After the Flood

Protect Your Property
If you’ve experienced a flood, you know how much damage it can cause. This page will provide information on flooding damage and what to do, as well as mitigation strategies used to prevent damage in the future. We also explain what substantial damage is, and NFIP’s Increased Cost of Compliance as well as other terms used and programs available to help.


Immediately After Water Recedes

After the flood waters recede and the clean up has been done, most folks want to get back into their homes or businesses and start rebuilding. The problem is that wood that has been submerged in water has likely absorbed a large amount of water. Rebuilding too quickly after a flood can cause continuing problems such as mold growth, insect infestations, and deterioration of the wood and wall coverings.

Flood waters are not clean water; therefore, most porous building materials must be removed and replaced with new materials.


  • Inspect for structural and electrical damage from outside to determine if it is safe to enter.
  • If there is a red, yellow or green tag on your home, it has been inspected by your local Building Code Official. He/She may have also left a copy of the inspection report and/or instructions on what to do next.
  • Electrical safety is extremely important in floods. Check for fire hazards and gas leaks. Use battery operated light sources.
  • Never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia or vinegar.
  • Wear Sturdy Shoes, rubber gloves, and eye protection.
  • If mold is present, wear a respirator that can filter spores.
  • Make sure to test your well water before drinking. Follow instructions on disinfecting well water if needed.

First Steps!

Make sure that everyone is out of danger of new flood crests, fire and falling buildings. Assume flood water and flooded materials are contaminated.

Insurance Claims

If you have flood insurance, contact your insurance adjuster immediately.

  • Begin cleanup, salvage and drying as soon as possible. Do not wait for adjuster. Take photos of damage before, during and after cleanup.
  • Clean house so the adjuster can see the damage to the building.
  • Keep damaged materials for proof of loss.
  • Leave a phone number where you can be reached when the adjuster arrives.
  • The adjuster will assess damages to the house. Owner should sign a proof of loss statement. Additional damage can be added when found.
  • Contact your local building code officer for information. You may need a building permit. Fees are usually waived for flood damage.
  • If you do not have flood insurance, your homeowner’s insurance will not likely cover the loss. If the flood has been declared a federal disaster, apply for assistance at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.

Electrical Systems

Be sure all electric and gas services are turned off before entering the premises for the first time.

  • Disconnect the main switch and all circuits.
  • Remove covers from all outlets and the fuse/breaker boxes; flush with clean water.
  • Let dry, and spray with contact cleaner/lubricant.
  • Have electrician check for grounds and other unsafe conditions before reconnecting the system.

Food and Water Sanitation

Until your local water company, utility or public health department declares your water source safe, purify your water, not only for drinking and cooking, but also for washing any part of the body or dishes.

  • Water: Strain water through a clean cloth or filter; then boil water vigorously for a full minute; let cool. If boiling is not possible, use fresh unscented liquid chlorine bleach (8 drops or 1/8 tsp per gallon of clear water; 16 drops or 1/4 tsp per gallon of cloudy water); stir; let stand 30 minutes. Iodine and purification tablets are not recommended.
  • Food: Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all metal cans or retort pouches can be saved if you remove the labels, thoroughly wash the cans, rinse them and disinfect them with a sanitizing solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of potable water. Finally, re-label containers with expiration date.
  • Utensils: Discard flood-contaminated wooden cutting boards and spoons, plastic utensils, baby bottles/nipples and pacifiers. Thoroughly wash metal and ceramic pans, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tsp chlorine bleach per quart of water.

Furnishings and Carpets

Remove all furniture, bedding, and carpeting to outdoors to be cleaned and dried (or discarded).

  • Flooded carpets and rugs are best replaced since flood water may contain contaminants. Flooded carpet pads should always be discarded and replaced.
  • Remove water-logged rugs, carpets, and pads within 48 hours after flooding subsides.
  • If salvage is attempted, spread out rugs and carpets outdoors. Hose off. If soiled, professionally clean or work in carpet shampoo with a broom. Rinse well with a solution of 1 gallon water and 2 tablespoons liquid household chlorine bleach to sanitize (if colorfast). If carpet is wool, do not add bleach.
  • Dry the carpet and sub-floor thoroughly as quickly as possible. If carpet is damp, it can mildew.
  • All upholstered furniture and mattresses contaminated by flood water should be discarded. If an upholstered furniture piece is valuable, the stuffing and upholstering will need to be replaced. Solid wood, metal and plastic furniture may be cleaned and restored. Hose off any mud, clean & sanitize and let dry completely out of direct sunlight.


Open flooded walls, even if they appear undamaged, to prevent mold, odor and structural decay later.

  • Remove water from the structure as rapidly as possible. Ventilate.
  • Remove baseboards, and cut holes in wallboard to drain uninsulated walls.
  • Remove the interior surface of insulated walls to a point above water height.
  • Discard flooded drywall.
  • Undamaged paneling may be propped open or reinstalled after cleaning.
  • Remove and discard all wet fibrous insulation.
  • Clean out mud. Wall studs and plates may be sprayed with disinfectant (1 cup bleach per gallon water) to kill any existing mold and fungi.
  • Speed dry with dehumidifiers and fans.
  • Leave walls open until they have thoroughly dried, which may take up to a month.
  • Select replacement materials that will withstand future floods (such as rigid foam insulation, removable wainscoting, ceramic tile, etc.)
Next Steps

Long-term flooding or wetness is likely to ruin most interior finishes and contents, but the next steps may be possible when flooding is short term and cleanup begins promptly. Delay permanent repairs until the building is thoroughly dry, which may take weeks.


  • Layers of submerged plywood or OSB sub-floors will likely separate or swell. Affected sections must be replaced to keep the new floor covering from buckling.
  • When floor coverings are removed, allow the sub-flooring to dry thoroughly, which may take months without a dehumidifier.
  • Check for warping before installing new flooring.

Wood Floors

  • Carefully remove a board every few feet to reduce bucking caused by swelling. If boards are tongue-and-grooved, consult a carpenter or flooring professional.
  • Clean and dry the floor thoroughly, which may take weeks, before replacing boards and attempting repairs.

Tile and Sheet Flooring

  • If submerged wood sub-floor swells or separates, flooring will need to be removed. (Asbestos tiles should be removed only by a trained professional.)
  • If the sub-flooring is concrete, removal of the floor covering will hasten drying of the slab, but it might not be necessary if it would ruin an otherwise unharmed material.
  • If water has seeped under loose sections of sheet flooring, remove the entire sheet. Ease of flooring removal depends on the type of material and adhesive. Contact a reputable dealer to find out what product and technique (if any) will loosen the adhesive.

Cleaning Wall Finishes, Woodwork & Floors

To reduce mold and damage, clean and dry as soon as flood waters recede. Do not sand or scrape lead-based paint. Get more information before disturbing old paint. If materials are already moldy before you can begin cleanup, get more information on avoiding mold hazards and recommended removal methods from EPA mold recovery publications.

  • Use a phosphate-free, all-purpose, or disinfecting cleaner. Wash from top to bottom. Rinse with clean water.
  • One-half cup of household chlorine bleach to a gallon of water can be used on nonmetallic, colorfast surfaces as a disinfectant (to kill surface mold and bacteria) after cleaning, but it will not prevent new mold growth on materials that stay damp.
  • Dry thoroughly and quickly. If the utilities are on, use the air conditioning or heater, fans, and a dehumidifier or desiccants to speed drying.

Appliances & Equipment

Clean and dry the submerged household appliance before starting.

  • With the electricity or fuel turned off, unplug and open as much as possible to rinse or wipe clean and let dry.
  • Tilt to drain and aid quick drying. Three days to a week is necessary for drying.
  • Appliance repair professionals should inspect before reconnecting. Many appliances can be saved.


Take Furniture outdoors to clean.

  • Brush off mud. All parts (drawers, doors, etc.) should be removed. Remove or cut a hole in the back to push out stuck drawers and doors. Discard flooded padding.
  • In an unair-conditioned home, open windows and use fans to circulate air.
  • Dry slowly out of direct sunlight because sun will warp furniture. It may take several weeks to several months to dry.

Preventing Mold

Aggressively control mold in the weeks and months after the flood.

  • When power is available, continuously use air conditioning (or heat in winter) plus a dehumidifier, if possible, to remove humidity.
  • Use commercial furniture-cleaning products designed for the type of material.
  • Do not refinish or wax until thoroughly dry.
  • Turn on electric lights in closets, and leave doors open to facilitate drying.
  • Try to reduce activities that add moisture to the indoor air, and use exhaust fans when cooking and bathing.

Removing Mildew from Household Articles and Upholstery
Avoid disturbing and spreading mold spores indoors. Clean mildewed items outdoors. Learn and take precautions to minimize exposure to mold. Visit

  • Use a HEPA vacuum, if available, to remove visible mold growth. Discard the vacuum bag. Otherwise, wipe with damp paper towels, discard, and seal in plastic bags.
  • Dry items in the sun, if possible.
  • Sponge any remaining mildew with thick suds or a commercial cleaner designed for the type of material.
  • Wipe with a clean, barely damp cloth.
  • Wipe mildew-stained areas with a cloth dampened with diluted alcohol (1 cup rubbing or denatured alcohol to 1 cup water). Dry thoroughly.

Additional Sources:
Rebuild Healthy Homes – Guide to Post-disaster Restoration for a Safe and Healthy (pdf)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes

What Projects Require Floodplain Development Permits?
For the purpose of floodplain management, “development” includes any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to:

  • Buildings & Other Structures (Specifically including any reconstruction, renovation, addition, repair, expansion, or alteration of an existing building, or new building.)
  • Mining & Dredging Operations
  • Filling, grading & Paving Activity
  • Excavating & Drilling Activity
  • Underground Utility Installation
  • Storage of Equipment & Materials
  • Levees & Levee System

What Rules Apply?
The construction requirements for development requires a floodplain development permit within your municipality. Speak to your Building Code Enforcement Official. Existing Buildings & Other Structures will depend on when the structure was built (or substantially improved) and the nature of the changes.

Post-FIRM Structures
A floodplain structure is called post-FIRM if it was built (or substantially improved) after the effective date of the community’s first Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). This is the date on which the community began regulating floodplain development. Post-FIRM structures should already be in compliance with floodplain development standards. Any subsequent improvements must maintain compliance with the standards that were in effect when the building was built (or substantially improved). Renovations, repairs, or additions to post-FIRM structures are thus regulated as new construction.

Pre-FIRM Structures
Structures that were built prior to enactment of floodplain development standards are called pre-FIRM. Many of these buildings were constructed without taking the flood hazard into account – prior to the adoption of the community’s first Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The requirements for modifications to these structures depend on the magnitude of the proposed changes. It is necessary to determine if the proposed project constitutes a substantial improvement.

Substantial Improvement Rule
If the cost of improvements exceeds 50% of the market value of the building, then the entire structure must be brought up to current floodplain regulations. For many existing buildings, this can require a major investment to elevate the structure, fill the basement, or make other changes to conform to current regulations. The “cost of improvements” must include the market value for all materials and labor, even if the out-of-pocket expenditures are less (ex: owner does the work, materials were donated, volunteers helped, etc.). The “cost of improvements” does not include cost of repairs required to remedy existing health, safety and sanitary code violations. If the project is implemented in stages, FEMA requires the entire project to be counted as one for the purpose of determining substantial improvement.

If a floodplain structure is damaged by flood, fire, or any other cause, and the cost to repair the damage exceeds 50% of the market value of the building before the damage occurred, then any repairs are considered a substantial improvement, regardless of the actual repair work performed. The determination of substantial damage is based on the true cost of bringing the building back to its pre-damage condition using qualified labor and materials obtained at market prices. If the owner has flood insurance and the building was substantially damaged by flood, the Increased Cost of Compliance coverage will help with the extra cost of complying with this requirement.

Historic structures are exempt from the substantial improvement requirements, provided that the project maintains the historic status of the structure and incorporates all possible flood damage reduction measures. The structure MUST be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (available at:

The cost of Flood Insurance for a substantially improved or substantially damaged structure is based on post-FIRM actuarial rates. These rates are lower for structures built to compliance, but are extremely high for non-compliant structures in which the lowest floor (including basement) is below the Base Flood Elevation (1% annual chance of flood/100 year flood height).

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Additional Sources:
Substantial Improvement and Substantial Damage, Unit 8 of FEMA 480 (2005): National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Floodplain Management Requirements: A Study Guide and Desk Reference for Local Officials

Answers to Questions About Substantially Damaged Buildings, FEMA 213 (1991)

Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE), FEMA P=784 CD (2015)

Substantial Improvement and Substantial Damage, Unit 8 of FEMA 480 (2005): NFIP Floodplain Management Requirements: A Study Guide and Desk Reference for Local Officials


If your home has been damaged in flood, talk to your flood insurance adjuster about Increased Cost of Compliance Coverage. See increased cost compliance coverage for more information.

Hazard Mitigation Examples:

  • Elevate your furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home, if you live in a high flood risk area.
  • Install “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Seal walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds.

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants have helped homeowners and communities affected by flooding and prevented future damages. To discuss Hazard Mitigation, please contact the Schoharie County Planning & Development Department at