Holy severe weather, Batman! Many of you, from all parts of the country, have been impacted by a doozy of a year when it comes to weather. Most recently of course, hurricanes have had a very real impact on tens of thousands of homes. In this month’s Experts Corner article, we welcome our very own log home expert Paul Peebles, whose own log home flooded a few years ago. He discusses how to restore flooded log homes. Thanks to Satterwhite Log Homes for providing the photos below from their flooding a couple years ago.
I had my log home flood in 2010. Experience taught me a lot about how to clean log homes after flooding. My heart goes out to all the people whose homes became victims to flood, as I have been in their muddy shoes and boots. Here’s what I learned the hard way.
Log homes are more durable than traditional homes and are more likely to survive natural disasters, including flooding. The clean-up and repair of a log home after flooding is also much easier. My advice is to follow the steps below:
Start with the Interior
Tear out everything that is clearly ruined or that will interfere with drying out the log walls. All floor coverings (you will not be able to save any wood flooring – even if it looks good now, it will warp), trim, drywall, and insulation must go. You will probably have to replace all wet cabinetry and interior doors that were stained or contained any type of composite wood. Sometimes cabinets and doors can be saved if they were initially painted. Cut drywall and insulation about a foot above the high-water mark. Depending on the backer used underneath, sometimes tile floors can be saved.
Clean, Clean, Clean
The next interior step is to clean. Water usually brings in a great deal of mud or other contaminants. After you’ve cleared all interior areas of debris and the building components we discussed above, then pressure-wash the log walls, studs, other framing, and sub-floors. Use products like Sashco’s CPR® (an oxygenated bleach cleaner) to help lift out dirt and control mold and mildew. Try not to use bleach. Bleach can change the color of wood, which can cause problems later. If you MUST use bleach, use no more than a cup per gallon of water and try to keep it off wood that did not get wet. Apply the cleaners from bottom to top and then wash the dirt down the walls, across the floor, and out the door.
Dry It Out
Next, dry out the log and timber components left behind. De-humidifiers are best, along with fans. If electricity is not available, just do your best to provide some air circulation. If only one de-humidifier is available, use it in one room at a time. Run it constantly until the moisture content of the wood in the wettest area of the room is under 17%. Moisture meters are available at home centers and hardware stores.
If your home is on a crawl space, close all the vents, install a new vapor barrier, and install a couple of de-humidifiers. This will quickly dry the space under the home and the sub-floor. If electricity is not available, consider removing sections of the sub-floor to provide some air circulation.
Time to disinfect
After cleaning, test wood to make sure it’s dry to the touch. Liberally spray a mold control product on everything that got wet – Concorbium is one I like. These products are commonly available at hardware stores. Buy a lot and use it. I have found these products work wonders at stopping mold, mildew, and the odors and stains that accompany them. You may have to re-apply if it takes a while to dry your home out due to lack of electricity or equipment.
Replace & Rebuild
Finally, replace and re-build. I recommend replacing all electrical outlets and switches that were under water. If in doubt about electrical components, ask an electrician. I did not replace mine initially and had trouble later. Replace all drywall, insulation trim, and re-finish. If you have a lot of open interior stud walls, I recommend applying powdered borax like Tim-bor® inside the stud cavities and THEN closing them up. The borate will practically stay forever and, as a bonus, it kills ants and roaches that crawl through it. Also, apply this powder on the floor just before you re-install base cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms.
Wood walls without a finish applied may discolor. The longer wood is wet, the more likely it will have discoloration. CPR®can help remove some, if not all, of this discoloration. Wood brightener, a product containing oxalic acid, can also help. Be careful though! These products may work too well and change the color of the wood beyond the desired color. If you did have a finish on the wood walls and discoloration is occurring under the finish, that finish must be removed by sanding or stripping to remove discoloration.
Do not attempt to replace wooden floors until HVAC has been restored as flooring must be acclimated prior to installation.
Addressing the Exterior
Fortunately, log walls on the exterior are very durable if they were properly finished with a quality stain. They usually dry out nicely and require only power-washing to clean.
Use CPR® to clean off excess dirt. Don’t get too aggressive with the power-washer, you just want to rinse the dirt off. Some engineered wood trim components like finger-jointed trim materials may swell and need to be replaced. Exterior doors and windows, especially wooden ones, should be carefully examined. They may need to be replaced as well. Careful! Insulated metal and fiberglass doors may look fine, but they can hold water inside for a long period of time and eventually deteriorate.
Another word of caution! Be careful around, and under, your home. Flood waters displace a lot of critters that may take refuge in these areas. Snakes, raccoons, skunks, and possums are no fun when they are too close.
It took us a while, but we were able to restore our log cabin after flooding, and you can, too. Some grit, determination, and you’re already half-way there.
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