Electrical and Electronic Damage: One of the Worst Side Effects From Water Damage

If someone mentions water damage to you, what do you think of? Brownish stains on brittle paper? Wet carpet? How about damaged wiring and dangerous appliances? If your house has been through a flood, it's not just the walls, floor, and furniture that may need restoration; your home's electrical system may need help, too. How much help depends on the height of the floodwaters and how long they were there, but always err on the side of caution and let restorers take the lead.

Safety First: Read These Warnings

First, never walk into a flooded home, even if the water is still and only a couple of feet high. You have to assume the electrical circuits have been affected, and there's no way to know if the electricity is live, even when your electricity appears to be out; if someone is running a generator connected to their home's electrical system, some of the generated electricity can go back into the neighborhood's electrical system. The power might look off, but there can still be a current. Also, do not touch anything until you get the OK from an electrician; with luck, the water restoration company you choose will have one on staff, although they may not have one and tell you to call a separate electrician instead.

Non-Flooded Rooms May Still Have Problems

One of the sneaky things about flood damage is that it can affect things that weren't even submerged. From added moisture in the air to water wicking its way up curtains, you can find water damage in flooded homes on floors that weren't stuck in the water itself. That also goes for the electrical systems in your house. Maybe your first floor flooded but not the second floor; that doesn't mean it's OK to start trying light switches in non-flooded rooms. If water got through the drywall or got high enough to submerge an outlet, it got into your home's electrical system, and you have to assume all of it is damaged unless told otherwise after an inspection. The wiring in separate floors in your home is all part of the same system.

After the Safety Shutoff

After you've had the power to your home verified as off, and the house has been fully unplugged from the meter (or the meter unplugged itself), have the water restoration company inspect everything including appliances and electronics. Some electronic gadgets, if the floodwaters cleared quickly, may be salvageable. Some electronics just need to be dried out, but let the water restoration company make that judgment call. Inspecting the wiring in the walls may be trickier as the water damage restoration company may determine that you need to have an electrician replace some or all of the wiring. If that is the case, restoring water-damaged walls may take longer because the company might want to wait until the wiring is done. They'll still dry out the walls and ensure they stop any mold growth, but it could be a while before you can get the walls fully restored.

Take it piece by piece and follow the water damage restoration company's instructions for what should be handled when. Eventually, your home will be back in great shape.