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The people from New Orleans know flood damage clean up.

They know it so well they've written the book on it, figuratively speaking.

Not long after Hurricane Katrina became America's greatest natural disaster in history, submerging most of the Crescent City and flood damaging or destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, four agencies began to develop a field guide to help anyone with a flood-damaged home wring it out, clean it up and prepare it for renovations to restore habitability.

Field tried and tested as a demonstration project involving several flood damaged homes in New Orleans, the project culminated in the step-by-step illustrated guide "Creating a Healthy Home: A Field Guide for Clean-Up of Flooded Homes".

Mold growth was the primary concern.

One home suffered five feet of standing water for two weeks and mold growth up to the ceiling. Measures outlined in the guide reduced the mold to non-detectable levels and readied the structure for normal renovation.

The guide is the work of two Columbia, MD-based agencies, Enterprise Community Partners and the National Center for Healthy Housing, as well as Washington, D.C.-based NeighborWorks America and the Big Easy's own Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans.

Funding was provided by the Princeton NJ-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Several home owners volunteered their flood ravaged homes for the project.

According to the project's findings, in most cases, say in mild-to-moderately damaged structures, mold-infested debris and building materials can be removed and the structure can be decontaminated and made safe for rebuilding for about $3 to $4 a square foot. Homes with three feet of flooding will cost between $32,000 and $47,000 to fully repair after decontamination; homes with six feet of flooding will cost between $78,000 and $120,000 to fully repair after decontamination.

The guide describes the necessary inspections, site clean up preparation measures, work and clean-up stations, clean room design and use, safety gear, tools and equipment, debris disposal techniques, fungicidal treatments, restoring possessions like appliances and furnishings, pre-restoration preparations and attention to a home's components -- walls, floors, insulation, and other structural parts.

The guide was published for both do-it-yourselfers and contractors who need to clean up mold before starting to rebuild or renovate, but it's quick to point out what do-it-yourselfers should and shouldn't do.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend only trained mold remediation professionals do the mold clean up if mold growth covers more than 100 square feet, or a 10 foot by 10 foot area.
  • Know the rules of your state regarding using licensed mold remediation professionals and hire only those licensed or otherwise certified to perform the work.
  • Do not hire contractors who recommend fogging or spraying clean up methods. Moldy materials must be removed from the building and properly disposed.
  • Get quotes from several or more mold remediation professionals. Seek referrals from friends, family members, coworkers or others you trust.
  • Ask each contractor for references on recent similar jobs and determine if the property owners were satisfied with the work.
  • The written estimate should include a detailed scope of the work; a detailed plan describing how you and other residents, your belongings and the workers themselves will be protected during the work and an agreement that you will hold the final payment until the work passes an inspection by a professional. The inspection should show there was no visible mold, no mold odors and that air tested after the work was done has a safe level of indoor air quality.
  • To get the most protection for the money and the work, ask the contractor to give proof that he or she has commercial general liability, contractual liability and pollution (mold) liability insurance.
  • In emergencies and special circumstances, residents and volunteers may do mold clean-up work under the guidance of a professional and with the proper protective clothing and gear and practices described in the guide.
  • People with asthma, mold allergies or other respiratory conditions, people with weakened immune systems, children, older people and pregnant women should not perform mold remediation work and should remain out of homes being restored until the work is certified effective, the guide says.
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