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DIY Flood Cleanup Mistakes to Avoid

Flood damage can happen without warning, and when it does, the fallout can be extensive and unpredictable. Trying to fix it with a box fan is going to cause more harm than help in the long run, as hidden damage and mold warp and infect your house’s structure.

Learning the pitfalls of do-it-yourself flood damage restoration, from infected water to electric shock, can help you keep safe by making informed decisions about what you should and shouldn’t do to recover from a flood.


Flood damage isn’t always an immediate, obvious threat to your house. It may not even look that bad. But the effect of water damage on a building isn’t something that you can eyeball.

For instance, say you have a loose board in a wood floor, or a bubble in your laminate flooring. That may not look like much of an issue. (And it may not be!) But you have no idea how far underneath your flooring that water seeped. You don’t know how much is still there, causing further harm to your floors. By its very nature, water damage can be hard to detect if you’re not an expert.


Water damage doesn’t just go away. It escalates over time. It only takes minutes for your wood furniture to start swelling up, and for varnish to start leaching into your carpet. You may also see swelling in your floors and elsewhere.

In a few days, paint will bubble and wallpaper will start peeling away. Water damage to the structural supports of your house may start affecting their shape. Fungus starts to grow, marking the beginning of mold and mildew growth. Suddenly, you’re dealing with mold remediation on top of your water damage restoration project.

As time goes by, mold and mildew spread through your house, taking root deep into materials like wood and fabric, and ruining them beyond repair. Breathing in mold can cause allergic reactions, as well as damage to your liver, kidneys, and brain.

If left untreated for long enough, water damage can eventually lead to the collapse of a building, as added weight and destabilized supports cause it to fall apart.

And of course, all of this is before considering the possibility that the flood water may be contaminated by bacteria or sewage. But even if you’re not dealing with contaminated water, waiting only makes the water damage worse. Tackling it quickly is the only way to minimize the risk.


You can’t pull off a successful water damage restoration with mops and towels. Cleaning the water that’s visible doesn’t mean you’ve actually cleaned the water threatening your home. Professionals used advanced equipment that’s specialized for this kind of work. Here are some examples of gear you may need. Since you’ll (hopefully) only need this gear once, renting it makes more sense than buying it for most people.

  • A heavy-duty fan is a good start. A regular fan isn’t going to do the trick. You need an especially powerful, purpose-built fan that was created for drying out large rooms, or an axial fan made to air out water damage in confined spaces.
  • A dehumidifier will pull moisture from the environment more thoroughly than a fan. You can purchase a dehumidifier at most home improvement shops and even some department stores. The higher the capacity, measured in pints per day, the better.
  • An air scrubber is essential for working to improve the air quality of the affected building. Many schools and hospitals use air scrubbers to maintain a healthy quality of indoor air, but there’s typically no reason for a homeowner to own one.
  • An extraction tool, also known as a flood pumper, is similar to a giant, turbocharged wet vac. An industrial flood pumper can dispatch 50 gallons of water per minute, with the power of multiple blowers and a big tank for water storage.
  • A moisture probe uses a coiled cable to help you determine where moisture is located, in places where you might not see it.
  • Specialized wall and floor drying systems can help you save your hardwood floors in many instances, and can reduce the number of walls and ceilings you have to replace.

This is the kind of equipment that you need to deal with flood restoration. You may have a fan or a dehumidifier. You may even have a wet vac. But you probably don’t have the professional-grade tools that you need to save your home.


Another risk of DIY water damage restoration is the chance of missing all the small, finicky details. You’ve probably heard the expression “Don’t sweat the small stuff” before. But with flood damage cleanup, the small stuff can make a huge difference on your home’s integrity and safety, and cost you a lot of money.

You may have mold growing in areas that you haven’t thought of or can’t even see. You may have damaged outlets waiting to shock someone or cause a fire. Just because you’ve done a thorough job doesn’t mean that you’ve done an expert job. Without the training and experience that comes from years of working in restoration services, there’s a big chance of missing something crucial.


Water doesn’t have to be up to your ears to be dangerous. Flood waters can hold all kinds of dangers—some obvious, some hidden. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Contamination by bacteria or sewage. There are different categories of contaminated water. Category 1 is unused water. It may not be contaminated, but it can still cause damage if not treated quickly. Water that has been used, but not contaminated by waste, is called category 2 water. It won’t hurt you to touch it, but you shouldn’t drink it. Category 3 water is contaminated by bacteria, sewage, or other hazards. It can cause rashes, infections, and illnesses. And even if the floodwater is clean, the flood may have busted pipes in or around your own home, so it may not stay clean for long.
  • Unsteady footing. Water damaged floors might not be as stable as you’re expecting them to be. They may be softened, loosened, or swollen and uneven—if they’re even all there.
  • Broken glass and other debris. If floodwater has entered your house, there’s a decent chance that it broke something to get in there. The water may also be carrying debris from other places it has been. Look out for metal fragments or broken glass that can cut your feet or legs. (This is especially important when you combine it with water contamination. An open wound in floodwater can lead to a nasty infection.)
  • Loose wires. Always be mindful that floodwaters can carry a risk of electrical shock. From fallen power lines to damage to your own electrical system, you never know when you might be too close to a live wire. Turn off the power to your home in the event of a flood, and stay away from potential electrical hazards like old, boxy CRT TVs that can carry a charge even when they’re unplugged.
  • Gas leaks and explosions. Flood damage may affect gas and propane lines. Turn off any gas or propane sources to minimize the risk of gas leaks and explosions.
  • Displaced wildlife. Snakes, rats, and other animals may wind up seeking shelter in unusual places after a flood. Having lost their homes, they often venture into areas they wouldn’t normally go. If your house is storm-damaged enough that they can enter it, they may do so.

Floods don’t just get water everywhere. That water carries a lot of destructive force and pressure. You never know what it may have broken, and what hazards it may have created. Always be careful in a flooded area.


Flood damage is an unwieldy, unpredictable occurrence. It often carries hidden dangers. It requires equipment most people don’t have, it gets places folks can’t account for, and it gets worse the longer you leave it unattended.

Putting a few fans around the house may give the appearance of a job well done. But fans won’t keep your support beams from rotting through or stop mold from growing in your air conditioning vents. The long-term effects of water damage can be devastating to a house. Calling an expert as soon as possible means knowing, with as much certainty as you can have, that you’ve done everything possible to minimize the damage to your home.


There are a ton of DIY projects that can enrich your daily life and enhance your sense of ownership in your home. Few things are more satisfying than a DIY project done well. Whether you’re fixing a noise in your toilet tank or sipping coffee on a porch you built yourself, DIY pays off financially and emotionally.

But flood damage is different. The stakes are too high and the timetable is too urgent to try and make flood damage restoration a DIY project. You just don’t know whether unseen moisture is wreaking havoc under your floors, or where damage to hidden pipes may be leaking gas into your house. .

Relying on experts from ServiceMaster Restore’s network of experienced, local flood damage cleanup professionals means that you know you’ll get a fast response from an expert, with advanced equipment and the know-how to help you recover from flooding.