Flood Recovery Booklet
United States Department of the Interior
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
P.O. Box 37127
Washington D.C. 20013-7127
AFTER THE FLOOD: Emergency Stabilization and Conservation Measures
After the flood waters begin to recede, the focus of relief efforts becomes returning things to normal. During this phase, many historic structures and properties are needlessly lost and damaged through hasty clean-up procedures. The best way to help a historic district, property, or structure prevent additional damage and maintain its integrity and character during these times of duress is with the use of proper caution and concern.
While the water is receding, plan the future steps to rehabilitation and restoration carefully. Each decision made today affects future decisions which will need to be made tomorrow. The following areas of concern should be addressed during planning.
PERSONAL SAFETY: The First Priority
- Return to the area only after it has been declared safe by local emergency management officials. Follow all emergency rules, laws and regulations.
- Identify potential hazards and solicit expert advice and assistance to minimize the dangers. Report and stay clear from loose power lines or damaged utilities.
- Turn off all utilities associated with the historic property to prevent further damage and minimize future hazards.
DOCUMENTATION: Developing a Condition Assessment Report
- Prepare a visual record showing the scope of the disaster and the damage to the historic fabric. This is best done through annotated photographs, and narrated videotape taken before the cleanup actually begins.
- Create an inventory of found items, dislodged architectural features, decorative fragments, furnishings, collections, etc. DO NOT THROW AWAY MATERIALS AT WILL. Many items may prove their value as the surrounding restoration or rehabilitation projects proceed.
- Use the gathered information to have a team of preservation professionals develop a prioritized plan of stabilization, repair, and restoration.
STRUCTURAL STABILIZATION: Temporary Measures
- Identify potential deficiencies and provide temporary shoring to protect life, property, and belongings while the water levels are receding. Successful shoring can be accomplished without increasing the damage to the historic features or materials. All shoring measures should be planned with the assistance of qualified structural engineers or contractors.
- Support unstable or leaning structures or features with temporary bracing and reinforcement.
- Strengthen exposed foundations or brace areas of undermining by following engineer's recommendations.
- Brace and strengthen decayed or damaged floor and ceiling structure. Check bearing locations for movement or settlement.
- Clean and repair the structure's roof and roof drainage system in order to protect the building from future storm damage.
- Provide temporary protective roof coverings where the existing roof has been damaged.
- Clean, repair and reconnect gutters and downspouts.
- Drain contained water slowly and carefully from the interior of the structure to prevent undue stress which may cause structural failure. Make sure the decreasing water level remains equal to the exterior and adjacent conditions.
DRYING OUT: Natural Ventilation and Time
- Carefully remove trapped mud and collected water/storm debris as water recedes. Do not unnecessarily damage covered historic finishes or materials.
- Remove standing water and water-logged furnishings and debris that maintain a source of moisture within the structure.
- Drain the water from the basements and crawl spaces. Standing water will migrate and perpetuate the moisture problems on the upper levels.
- Furnishing should be moved to allow air movement and ventilation around them.
- Remove and dry water soaked rugs, boxes, and materials. Paperwork and books may require special care and considerations.
- Remove water soaked insulation from the attic and if easily accessible without damaging historic fabric and materials, remove insulation from cavity wall construction.
- Check and drain trapped water from mechanical chases, equipment, and HVAC ductwork.
- Remove residual moisture in a gradual and controlled process through natural ventilation. Do not use mechanical dehumidification which may cause additional damage.
- Open windows and doors. Provide protection and security measures as required through the use of screens and vents.
- Provide moderate ventilation through the use of fans. Heating may be provided when conditions warrant, but do not hurry the process. Natural drying is preferred.
- Allow plaster to dry gradually, avoiding cracking and separation of layers.
Forced drying through the use of dehumidifiers and heaters may draw excessive moisture through the plaster leading to excessive expansion, cracking, and powdering of the finished surface.
Carefully remove all flood soaked Gypsum Wall Board. It is a porous material which degrades under extreme moisture trapping fungus and bacteria that pose health hazards.
- Remove trapped water from cavity wall construction and interior partitions by carefully removing the baseboard and drilling a drain hole through the plaster and lath near the bottom of each wall cavity. Do not damage architecturally significant or character defining features.
- Remove non-historic artificial wall covering and paneling which may trap moisture within the wall. Consult a preservation specialist on the treatment of historic wall finishes.
- Allow wood to air dry gradually. Promote even drying through proper ventilation. In most cases, swelling and warping of the solid wood, flooring and framing, will be minimal and decrease as the wood dries. Laminate wood surfaces may experience separation and warping caused by the uneven drying of the layers.
Forced drying through the use of dehumidifiers and heaters will cause uneven drying, resulting in the cupping, warping, and checking of the wood.
Monitor the wood. If wood elements remain damp after the other moisture problems have subsided, fungus and/or rot and decay may develop.
- Remove sheet vinyl linoleum, or VCT tile to allow for maximum evaporation. Protect and store historic floor finishes that have been removed.
- Protect the wood floors from undue traffic and abuse, until they are dry. Wood becomes soft and easily damaged when it is wet.
HOUSEKEEPING MAINTENANCE Initial Cleaning and Repair
- Rinse remaining mud, dirt and flood debris from all surfaces with freshwater. Do not use high pressure water on historic materials. Use extreme care and caution around decorative features and damaged elements.
- TURN OFF ALL ELECTRICITY BEFORE CLEANING WITH WATER.
- Open electrical outlets, mechanical chases, etc. and rinse these areas thoroughly. Check wiring and connections for damage and repair as required. Let areas dry before closing them.
- Check for loose plaster; and either resecure it in place or carefully record and remove it by hand. Decorative elements which are loose may be carefully recorded, removed, labeled and saved for reinstallation.
- Supporting loose plaster: Plaster may be temporarily supported through the use of plywood and wooden T braces. Use padding and care to protect all decorative elements from additional damage when using this method.
- Securing loose plaster: Secure loose plaster and lath to the original framing by using screws and plaster washers. Protect decorative elements from damage by carefully selecting the attachment locations.
- Decorative wood elements may become loose or detached during flooding. Check for loose, damaged or deteriorating wood. Either resecure loose elements in place or carefully record and remove it by hand, labeling and saving the element for reinstallation.
- Securing loose wood: secure loose wooden elements to the framing by using or reinstalling original fastenings. Protect decorative elements from additional damage by carefully reusing the attachment locations.
- Use standard non-sudsing household cleaning products as directed by manufacturers instructions to remove remaining dirt and stains. Special care and caution should be used when working on or around historic materials. After cleaning, use a disinfectant to kill the germs, bacteria and smell left by flood waters.
- Do not use cleaning solutions that will trap or impede moisture movement within the historic materials.
This information was produced and compiled by the Preservation Assistance Division, National Park Service, Washington, DC. (202) 343-9578.
rev. January 17, 1995