Recovering after a flood

Returning home after widespread flooding can be overwhelming. Use caution and take it one step at a time.

In this section:

 Other sections: Getting ready before a flood | Staying safe during a flood

Returning home

Consider creating a cleanup and recovery plan. Just like having an emergency plan, it will help you organize what needs to be done to return your home to normal.

Tips for returning home:

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so and they have cleared your home of any structural, electrical or other hazards
  • Stay out of any buildings if floodwaters remain around or in the building
  • Do not enter if you see any buckled walls or floors
  • Check for any damage to electrical or gas equipment that may have been caused by floodwater. Don’t turn anything back on until the equipment has been inspected by a licensed gas or electrical contractor. Find one using Technical Safety BC’s find a licensed contractor tool
  • If water needs to be drained, do so slowly addressing about 1/3 of the water per day. This ensures the structure of your home won’t buckle
  • Do not heat your home above the temperature outside until all water has been removed.

Managing mould and health risks

Cleaning up after a flood can pose health risks. You may see or smell mould on clothing, drywall, furniture, cardboard boxes or books, but it may also be hidden under or behind items like carpet, cushions or walls.

Mould grows in wet and damp conditions. It’s less likely to grow if your home and furnishings are dry within 48 hours after a flood. This will help prevent mould, which can continue to damage your home long after.

Pregnant women, children, the elderly, pets and those with asthma, allergies or other health problems should not be in or near the area where the mould is being cleaned up.

Identify all mouldy items. Place and seal items in a plastic bag and dispose it. It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly after mould cleanup, as well as change your clothes.

If you rent your home, speak to your landlord about any moisture or mould problems. It may be the responsibility of the owner or landlord to address the problem. If you own a condo unit or workspace, be sure to consult with the Condominium Board before taking any action.

Consider seeking professional assistance to identify the right corrective actions to be taken inside your home.

Tip: Before you start your cleanup activities, call your insurance representative or company. Most insurers have a 24-hour claims service.

How to clean your home

Before you begin cleaning, open all interior and exterior doors and windows, allowing air to flow freely through the space. Do not use fans if mould is present, as this can spread the mould to new areas.

Scrub all washable surfaces with a household bleach solution or unscented soap solution. These areas include window sills, concrete surfaces, hard surfaces and tiles. Dry the surfaces quickly.

Essential items for cleaning mould:

  • Bucket
  • Stiff bristle brush
  • Cleaning clothes
  • Goggles
  • Protective rubber gloves
  • Waterproof rubber boots
  • Dish detergent
  • Household bleach
  • N-95 respirators, or ones that provide more protection (check packaging for “N-95”) available at hardware stores

Cleaning solutions:

  • A bleach solution is made up of 1-part bleach to 10-parts clean water.
  • You can make a baking soda solution by adding a ¼ tablespoon of baking soda to a spray bottle of warm water.
  • A soap solution can be made by combining unscented detergent and warm water.

What to discard

Mould cannot be properly cleaned from many porous materials. Instead, dispose of materials that cannot be dried within 48 hours.

Remove and discard flooring that has been soaked by flood water. Remove all wet drywall, going at least 30 cm above the flood water level.

Dispose of all wet items that do not dry quickly, including:

  • Insulation and drywall
  • Carpets
  • Particleboard furniture
  • Mattresses and box springs
  • Stuffed toys
  • Paper and cardboard products
  • Pillows and cushions
  • Furniture coverings
  • Perishable foods, foods or medicines packaged in cardboard or plastic

Note: Mould that comes back after cleaning is usually an indication that the source of moisture has not been removed. If this happens, always seek professional assistance.

Note: Painting or caulking over mouldy surfaces like drywall does NOT kill mould and does not stop it from growing back. If the mould is underneath the paint, the drywall will need to be removed and replaced.

Claiming insurance

Before you start your cleanup activities, call your insurance representative or company. Most insurers have a 24-hour claims service. Be as detailed as possible when providing information.

List all damaged or destroyed items. If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts and warranties. Take photos of the damage. Keep all receipts related to clean up and living expenses if you’ve been displaced. Ask your insurance representative about what expenses you may be entitled to and for how long

If you do not know the name of your insurer or your insurance representative, contact Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC

Psychological care

Fear and anxiety are natural reactions to stressful events and can stir up past traumas. To help yourself and your loved ones:

  • Accept offers of help. Seek counselling or spiritual guidance
  • Focus on positive memories and the skills you’ve used to get through other hard times
  • Be aware of how children are reacting. Reassure them and encourage them to express themselves
  • Give yourself and your loved ones permission to grieve
  • Practice cultural or spiritual customs that bring you comfort

Warning signs

With support, most people recover within a few weeks. However, some will need more time and help to heal. Watch for warning signs of extended anxiety and contact a medical professional or trusted community leader if they last more than two to four weeks:

  • Trouble with eating and sleeping
  • Feeling depressed or hopeless; showing low energy or crying often
  • Being anxious and fearful
  • Trouble focusing on daily activities
  • Recurring thoughts or nightmares

Seek help

Don’t be afraid to seek help after a traumatic event, such as a flood and related evacuation.

  • BC’s Mental Health Support Line is open 24 hours a day at 310-6789 (no area code).
  • Counselling is also available through the First Nations Health Authority. Visit or call the KUU-US Indigenous Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717.