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You Have Been Flooded

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A Helpful Guide to Flooding by Richard Simmons (Managing Director)

This is my personal advice gained from expertise through years of working within construction and property development. It is hopefully written in an easy to understand form and will provide excellent practical advice; so here it is:

What to do if You have been flooded:

First steps

internalflooding.jpgAs the initial drama wears away, the enormity of your situation will become clear and you and your family could be in a state of shock. Try to 'stop' and make a plan. Also photograph everything – the building structure, appliances, furniture and contents and watermarks. If the members of your family need to leave the area, make realistic decisions based upon the fact many houses can take 6 months to dry and become habitable I'm afraid this is not a two week problem!

Local supplies of disinfectant, brushes, driers, generators, pumps, builders and tradesmen will run out very fast. Make a full list of 'phase 1 items' to get ahead of the game by arranging for someone to collect these for you from perhaps well outside the local area.

When the flood water subsides it is vital to clear standing water as quickly as possible. Many people tend to wring their hands thinking they need to show the Insurance Loss Adjuster "just how bad it is" and perceive little urgency. Bricks and concrete floors soak up water relatively slowly, but conversely take months to dry out if they have been left standing in water for a long period (1 inch per month). Fast action at this stage will save months of drying time later. Very deep water however should be cleared by a maximum of one third each day.

Immediate Actions

  • Get everything that is wet out of the house
  • Never try to vac-dry carpets where the underlay or flooring below is wet
  • Carpets are likely to be contaminated
  • All drying has to be done by exposing the bottom layer of the structure
  • Laminate floors must be taken up
  • Traditional floorboards should be lifted in a limited pattern to allow pumping and or ventilation of the subfloor. The boards and joists will usually dry satisfactorily
  • Chipboard floors may recover but if immersed in water for several days they will swell badly and never recover and are very unsafe to walk on when wet. If they need to be scrapped then remove them immediately to aid ventilation to the joists and sub-ground below


If scrubbing with disinfectant is needed, then this is the next job. It is pointless to try and dry concrete floors and then introduce more water in cleaning at a later date. Disinfect very thoroughly as if not, the smell will forever linger. Disinfectant will kill mould that may form as soon as 'wet areas' change to 'damp areas'. Mould and mildew are more dangerous to health than commonly perceived.


If kitchen units are wrecked (which is highly likely) then these should be dismantled also. If the units are recoverable however, my advice is not to see this as a 'new insurance kitchen opportunity' your priority is to get back in your house, not refit your kitchen!


Staircases will usually dry out but need ventilation to the underside if possible. Doors will vary in construction but once twisted will not often straighten. Removing doors helps the ventilation process.


ventilation.jpgVentilation, ventilation and more ventilation. In fine weather it is best to open windows and doors as much as possible to create a draft of air through the building. Incoming air will evaporate damp from surfaces and take the moisture out of the building. In addition heating the house at the same time will also help speed the process.

Hot air electric heaters are excellent since they produce moisture free heat. Propane gas space heaters are frowned upon by many experts as the gas produces a little moisture and in the wrong hands they could be a fire risk. In my own experience they are very effective but one must appreciate that fast track drying can cause cracking of plaster and twisting of doors.

Dehumidifiers work on the principle of extracting water from the humid air of a damp building; the building must be sealed with all windows and doors closed otherwise you are effectively 'drying the outside world'. Ideally a large hire-shop dehumidifier (3ftx2ftx2ft) is needed in each room to be dried. The water must be collected into a 5 gallon barrel and not an open bucket. Dehumidifiers are slow in action and in my view best employed after much heat and ventilation drying has first been achieved.

Note: a concrete floor is truly 'dry' when a 1 metre square polythene sheet left on the floor overnight does not have condensation under it the next morning. Whilst a house can be occupied before this point, tiles or vinyl should not be laid until this test is passed.

When windows start to show less condensation, drying is becoming more effective.


Do not wait; do not see this as an insurance 'opportunity'. Insurance Loss Adjusters will be inundated and cannot get to everyone first. They are professionals who are generally keen to help honest people. They like claimants who do everything reasonable to mitigate their own loss. Communicate clearly and clarify what terms of reference the insurance company feels is reasonable. If you ‘try it on’ expect a long and stressful process.

In general you will get eventually what you are due:

  • Fully insured - New for Old: you should get full recompense of all expenses less any excesses on your policy.
  • Fully insured: you may get full recompense but the policy may adjust downwards for fair wear and tear and general depreciation since new. A 15 year old kitchen does not always justify a new kitchen!
  • Underinsured: you should get the 'fair percentage'. The insurance company will take the rebuild cost you have insured for, when compared with the current correct rebuild cost of your whole house. In simple terms a house of rebuild value £100,000 insured for only £75,000 will result in a flood claim of £25,000 being reduced by 25% due to the under insured loss.

As a rule of thumb, correct insurance rebuild costs might be £100/sq ft of floor area. A luxury house may be £130/sq ft; a basic terraced house could be as low as £70/sq ft.

My advice is to keep photographs of everything; regularly update the insurance company with letters, emails or handwritten notes of what you are doing and why you are doing it. In general they will not expect you to get permission to hire a heater or buy items such as disinfectant but do just send them a note about it and press on.

Builders Quotes

Builders in the area will be inundated with quotation work, and eventually will very likely become over stretched with work. They may prove understandably unreliable as time goes on.

Consider organising quotes from builders / kitchen fitters from slightly further afield. Order goods like kitchens and doors very early after clearing this with any insurer since supplies may become stretched to long delivery dates. Given the huge pressure that insurers are likely to be under, try to help arrange quotes yourself to move your case forward; don’t exaggerate the claim at all and you may get a fast decision to proceed with a builder, or even manage the work yourself.

Plant and Equipment

In a flood scenario, the man with the equipment is king. My recommendation is to get on the case straight away! RG Simmons

dryingout.jpgIn an area where many people have been hit by floods, hire shops will quickly become short of driers, heaters and generators. Consider hiring from outside the area. Hiring in general is very costly over a long period of time.

In the light of this it might be prudent to consider purchasing equipment since you are likely to need it for much longer that you first anticipate and owning it means that you stay in fully control. If you own the equipment it may be useful in the future or you could resell the items at a later date.

Small generators are readily available at many builders merchants. These will be adequate for running small pumps. Very small diy dehumidifiers are unlikely to achieve meaningful results however. The purchase of several traditional sturdy household ‘electric fan heaters ’ may prove a fantastic purchase however. Consider several good quality extension leads for getting heat into difficult areas and corners.


If you have been flooded, you certainly have my sympathy. I hope this guide and the information on all our pages are helpful to you. Do not waste any energy on blaming the Government, Councils or Agencies.

Be determined to help your cause by tackling the work needed to be done in a proactive, organised manner in order to waste as little time as possible.

The main part of The Construction Centre website has a wealth of information including a comprehensive product and manufacturer search for you to be able to find the itmes you need. In addition there is a range of directories offering contact details for UK suppliers. Please tell people about our website if you find it helpful: