In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many residents in parts of New York and New Jersey have found themselves overwhelmed by the complexity and effort required by disaster repair. Unlike those who live in areas where flooding and hurricanes are common, most individuals and families living in the Northeast are unfamiliar with the procedures for salvaging a damaged residence or business.
It goes without saying that everything should be documented for insurance purposes, so after working out an arrangement with your insurance adjustor, be sure to save all receipts. This is not just for raw materials, but for related expenses like renting a truck to carry supplies. Some things may not ultimately be covered, but it’s best to be prepared.
If any part of the inside of your house had standing water for 48 hours or more, it’s at risk for mold. Mold is opportunistic and grows on any porous surface: wood, sheetrock, ceiling tiles, carpet, insulation and countless other materials used in construction. Be prepared to remove and replace, but in the meantime, mix 3/4-gallon bleach and 1/4-gallon trisodium phosphate (which can be bought at hardware stores) with 1-1/2 gallons water, and liberally spray any areas that might be affected. This will help prevent mold from spreading.
You might find that the hurricane left your home or business with a musty smell that won’t dissipate. To rid your home of these odors, rent an ozone machine–a trick used by real estate agents to permanently remove stubborn scents. Also consider investing in a dehumidifier, especially for rooms without much air flow, like basements.
Often, invisible damage is the most difficult aspect of disaster repair and it can get worse if left unnoticed or unattended. Check all pipes for leaks, but also keep an eye on your water bill. A consistent increase in the amount of water used might mean that you have a hidden leak. This can end up costing you hundreds of dollars in unused water, foster mildew and mold growth inside your walls.
If you live near the ocean, you most likely already have a seawall, but if you don’t, consider building one. Stone, wood, or concrete are the most durable materials. A seawall can minimize future damage from severe weather, but like anything, it requires occasional maintenance to remain at peak functionality.
Disaster repair is an ongoing task, and even when you think that you’ve finished, you might discover undetected problems years or even decades after you believed your house had been returned to its original condition. The longer cracks or leaks go undetected, the more costly it can be to repair them, but remaining vigilant can save you thousands of dollars in repairs over time.
Jake Alexander is a free lance writer who enjoys blogging about home improvement. Follow him @JakeAlexander17.