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Top tips to clean up a flood damaged home

Television lifestyle presenter and Rochester resident Walt Collins has offered some critical tips on where to start a home cleanup after a flood.

Mr Collins, the host of Healthy Homes Australia and Buy to Build, moved to the small, regional Victorian town on the banks of the Campaspe River, two years after he bought a farmhouse there.

He said the flood had devastated the Rochester township.

“I think there’s about 11 houses that didn’t get wet out of the 1000 that are here,” Mr Collins said.

“Almost every business is now affected as well. It’s really terrible. It’s absolute carnage.

“You can’t believe the volume of water and the damage bill is going to be astronomical.”

Mr Collins said his home, which is a little out of town and which he renovated and filmed for the TV show Country House Facelift, was surrounded by water but otherwise untouched.

He has spent much of his time in recent days lending a hand where he can and organising assistance such as more than 30 pressure washers from his contacts.

But Mr Collins said one of the best ways he could help is via sharing his knowledge of where to start and what to do when cleaning up after a flood.

He said this advice was pertinent for homeowners, and agents and property managers could also pass it along to their tenants, landlords, vendors and buyers. 

1. Ring your insurer

Before you step foot back in your flooded home you need to ring your insurer and find out what they need you to do and not do to process your insurance claim.

“In most cases, you will need to film and take photos of everything,” Mr Collins said.

“And before you start ripping carpets out, you need to cut a 1m by 1m square of carpet, or any floor that you’re going to rip out, so the insurance inspector can see what happened and what it looked like.”

2. Safety first

Make sure the power is turned off before you enter the home.

“Any live cables in there could cause injury to yourself or others,” Mr Collins said.

“Go inside carefully and make sure the home is structurally safe before you do anything else.”

Mr Collins said wearing solid footwear was a must, as is wearing protective glasses, gloves and a mask.

“Any splashes from this toxic water into your eye can cause infection,” he said.

3. Don’t save damaged items

Throw away anything that has flood water damage, even if the damage is only small or you think you can ‘save’ it.

“Any fabric that has come into contact with this water, if that’s carpet, if it’s a couch, a rug or a curtain, rip it all out and throw it on the street because when that dries it will become dust in your carpet or fabric and that dust carries the pathogens that can cause disease.

4. Replace plasterboard and insulation

Mr Collins said even if only 30cm of water came in the home you will need to replace plasterboard and insulation from 60cm above where the waterline finished.

“The water will spread and climb up through the plasterboard,” he said.

“All of your skirting boards will go, all of your kitchen cabinetry will need to go because that will swell over the coming days and it’s probably MDF.”

5. Start with the kitchen

Mr Collins said it’s best to start cleaning up in one of the most used and most important rooms in the house – the kitchen.

He said to run all of your taps and your hot water system to flush them for at least 20 minutes.

“You also need to boil your water until the authorities say it’s safe to drink,” he cautioned.

Wash all of your crockery and cutlery, wipe down all of your cabinets and benches (if you haven’t had to remove them) and once everything is clean, move onto other rooms such as bedrooms.

6. Ventilation is key

To prevent mould, Mr Collins said it was critical to use a dehumidifier in each room to take the water from the air, while using an air purifier would capture the mould spores.

If your home is on stumps, he also recommends opening up the underneath of your home, such as by removing a couple of weatherboards, to allow clean air to circulate.

“Underneath your house will be deluged with water and that’s where you will start getting black mould growing,” he said.

7. Mental health is important too

Don’t forget to take care of your mental health.

Mr Collins said the cleanup could be lengthy and it could take many weeks or even months before you can live in your home again.

“Check-in with yourself, check-in with your neighbours, check-in with your friends and help each other out,” he said.

“Don’t underestimate the mental health component of this – it’s one thing you need to keep an eye on.”

  • For useful links and articles for flood-affected regions click here.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.