Once a building has been exposed to a large volume of water, either floodwater or rainwater, steps must be taken to dry the building out, assess damage, and plan for repairs and restoration. This information discusses concerns and procedures for helping structures to dry out.

F. Mitchener Wilds, Senior Restoration Specialist

1. Prioritize Safety Precautions
Before beginning any restoration efforts, ensure your safety and that of others. Assume power lines are live, turn off electricity, and check for gas leaks. Be cautious of contaminated floodwaters, wear protective gear, and consult professionals if uncertain about safety.

2. Document Damage
Capture the extent of damage through photographs before cleanup. These records are valuable for insurance claims and negotiations.

3. Prevent Further Water Entry
Temporarily repair roofs and windows to prevent more water from entering. Plan these fixes to last at least six months. Options include tarpaulin, felt paper, or plywood covered with tarpaper.

4. Address Water Saturation
Water saturation impacts buildings in three ways: direct damage to materials, contamination from mud and silt, and the growth of mold and mildew. Begin controlled drying from the attic, removing wet insulation and promoting air circulation.

5. Address Ceiling and Wall Damage
Inspect ceilings for hazards and trapped water. Deal with wet plaster and sheetrock differently. Repair plaster with plaster washers and use temporary shoring for ceilings. Drain wall cavities by creating holes and remove insulation if wet.

6. Handling Sheetrock
If exposed to floodwater for less than two hours, sheetrock can be repaired. Beyond that, complete replacement is necessary. Open windows and use fans for air circulation to dry wall cavities.

7. Clean and Restore Features
Clean wood features with disinfectants and remove mud and silt. Mold and mildew can be treated with a diluted Clorox solution. Save removed features for reinstallation.

8. Remove Wet Carpets and Furniture
Remove wet carpets and furniture to prevent excess moisture in the house. Evaporate moisture by removing sheet vinyl or linoleum flooring.

9. Restore Wood Floors
Wash mud off wood floors with water. Avoid rapid drying methods like forced air, which can cause warping. Use weights to prevent severe warping and ensure air circulation under the floor.

10. Address Ductwork and Basement
Clean standing water in ductwork with fresh water and replace electrical receptacles if submerged. Be cautious when draining a flooded basement to prevent structural damage.

11. Treat Household Furnishings
Properly handle water-damaged furnishings, including textiles, books, photographs, and furniture. Consult a conservator for guidance on preserving historic objects.

12. Prioritize Controlled Drying
Remember, controlled drying is key. Avoid rushing the process with heaters or air conditioners, as this can cause additional damage to building elements. Allow for gradual drying to maintain structural integrity.

For further information regarding water-damaged buildings, consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and reference to the following publications are recommended:

Treatment of Flood Damaged Older and Historic Buildings, National Trust for Historic Preservation Information Booklet No. 82, 1993.
Repairing Your Flooded Home, Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross, ARC publication 4477, FEMA publication 234, August 1992. 
After the Flood: Water Damage and Your Historic Building (videotape), Historic Preservation Information Service, University of South Dakota, 1994.