongings

When it comes to cleaning and preserving items inside a home, the recovery is a three- step process:

  1. Cleaning the mud or debris on the surface of the item.

  2. Repair any damage done.

  3. Disinfect the item.

According to Chuck Keller, owner of Elite Restorations Inc., paper items are most easily damaged by water, even without direct contact. Repairing paper items requires drying, either by air drying or a dehumidifier, but the process can be more complicated than it sounds.

For example, the process is more complicated for water-damaged books and requires prioritization. Books that are leather bound or have parchment or vellum bindings will disintegrate faster and should be a priority.

To dry books damaged by clean water, simply remove them from the water and let them dry without opening them or closing them while they are in water. If the books have been exposed to dirty water, remove them from the water and rinse the pages in clean running water. After they are clean, open them to air dry and turn them upside down every few hours.

To speed up the drying process, place white absorbent paper between every 10-15 pages. When the books are dry, place them lightly against a solid surface to ensure prevention of swelling.

Bleach the linens or toss

Before cleaning water-damaged blankets, sheets, comforters or towels, check to see if they can be bleached; if they can’t, discard them. If you can, soak blankets and comforters in warm water and bleach for 15-20 minutes each, soaking twice any items with dirt or debris before washing. Soak sheets and towels in cold water and bleach for 10-15 minutes and then rinse them in cold water before washing them in hot water and detergent with a cup of bleach added for proper disinfectant. Mattresses should be left to a professional or discarded, as they can’t be properly cleaned at home.

Cleaning furniture

To clean furniture damaged by water, clean with soap and water first and, if not sufficient, use a solution of turpentine and water.

Rub the wood with steel dipped in lemon or olive oil to bring back the color, then polish it with a soft cloth.

Preserving memories

The Memory Preservation Coalition, a nonprofit organization with the mission of educating the public about the importance of preserving memories, offers these three simple steps to start the rescue process of photos and videos at home:

  1. Clean – If covered with mud and debris, use a tub of distilled or purified spring water to rinse photos and videos. Very gently agitate the media to remove dirt — do not rub them!

  2. Dry or freezeDigitize – Scan wet photos, being careful to wipe the scanner glass between each use. Once dry, video tapes can be digitized and the videos transferred to DVD or a hard-drive.

    1. Dry – Blot or hang photos to dry and stand video tapes on edge.
    2. Freeze – It’s a little known fact that freezing delays damage. Place wet items in freezer bags, store them in the freezer, then dry and restore them in the future.
  3.  Digitize – Scan wet photos, being careful to wipe the scanner glass between each use. Once dry, video tapes can be digitized and the videos transferred to DVD or a hard-drive.Or take photos, videos and other memories to one of these Memory Rescue Centers for expert assistance: 


  • Memories to Digital – Boulder, 2525 Arapahoe Ave in the Village Shopping Center near McGuckin Hardware, 303-554-7100; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

  • Memories to Digital – Lone Tree, 8481 S. Yosemite in the Home Depot shopping center, 303-799-1677; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

  • Leave A Legacy – Fort Collins, 1827 E. Harmony Rd, 970-226-0102; open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.

  • Leave A Legacy – Denver, 487 S. Broadway, Suite 100 (southwest of Sam’s Club), 303-623-0607; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Tom Kalinski 
Owner and Founder
RE/MAX of Boulder

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