Trees down? Shingles missing? Here are some tips to follow after hurricane hit your area.
What can I do about damage from rain or floodwater in my home?
Be careful: Floodwaters may contain contaminants such as sewage, oil and pesticides. Protect yourself with gloves, goggles and a mask.
If the room is soaked, check to see whether you’re insured for water extraction. If a restoration company can’t come quickly, which is likely the case, you need to take steps to minimize the damage.
Pump or squeegee out standing water. Use a vacuum only if it’s a wet-dry. Remove carpeting, carpet padding, furniture and draperies. Use air movers and dehumidifiers to dry out the space.
Throw away foods, even canned goods, if they’ve been submerged in floodwaters.
Look for hidden moisture, such as drywall, and take out damaged portions to avoid mold. Disinfect cabinets by washing them with detergent, then applying a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
Keep a photographic or video inventory of anything you must throw out.
If a gas appliance was underwater, don’t turn it on until it’s been checked out by a qualified service contractor.
Hurricane knocked over my tree. What do I do now?
You may be able to save it. If the tree was uprooted and it appears the root pan is intact, try replanting it. If it’s a very large tree or was old or diseased, you may want to remove it. Before you do, consider having it appraised: Healthy trees may qualify for a “landscape loss” tax deduction.
Get appraisal from a certified arborist who has appraisal experience. You can search for certified arborists in your area by going to www.isa-arbor.com. Ask whether the arborist has appraisal experience. If the answer is yes, ask for referrals.
If removing the tree will require a chain saw, hire a professional, experts.
Find one at isa-arbor.com. Beware of door- knockers soliciting business: Most reputable arborists are too busy for that, the arborist society warns.
When hiring, ask for certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage (such as your house and your neighbors’), and worker’s compensation. Then call the insurance company to make sure the policy is current. Under some circumstances, you can be held financially responsible if an uninsured worker is hurt on your property or damage is done to a neighbor’s property.
Ask for local references or other jobs the company or individual has done. Find out whether the arborist is certified through a state certification program or the International Society of Arboriculture.
Have more than one arborist look at your job and give you estimates. Be willing to pay for the estimate because two or more opinions and cost estimates are worth it.
If others in your neighborhood have trees down, you might consider hiring a company as a group to save time and money.
Your contract should include start and finish dates, exactly what will be done, and cleanup (including who gets the firewood). You should also specify whether it includes grinding out the stump and surface roots to one foot below grade, filling with topsoil and planting grass.
Charges are determined either by a single price for the job or by the hour plus materials. When the arborist charges by the hour, be sure to include the wording “but not to exceed” in your contract.
If your tree suffered damage but did not fall over, you should consider having it checked out and pruned by an arborist.
Finally, if your tree falls into your neighbor’s yard, it’s your responsibility to remove it. However, if a branch from your tree blows into someone’s yard, it’s generally not your responsibility.
How about electrical problems?
If you have structural damage, wires that have been exposed, or sparks or frayed wires, you need to call an electrician. (If your power is out, flip off the circuit breakers so nothing comes on when power is restored.)
Breaker boxes are supposed to be rain-tight but may not withstand a hurricane. If you suspect water has gotten in the box, call an electrician before turning on the breaker.
If any appliances were exposed to floodwater, let them dry out completely (this may take a couple of weeks), then have them inspected by a qualified technician before turning them back on.
Electricians must have a county or state license. The number should be on the side of the work vehicle.
What should I do about roof damage?
If your neighbor’s roof is missing shingles, yours probably is, too. If just a few are gone, try covering the area with a garbage bag. Slide one edge of the bag under the shingles about two rows above the affected portion and secure the other edge two rows below. Or caulk the exposed nail heads; water gets in by running down the nails.
If there’s a large area of ripped tar paper or wood, cover it with a tarpaulin and call a roofer quickly. Do not to cover the vent pipes of any natural gas appliance because it could cause a deadly accumulation of carbon monoxide in the house.
If you hire a roofer for repairs, be sure he has worker’s compensation insurance – he should have a card showing the carrier – and a business license. If the roofer does not have insurance and gets injured on the job, you may be fined and be held responsible for medical bills.
Seek roofer recommendations from the local building department or major roofing suppliers.
What kinds of plumbing problems might I encounter?
If your water pipes are damaged, call the water department. Don’t use water from the tap until the pipes have been repaired.
Exposed polyvinyl pipe is vulnerable in high winds when flying debris can break it. Check pipes on well pumps and irrigation systems.
If you need to turn off your water, locate the meter – usually in the ground near the street – and remove the lid. You’ll see a valve you can turn with a wrench or water key. Shut-off valves for specific areas are near toilets and under sinks.
If sewage is backing up in the shower or under the toilet, it means your whole system is backed up. Don’t make the problem worse by using other sinks or toilets.
If you hire a plumber, expect to see a state or county license number on the vehicle.
What can be done about damaged or wet works of art?
Quickly remove wet mats, backing or frames from paintings. Wipe metal objects with a clean cloth, or use a soft brush to dust off other pieces.
Keep the item in air conditioning if possible. If your power is out, find a friend who will keep it for you.
How do I avoid being cheated by repair people?
Don’t pay for work until it’s finished and you’re satisfied. Pay with a check or credit card, not cash.
If a reasonable down payment is required, get a written contract detailing all of the work to be performed, costs, quality of materials, warranties, start and finish dates, and who will be responsible for cleanup and trash removal.
Beware of a contractor who tries to rush you or comes to your home offering assistance. If an offer is good “now or never,” find someone else. Get three written estimates on all jobs.
Check credentials before you hire, and ask the attorney general’s office – Consumer Protection Division about complaints.
Ask to see the contractor’s insurance policy, especially for roofing, painting or tree removal service.
Beware of charity scams that might use a storm to make pleas for donations.
If you suspect insurance fraud, call your Department of Financial Services.
If you suspect you’ve encountered scammers, call the attorney general’s office.