When a home is destroyed it’s not only the structure that is lost, but all the memories and items inside too. From important documents to furniture to family photos and heirlooms, everything could be lost. This is why disaster planning, including purchasing the correct insurance, is so important. It’s also important to understand what coverage you have for water damage. Remember, the cause of the water damage determines what type of policy provides coverage! Here are a few tips and tricks on protecting valuables during a disaster and how to save them from further damage:
Think high, but accessible
If storm or flooding is predicted, move your important items above expectant water marks. Most importantly, remember to keep your most important items out of your basement or attic! Those areas are much more likely to see mold, pests, leaks, and extreme temperatures that could speed up deterioration. Your attic and basement will also likely be the most difficult areas to reach during an immediate evacuation. Disaster experts recommend using waterproof containers or zip-top plastic bags for items like documents or jewelry. Keep these items in a place that is easily accessible.
Plastic will harm, not help
Experts advise against using plastic wraps or traps to protect furniture or art. Mold can start forming within 24 hours of water exposure, and plastic will only trap the moisture more. In these cases the damage can be far worse than if an item was allowed to air dry after getting wet. Large items or pieces of furniture have a better chance if they are elevated on blocks.
Air it out
The sooner you can safely get access to your home after a flood, the better. Immediately open your doors and windows to get air circulating. Make sure to lay out an items or valuables so they can also begin to dry. Dehumidifers and fans can help with this process, however make sure to keep the temperature in your home low. And remember, you may need generators in your electricity is still down!
Any soaked paper items will likely retain some water stains, but fanning them out can help. Lays papers and documents flat, and fan out the pages of any books. When books are no longer damp, lay them flat with a weight on top to smooth out pages. However, this technique won’t work for any books or documents with glossy pages. Those items will need the attention of a professional restorer. Similarly, never try to blot dry a work of art! Instead, lay it flat with four to eight inches of space underneath and fans pointing away from it.
Freeze your photos
Drying photos can take up a lot of space since they should be dried face up, with nothing stacked on top of them. Individual photos should be put into zip-lock plastic bags and use plastic wrap and tape to secure entire albums or boxes. When you have the time and space, defrost them inside the plastic to keep them damp. Then, gently separate each photo using clean fingers or a butter knife if you need extra help. Don’t not try to pull apart photos or albums that have already dried and stuck together; contact a professional conservator to help.
Air-dry antiques, wood & jewelry
When it comes to wet furniture, wood floors, and metal items the least amount of physical contact, the better. While you may have good intentions in drying wet items, this could potentially damage the items finish or cause scratches. You’re best bet is to air-dry furniture slowly and out of the sun, to avoid warping the wood or other material. Make sure to also remove the drawers and any items inside. Only after the item is dry should you attempt to clean it using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and a soft brush to guide the debris to the nozzle.
Metal exposed to freshwater can be air-dried, then cleaned by a professional. However, saltwater can cause exposed metal items to corrode. So keep them submerged, if possible, until a conservator can desalinate them. Objects with fire or smoke damage are best handled by professionals. If you do decide to DIY, avoid using water or cleaning solutions; this may just push the soot in deeper. Instead, use inexpensive and easy to find specialty soot sponges.