Ask the Architect

Your post-storm priorities


This is for all those who’ve asked, “What do I do now?” after the hurricane. Do you wait for your insurance company? Do you clean up now, and get the furniture out? Here are the 10 D’s I recommend.

1.Despair. Get it out of your system. We need to vent so we have room in our psyche to cope.

2.Deep breathe to clear your head from this deluge.

3. Document. Take lots of pictures — while the water is still there if you can — including the waterline on your building. Step back while snapping pictures for a perspective of the proportion of the damage. Close-ups are hard to relate to. Get details and photograph at every step as you go.

4. Drain. Get the water out. Leaving the toxic soup sloshing around in your home causes more damage. I doubt that an insurance company gives extra points for doing nothing.

5. Discard. Get everything out that’s flooded.

6. Divide. Not everything is permanently damaged. Plastic products, stainless steel and synthetics that have special meaning to you may be saved if they are cleaned promptly in bleach, vinegar or alcohol, depending on color-fastness and manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

7. Disassemble. Remove wet sheetrock from the wall studs and pull out wet fiberglass insulation. The longer the paper backing and wetness remains in the wall cavities, the greater the microbe growth will be. Spray with bleach. Mold deep in wood wall stud fibers will be nearly impossible to remove later.

8. Dumpster. When things settle down, get material, piled outside, hauled away. It’s just as much of a health hazard to leave rotting material out in the sun.

9. Defer to experts. Reach out to insurance adjusters, your insurance company and FEMA. For serious construction issues such as structural damage, movement or water penetration in structure, call a licensed professional engineer or architect. I’ve prepared damage assessment documents that lead to insurance claims, and then replacement or redesign of buildings, for many years. There are many do’s and don’ts regarding claims and proper repair or replacement.

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