[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips for Bringing Historic Properties Back from a Flood


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Water damage can be one of the most devastating aspects of a natural disaster, as many in the path of Superstorm Sandy have discovered in recent weeks. And while all structures are vulnerable to flood waters, special care needs to be taken with historic buildings in order to limit the damage to irreplaceable materials and/or design.

In the event that you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of dealing with a flooded historic property, here are 10 tips (adapted from our publication "Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings") to get you started. Additional information can be found in the comprehensive disaster-recovery materials on PreservationNation.org: http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/technical-assistance/disaster-recovery/


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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips for Bringing Historic Properties Back from a Flood

  1. 1. Preservation & Natural Disasters10 Tips for Bringing Historic Properties BackFrom a Flood Photo courtesy Jody Halsted, iatraveler, Flickr
  2. 2. 1. Document the damage.Before starting your cleanup, it is important totake careful notes about damage to your home.This is essential not only for insurancepurposes, but also to record important historicfeatures. Photograph any items removed forcleaning or repair purposes to help ensure thatthey are reinstalled correctly.Photo courtesy Jeff Baxter, Jeffry B , Flickr
  3. 3. Photo courtesy bclinesmith ,Flickr2. Create an inventory of found items.Flood waters can carry dislodged architecturalfeatures, decorative fragments, and furnishings a greatdistance. Items found on your property may be extremelyvaluable to a nearby restoration project.
  4. 4. 3. Ventilate!The least damaging drying process beginsby using only ventilation. The mosteffective way to do this is to open windowsand doors and allow the moisture toescape. Fans can be used to speedevaporation by moving interior air andexhausting humid air to the outdoors.Tip: Beware of using industrial dryingequipment to remove moisture at a veryfast rate. You are likely to causepermanent damage to wood and plaster. Photo courtesy JARM13, Flickr
  5. 5. 4. Clean the mud while it’s still wet.Rinse mud, dirt, and flood debris with fresh water as soon aspossible -- it is safer and easier to remove the mud while it is stillwet. Avoid using high pressure water on historic materials andexercise extreme care, so as not to cause further damage.Tip: Silt and mud will accumulate not only on the floor andfurnishings, but in interior wall spaces as well. Be sure to openelectrical outlets and mechanical areas and rinse thoroughly, andcheck heating and air conditioning ducts and clean out any mud ordirt before turning on the units.
  6. 6. 5. Beware of a floodedbasement.Be careful when pumping water out yourbasement. If the water level is high, and you arereasonably sure your drains are working,groundwater levels may also be high andpumping water out could result in either morewater coming in or a foundation collapse. It isgenerally advisable to wait for high water torecede on its own.Photo courtesy Matthew Keefe, M. Keefe , Flickr
  7. 7. 6. Keep an eye on cracks in thefoundation.Movement, particularly widening of cracks, is a sign of structuralinstability warranting careful examination by a qualified structuralengineer or architect. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library,Flickr
  8. 8. 7. Remove saturatedinsulation.There are two reasons for this:1) Flooding renders most insulationpermanently ineffective.2) Saturated insulation holds waterwhich, if left in place, can perpetuatehigh moisture conditions destructiveto wood, masonry, and steel. Photo courtesy Anne Hornyak, anneh632 , Flickr
  9. 9. 8. Let the efflorescencetake care of itself.The what? Efflorescence is the unsightly whiteresidue found on brick, stone, or concrete walls.It comes from impurities in the materials, but theresidue is not usually harmful and frequentlydisappears naturally when it rains.Tip: Stubborn efflorescence maybe removedwith water, detergent, and bristle brushes -- orwith chemicals.Photo courtesy Don Shall, origamidon , Flickr
  10. 10. Photo courtesy Charles Dawley, Odalaigh, Flickr9. Check on your interior materials.Drywall should almost always be replaced. Once it has gotten wet, itbecomes unstable, and can be dangerous for residents. (FEMArecommends replacement because contaminants may make drywall apermanent health hazard.) Plaster, however, is more unpredictable andmay survive without damage, while other times it must be replaced.
  11. 11. 10. Let wood floors, trim,and doors dry thoroughly.Most wood will expand and warpwhen wet and then return more orless to its original form as itdries, though it depends on a varietyof factors. Waiting for woods to drycan mean the difference betweenjust needing to sand down yourhistoric floors and replacing them. Photo courtesy Rebecca Landis, smith.rickard, Flickr
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.