After A Flood: Tips For Cleaning Carpets, Floors, Kitchenwares and Furniture

Louisiana is once again in the national news as our Southern neighbors experience devastating flooding the likes never seen before.  Classified as a once-in-every-500-years flood, this event with no named tropical depression or hurricane to blame caught many folks off guard. Louisianians know a thing or two about weathering tropical storms and hurricanes, and yes, even flooding, but many of the flood areas are areas that in normal situations would not see high water.

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When the floodwaters begin to recede and the affected areas are safe to go back into, flood victims will be faced with the overwhelming task of cleaning up.  Insult, meet injury. This FEMA information and tips for cleaning carpets, floors, kitchenwares and furniture after a flood offer useful information to those soon to be in clean up mode.

Flooding and FEMA

Acadia, Ascension, Avoyelles, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Point Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Vermilion, Washington and West Feliciana have joined East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa as parishes eligible for federal disaster assistance.   Homeowners will need to document damage for a FEMA claim.  It is imperative to exercise extreme caution when re-entering your home or business when the time is right to so. Turn off the power to the home or building at the main electrical box.  You will need to take pictures of each room before removing contents.  Once removed to the outdoors and placed into small piles, take pictures of the debris piles.  I am sharing the link to the Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, where tips for separating your debris into categories and other valuable information such as closings, medication refill information and donation sites is provided. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/environment/article_717d6a8c-6301-11e6-a6c8-e729c9b5cd78.html

Caution: Remove or secure shut with straps the door(s) of a discarded refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, dryer or stove oven to prevent the risk of a child or person climbing into the appliance, the door locking, and the child or person becoming trapped and suffocating.   

FEMA emphasizes the importance of registering for FEMA help now!  The sooner FEMA receives your claim, the sooner an inspector will be to your home.  You can register your claim with FEMA by calling  1-800-621-3362 or by going online to www.disasterassistance.gov.  FEMA cannot duplicate insurance coverage, but the agency can help with immediate needs like housing and medication.

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Beware of Fraud and Scams After a Flood

From the FEMA website:

As government agencies and charitable groups began providing disaster assistance, scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (Louisiana) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency advise all residents that no individual with a government disaster assistance agency will call or text asking for financial account information.

Survivors also should keep in mind that federal and state workers never ask for or accept money and always carry identification badges. There is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration or the state.

Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, text or in person. Unfortunately, there seems to be no limit to the inventiveness of those wanting to commit fraud. Louisiana residents are asked to remain alert, ask questions and require photo identification when someone claims to represent a government agency.

Those who question the validity of a contact or suspect fraud are encouraged to call the toll free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.  Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies.

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Beginning the Cleanup

Calling in a professional cleaning service is the best way to go, but in the aftermath of storms and floods these companies can be swamped.  No pun intended.   Also, and this is a big also, the out-of-pocket costs can be expensive and standard homeowners insurance does not cover any type of flood damage.  Homeowners face the important task of damage removal and clean-up.  Take a practical approach to what to keep and what not to keep.  Mattresses should go.  Floodwaters can be contaminated with chemicals, biohazards, sewage, fuel- you get the idea.  A mattress that has been in a flood is a breeding ground for mold.  It’s got to go.

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The immediate job of debris removal and cleaning carpets, rugs and floor will help to reduce the growth of molds, algae and bacteria- a proven health risk.  Open windows and doors to expose saturated items to as much air as possible.  Protect yourself from contamination and exposure by wearing gloves and covering your mouth, legs, arms, feet. Wearing a protective mask and goggles to prevent breathing mold spores and eye exposure is the prudent thing to do.

Carpets

Clean and dry carpet(s) as soon as possible. Throw out any and all flooring and carpet that has been submerged for 24 hours or more and or covered in sewage tainted floodwater.

Pull up all saturated carpet(s) and rug(s) and remove from the house, apartment, building, etc…  placing outdoors to begin the drying process. Sunlight works a natural disinfectant.

Cut your loses: Pull up carpet padding and throw it out.  The soaked material is a breeding ground for mold, mildew and stench.

If removal of carpet(s) is impossible, use a wet-dry vacuum and dehumidifier to dry the carpet as quickly as possible.  A fan can be used to aid in the drying process.  Lift up the carpet to allow the circulated air to reach the underside.

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Use a garden hose and nozzle that promotes good water pressure to remove mud. Apply a disinfectant carpet-cleaning product to heavily soiled spot(s), using a hard-bristled brush or broom to work into spot(s).

To combat mildew and odors, rinse the backing of the carpet(s) and rug(s) with a solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water.  This solution is not to be used on wool carpets.  Also disinfect the slab or subfloor.

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Floors

Clean and dry floor(s) as soon as possible.  Allow floors to dry thoroughly before attempting repairs. Throw out any and all flooring and carpet that has been submerged for 24 hours or more and/or covered in sewage tainted floodwater.

Begin the clean-up by disinfecting flooring surfaces with a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach in 1 gallon water.

With vinyl, tile and linoleum flooring: it is vital to remove vinyl, tile or linoleum to allow subflooring to dry.  Drying can take several months to complete.

With regards to wood flooring:  Gradual drying of wooden floors can prevent cracking or splitting of the wood.  Removal of hardwood floor boards helps to prevent buckling. Remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling.

Kitchen

Cleaning Carpets, Floors, Kitchenwares and Furniture

Bleach, bleach, bleach!

Mix up a disinfecting solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water.

Soak glassware and dinnerware for 10 minutes.  Remove items and allow to air-dry.

Thoroughly wipe down countertops and cabinets with disinfecting solution.  See recipe above.

Never mix bleach with ammonia. The fumes produced are TOXIC.

Place silverware, metal utensils, pots and pans in boiling in water for 10 minutes to disinfect. Do not use chlorine bleach due to the reaction between bleach and metals.

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Furniture

Remove furniture and place outside to dry.  Sunlight works a natural disinfectant.

Upholstered furniture soaks up contaminants from floodwaters and should be cleaned only by a professional.

Unless sentimental value is attached, the cost to repair wood veneered furniture falls into the not worth it category.

Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, unless damage is severe.

Cleaning carpets, floors, kitchenwares and furniture after a flood is a difficult but necessary task.  The sooner you tackle the removal and cleaning process the sooner the mud, gunk, bayou-lake-river residue, sewage and mildew that exacerbates the problem will soon be on the way to becoming a distant and nasty memory.

Tips for Photos, Papers and Books

The LSU AgCenter offers wonderful tips for mold removal and prevention after a flood. http://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/lbenedict/articles/page1471440591268

One tip that I’m sure will be helpful is how to protect documents, papers and photos from mildew.  Gently wash the mud off a photos, books and documents/papers and place in a frost-free freezer. Freeze meaningful papers and photos. Wash the mud off important papers, photographs and books and place them in a frost-free freezer. The temporary freezing combats mildew from setting in until they can be thawed out and/or taken to a professional restorer.

Air Conditioning: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Since the dawn of home owning and renting time, American houses have come to know the weekend project(s).  Regardless of the style of house or year of construction, at some point something will be in need of repair, replacement, renovation or remodel.  That time came once again last week here at Places In The Home.  The original air conditioning system in our fifty year old ranch style house finally bit the dust last week.  It had a good life and provided hours of cold in the summer and warm in the winter air. Dave the Builder lined up the new system and the crew to work on Saturday, I stocked up on bottled water, sports drinks and cooling towels, and we were off to the races.

P-AmericanHouses_FPOPop Chart Lab  ~  Click on image to enlarge

Sometimes you have to go through the ugly to get to the beauty of the sweet, sweet cold air on the other end of the air conditioning project.

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If I had a nickel for every “we did just fine without air conditioning back in the good old days” comment my mother made during the central air install project this past weekend, I would be paying cash in all nickels for a new Nest thermostat.  The subject of the good old days was immediately dropped as the first blast of cold air circulated around the room.  My mother was the Road Runner to Dave the Builder’s Wile E. Coyote getting to the nearest vent blowing cold air, a feature of little to no presence in the main living and kitchen area of Places In The Home for the biggest part of last week.

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You could hear the call to turn the thermostat to arctic and let the cooling down begin a mile away!  I don’t believe I am in the minority here when I say there is nothing good about any day past, present or future when it comes to being hot.

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Old School Ragz on Ebay

My thoughts and prayers honestly do go out to the men and women who work outdoors in oppressive temperatures and heat indexes best described as dangerous. Dave the Builder hits the door some evenings after a 12+ hour workday in the Louisiana summer sun and humidity drained of all energy and will. Air conditioning plays a huge role in our lives, both at work and at home.

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“We’ll make that into a sitting room where we can sit and talk… and the breeze can get at us.”

That line from the movie Giant makes me wonder how people lived without air conditioning?   Dust storms, tumbleweeds and brutal heat set the story of life on a Texas ranch in the 1920s.  I would need a don’t talk to me I’m dying from this heat sitting room.  Whenever I watch Giant and other classic films and television shows that show life and homes without air conditioning,  I thank the conditioned air gods for Willis Carrier, the inventor of the first modern air-conditioning system.  Bless the heart of this brilliant, brilliant man!  Before Mr. Carrier’s invention however, the masses depended upon commercial and residential design features of the times to promote airflow and cross ventilation.

Large porches

Screened sleeping porches, winding wraparound porches and deep eaves and awnings accommodated shade seekers, porch sitters and night sleepers from the harsh direct sunlight and heat of the day and gave protection from mosquitoes at night.  Porch sitting and sippin’ in the late afternoon and after dinner (supper) was as much about letting the breeze get at you as it was an exercise in proper digestion.

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Transom

A transom window proved crucial to upper air flow.  Found above doors, a transom moved the warm air hovering at ceiling level to the higher floors or large open windows.  Opening windows and doors at opposite ends of center halls allowed air to flow between areas of the house.

transom-window-above-doorBetter Homes and Gardens

My brother removed all the working transoms and hardware from above the doors throughout his house during the initial renovation and restoration of his 1903 Victorian home.  The transoms in his first house, a Victorian one story built in 1910, never worked properly and the hardware proved difficult at best to operate.  The point of this explanation and pictorial example is to illustrate the architectural measures taken in the construction of homes and the thought to comfort given to air flow routes in the days devoid of air conditioning.

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The long hot summer of 2015 has quite a few days and nights yet to go before relief is in sight.  Thanks to Willis Carrier, Dave the Builder’s HVAC skills and the local power company Places In The Home won’t be without air conditioning.  Remind me of this post if I dare complain about the cold of winter.

Love your style!

 

Ice Ice Baby It’s Too Cold! Preparing Your Home For Cold Weather

Thank you, Vanilla Ice,  for your catchy lyric and befitting words.  This blast from the past catchy little lyric keeps on giving,  and it could not be more appropriate than at this I’m freezing my tuchus off time of year.  Ice Ice  Baby it’s too cold!  Let’s look at preparing your home for cold weather.

preparing your home for cold weather

I recommend following the principle of P-plan, prep and protect.

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Wind-resistant and waterproof gear for people, places and things who will come in contact with extreme outdoor temps and exposure a must!  Preparing our son for his move to Canada taught us that lesson.  Base layering applies to people, plants and pipes.  Protect exposed skin from frostbite by basically NOT going outdoors in freezing temperatures.  If being outdoors is absolutely unavoidable, dress in layers beginning with a base layer and protect the ears, nose, toes, fingers, chin and cheeks.

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Wrap exposed pipes with cloth or insulated tubing.  Further protect pipes by keeping the  wind and frigid air off and away from them as much as possible.  Elevated or raised houses such as those with a pier and beam foundation  have exposed pipes that need to be protected from harsh, frigid winter temperatures and blowing winds. Wrapping the exposed space between the bottom floor and ground with plastic sheeting or tar paper will protect the pipes from the elements.  Allow water to drip from interior faucets to maintain water flow activity and to keep pressure from building up in the pipes. It’s also a good idea to disconnect water hoses from the  exterior spigots.  In case of leak or pipe burst,  turn off your home’s water supply at the water shut-off valve to avoid further damage.

thermostat

 

Dave the Builder, the resident HVAC expert, suggests leaving the thermostat on a consistent setting keep the pipes warm. If  circumstances call for you to be away from your home during periods of extreme winter temps, Dave suggests leaving the thermostat temperature set at 60ºF.  A consistent interior setting will reduce temperature fluctuation and help to keep pipes warm.  Open cabinet doors in the kitchen, bathrooms and  laundry room to allow the heat in your home to circulate around the pipes.

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Stay warm and safe!

On The Market: Tips For Showing Your Home

You know what they say about first impressions. Never is a first impression more important than when selling a home.  From curb to master bedroom, potential buyers closely examine every nut and bolt of architecture, aesthetic, design, and flow.  Let me share with you tips for showing your home.

Tips for showing your home

The question of numbers is always important in the home game.  Most home buyers have a set checklist saved to memory of the selling points that will speak to their needs. What information to furnish is as easy as recalling the questions you had before purchasing the property. This applies to self listed or Realtor showings. Based strictly upon our experiences as both, the general FAQ sheet provided to potential buyers at showings and open houses supplied information and hit the home buying high notes:

FAQ Sheet Suggestions:

Homeowner warranty

Sellers possible participation in closing fees

Age of property

Builder/architect name if available

Average utility bill amount

School district and zonings

Alarm system information (homeowners insurance discount)

Neighborhood Fire Department location (homeowners insurance information)

Age of roof

Age of HVAC unit

Energy efficient features

Clearly convey to your realtor what, if any, items are not included with the sale of the home (reserved).  Include this information on the information sheet.

 

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Holding an open house is a great way to showcase the property. A welcome table should greet potential buyers with important home information, a FAQ sheet, and refreshment.  My refreshment of choice is ice water with lemon slices.  In case of a spill, water is easy to clean up without muss, fuss, or stain.  Provide sharpened pencils and notepads for potential buyers to use for taking notes.  If they’re writing it’s a good sign they’re interested.

lemon water

Encourage open house attendees to take a FAQ sheet with them as they view the property.  Potential buyers often hesitate asking questions. Viewing real estate can be an overwhelming process- leaving potential buyers easily distracted in the moment.  Being a proactive seller and information provider puts potential buyers in the know and you ahead of the game.

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Another thing to offer potential buyers when viewing the home- benign neglect.  Buyers want the freedom to move about the home and make comments- good or bad.  If your home is listed with a realtor, by all means leave the showing to the agent.  If self selling, allow the potential buyers to look and inspect on their own.  Before showings or open houses, perform seller due diligence.  Secure valuables, removing items from stairs, and make arrangements for the pets to be absent from the home during this time.  It is just the prudent, liability safe and responsible thing to do.

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Now to the package that will sell the product- exterior and interior home appeal.  Maintain and manicure the lawn, hedges, and flowerbeds. Pressure wash away any signs of mold or mildew on walkways, decks, siding, soffit and fascia.  Remove chipping paint from soffit, fascia, exterior doors, windows, etc… and coat it up fresh.  Wash windows and porches.  What you may have turned a blind eye to will be the one thing potential buyers zero in on.  Trust me on this one!

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Paint weighs in again as a solution for affordable updating.  Glue down any wallpaper edges that have curled up.  A couple of drops of Elmer’s School Glue will do the trick.  Declutter kitchen and bathroom countertops.  Utilize decorative storage options such as baskets to less the mess.  Consider new cabinet and drawer hardware for a quick and affordable update.

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Size and space matters! Pay close attention to closets and cabinets.  Edit clutter from all closets.  A small closet will appear bigger if it is well organized.

It’s all in the presentation!

Select a cabinet and a drawer in the kitchen and bathrooms to organize and leave open.  Most interested buyers will open them anyway, so why not have them organized, opened and ready for inspection.

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Promote an inviting and comfortable effect by turning on the lights.  Turn on the lights in each room including table and/or floor lamp(s).

Open window blinds/raise window shades.

Make sure to set the thermostat to a comfortable company’s coming setting.  It’s hard to focus on the business at hand when the temperature in the house is either too hot or too cold.  

Empty all trash cans.

Make the entire house smell so good with the inviting and delicious scent of vanilla.  Pure vanilla extract is not an overpowering scent, and makes the house smell so nice.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Pour ½ cup of vanilla extract into an oven proof baking dish and place in oven for 30 minutes.  

pure vanillaPure Vanilla Extract from King Arthur Flour

These tips for showing your home offer sound and selling advice. Take the time to set the stage and offer potential buyers a visual of style.  Minimal effort and money on this side of the listing can make a huge difference on the other side of sold.