Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings

By Forum Online posted 11-21-2012 23:23

During Hurricane Sandy, many older and historic buildings were affected by the heavy rains and flooding that occurred during and after the storm. A free publication, Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings, is available from the National Trust to help building owners minimize structural and cosmetic flood damage. It contains general advice written to cover a wide variety of buildings with varying degrees of flood damage. You can download the book online here.

The booklet covers how to clean and properly dry out your historic building. It offers advice for how to handle much of the damage caused by flooding including: foundation damage, basement slab heaving, loss of mortar, foundation erosion, heaving of sidewalks, saturation of insulation, wood rot, salt damage, freezing and thawing damage, and damage to metals, drywall, wood floors, interior paint, wallpaper, and floor coverings, among others. A special section is devoted to safe and effective practices for removing mold.

The section on documentation is especially helpful for historic house owners and includes the following advice:

  • Before you begin to clean up your historic property, it is important to carefully document any damage to the structure. This is essential not only for insurance purposes, but also to record important historic building features. If building components are removed for cleaning or repair purposes, a photograph will help to ensure that they are reinstalled correctly.

  • Take photographs and make written notes describing the damage. A video recording is also a very effective way to document flood damage. Take photos or videos of any discarded items. Because of the intensive cleanup that takes place following a flood, materials might be carted away before an insurance adjuster is able to assess the loss.

  • Create an inventory of found items, dislodged architectural features, decorative fragments, and furnishings. Do not throw away materials at will. Furnishings and architectural elements can be carried a great distance by floodwaters, and items found on your property may be extremely valuable to a nearby restoration project.

Churches, schoolhouses, stores, banks, homes, courthouses, and barns in river and coastal communities often bear watermarks on the walls where owners pencil in the dates and levels of significant floods—the 1937 Flood, the 1973 Flood, the Johnstown Flood. Yet many of these buildings have stood the test of time and survived devastating floods. While floodwaters can cause significant damage to historic buildings, they do not spell the end. With proper cleaning and drying out procedures, the only reminder of floodwaters in historic structures should be a watermark and date on the wall.

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