What steps should you take after your home has been affected by a hurricane? Follow our checklist for simple steps to assess the damage, including the roof, siding, appliances, gas line and HVAC system — and get your home up and running.
The hurricane has passed. You and your family are safe. And officials have said it’s OK to return home. Now what? How do you assess the damage safely and get everything back in order? Where do you even start?
Here are tips on what to look for — and look out for — after a hurricane.
1. Wait until daylight.
As much as you want to get back to your home, wait until daylight, especially if the power is out, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This will help you see and avoid any dangers.
2. Take photos.
Bring a camera or phone to take pictures for any insurance claims.
3. Do a walk-around inspection.
Wear protective clothing — electrical hazard boots, heavy-duty waterproof gloves and a hard hat if there’s danger of falling debris — and go with a partner to check out your house and yard, suggests Ready.gov. Be careful of standing water, which could have submerged debris or be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Contact the utility company if you see this.
4. Assess damage to your home’s exterior.
Check for roof, siding, window and door damage. Missing flashing, gutters and shingles will all need to be replaced.
If you boarded up windows and doors before the storm, good for you. But be careful removing plywood sheets. Take note of nail holes left behind; these could lead to water damage later on.
5. Check for water damage.
If your home experienced flooding, you can be pretty certain there’s some level of water damage. Check to see if water has seeped behind your siding and into your insulation. Water can lead to mold and rot.
6. Inspect your appliances.
If the power is on in your neighborhood, avoid the urge to rush in and see if all your appliances still work. Take it slow, recommends National Grid. Turn on major appliances one at a time to help avoid overloading circuits.
7. Check for gas leaks.
If you smell gas or think there might be a leak, absolutely do not turn on lights, light matches or do anything else that can cause a spark. Leave your house immediately and walk a good distance away before using a cellphone to call the utility company. It’s possible for the phone to produce a spark that might ignite the natural gas and cause an explosion.
8. Don’t use wet appliances.
If your electrical or gas appliances have gotten wet, don’t use them, and don’t turn on damaged appliances — in both cases there’s a risk of electric shock or fire, Direct Energy warns.
For example, if you didn’t unplug your washer and dryer and your laundry room is flooded high enough that the water covered the electrical outlets and cords, the standing water could be electrically charged and lethal.
Even if your appliances aren’t submerged, it’s possible that water could have damaged their motors. Floodwater often contains dirt that can corrode parts of the equipment.
If there’s a lot of water, “don’t plug in or turn on any appliance, large or small, that has been flooded,” says Sears Home Services appliance expert Dusty Jolly. “Wet appliances must be dried, cleaned and inspected by a professional before they can safely be used again. Only some appliances can be reused after a flood, while others will need to be replaced. The extent of the damage depends on factors such as the depth of the water and the amount of time the appliance was exposed to the water.”
A professional technician can help you make the repair-or-replace determination.
9. Check if your HVAC system has been flooded.
Your furnace, water heater and AC system also may have been affected by water, which can lead to corrosion. But worse, “they may become a breeding ground for mold, bacteria and other growth, which lead to health risks,” Jolly says. “These products should likely be replaced since they deal with air quality.” Call a qualified service provider to assess whether your system can be repaired or needs replacing.
Hurricane-force winds can do a number on your home’s exterior, and flooding may damage your home’s interior, including its appliances and HVAC system. If you have any questions at all about how to safely inspect the damage, don’t take a chance: Call in the experts.