(05/25/21) BATON ROUGE, La. — If your home was flooded, the tremendous work, expense and stress that follows can mean a daunting time ahead. But it is possible to find a silver lining. Claudette Hanks Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist, said if you restore for more than before, you can return to a better home – a more resilient, comfortable and healthy home to enjoy with peace of mind.
“Take control of your future by making your home more resilient before the next flood or hurricane,” Reichel said. “When replacing damaged materials and equipment, it is a great investment to upgrade with flood-hardy restoration, even if your insurance won’t cover the incremental cost.”
Making your home flood-hardy and resilient means you can clean up and move back in quickly, with minimal tear-out, replacement and cost.
“It’s not an all or nothing approach,” she said.
Reichel recommends any of the following measures to reduce future flood damage, the resulting health hazards and expenses.
Have a licensed plumber install sewage backflow valves in the drain line to protect your home and health. Even minor flash floods in the vicinity can cause sewage back-up.
Restore with flood-resistant replacement materials, which also tend to be less vulnerable to mold. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has published tables of flood damage-resistant materials at www.fema.gov.
- Floorings: (Note: Types of flooring that allow the slab or subfloor to dry are most advantageous.)
- Decorative concrete (overlay or stain), terrazzo, stone, brick.
- Porcelain or ceramic tile (unglazed tile and unsealed mortar may offer greater drying capacity).
- Interlocking solid vinyl tiles that don’t need adhesive (can be easily removed to allow slab to dry, then reinstalled).
- Solid vinyl tiles or inlaid sheet vinyl with no paper backing.
- Solid hardwood planks installed to allow easy removal of some or all planks (with water-based polyurethane or other vapor-permeable finish).
- Exterior grade plywood subflooring (may swell but can dry and recover).
- In flood hazard zones, sufficient flood vents within 1 foot of the ground are needed in raised homes to prevent failure from the pressure of rising floodwater. Search for “Requirements for Flood Openings in Foundation Walls” at the FEMA website at www.fema.gov.
- In this warm, humid climate, insulate raised floors with either closed cell spray foam insulation between joists under the subfloor or with closed cell rigid foamboards across the floor joists, taped and sealed airtight. These methods prevent subfloor moisture problems common in air-conditioned homes. Search for the article titled, “Insulating Raised Floors in a Hot Humid Climate” at www.lsuagcenter.com.
- Relocate any ductwork and equipment out of the crawlspace and above flood risk.
- When possible, the best solution is to elevate the entire house above flood risk. Check with your local government’s emergency management office and your flood insurance policy for potential sources of financial assistance.
- Interior wall finishes: Paperless (fiberglass mat-faced) gypsum drywall; removable wainscoting and baseboards. (Note: Finish with latex paint and NEVER use vinyl wallpaper because it can trap moisture in walls and lead to hidden mold.)
- Insulations: Closed-cell spray foam or closed-cell rigid foam boards do not absorb water; mineral fiber insulation boards exterior sheathing can recover if installed to drain and dry.
- Exterior cladding: Brick veneer; fiber-cement, vinyl, aluminum, some moisture-resistant composite siding and trim. Be sure to provide a drainage gap between siding and sheathing.
- Openings: Metal or fiberglass-skin doors with closed cell foam insulation inside; windows with aluminum, fiberglass or vinyl frames. (Note: Some have metal parts that might rust, or insulated glass spacers that may leak.)
Elevate appliances, equipment, outlets and switches above the potential flood level. Place water heaters and air conditioning compressors on sturdy platforms. Wall ovens and front-loading laundry equipment on platforms can protect them from shallow floods.
If you see new or widened slab cracks or diagonal cracks in your home’s walls, hire a qualified professional to evaluate and repair. Seek an engineered system and installation firm with a solid track record of success.
If you gutted walls, consider upgrading to a “washable, drainable, dryable wall” assembly:
- Partially fill wall cavities with closed cell spray foam insulation or rigid foam board cut to fit; or insulate walls with only exterior rigid foam sheathing and leave the wall cavity empty. Leave some empty space in the wall to allow flushing, drainage and drying.
- Install paperless drywall with gaps or gaskets between panels to block wicking across panels.
- Leave gaps at the top and bottom, covered by trim that can be removed after a flood to allow the wall cavities to be flushed with cleaner then sanitizing rinse, drained and ventilated for drying (with dehumidified air for faster drying).
Learn more about resilient, high-performance home construction and restoration by visiting the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Resource Center website at www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse and visit the Flood Recovery page with FAQs: After Gutting Your Flooded Home. LaHouse Resource Center, on the LSU campus, is an educational showcase of solutions for the Gulf Region climate and natural hazards.Also see tour videos, building system and home improvement videos on the LaHouse YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/myLaHouse).