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Seven Ideas to Consider when Restoring Your Flooded-out Home
By Susan Fox

After my boyfriend surveyed the flooded ruins of his Meyerland-area home, I floated out the idea of turning his 1960s-era modern ranch into what I began calling a “wash-and-wear” house. It seemed logical. We agreed there could be repeat occurrences. In fact, this was his second go-around.

During Hurricane Harvey, Brian’s home turned into a bathtub of 14 inches of nasty brown bayou water. It was an all-too-common scene in his neighborhood, as well as in many others.

Because Brian had just forked over $23,000 within the last 24 months to make repairs resulting from a Memorial Day flood, he took to the wash-and-wear idea like a duck to water.

The following actions, we hope, will reduce the likelihood of continuously filling up our landfills with Sheetrock, furniture, insulation, flooring…and to save time and money over the long term. The objective is to make dealing with a flood less of a life trauma and more of a maintenance issue.

Like most, Brian removed about four feet of Sheetrock from the walls around his house. We are investigating using HardieBoard and attaching it with anti-corrosion screws to the stud walls, leaving drainage/air vents just below the remaining Sheetrock line and a few inches above the floor. The cement board claims the highest FEMA* rating. Removable chair molding and a baseboard will hide the upper and lower drainage and air vents.

Jim Lupo at Tri-Way Enterprises was intrigued with the idea of using cement board, a material he likes. First, spray the stud walls, ceramic tiles — everything — generously with a disinfectant. Then wait until everything completely dries. Consan Triple Action 20 is one such nontoxic formula.

Lupo wondered if the Hardie would be reusable. But, I found a discussion thread online where a fellow said he had soaked HardieBacker for 12 months in a tub. He turned it repeatedly, letting it dry and then wetting it again. He verified Hardie’s lasting integrity.

Gypsum board, or Sheetrock, tends to get waterlogged and then becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Payless Insulation owner Lynda Kornbleet says the best insulation to use is closed-cell cellulose. Because of its loose organic fill, it allows air to move freely. Therefore, the concept is that it dries more quickly. If there are accessible air vents and the room is well ventilated, drying takes two to three days. But, under other circumstances, it could also take up to five or more days.

She advises webbing it to contain the loose pilings, maintaining that it could be left behind our cement board to dry. We would never need to remove it. And it, too, is highly rated by FEMA.

Their Celbar Cellulose is treated to prevent pests and mildew/mold, while also acts as a fire retardant.

Closed-cell insulation options also include polystyrene or polyisocyanurate products. Fiberglass, as a side, may trap and hold water. Typically, it must be removed post-flood.

Glass blocks claim a high FEMA rating. Often as an upgrade, you see them a lot in bathrooms and foyer areas. But what a cool look for an interior wall. No worries ever.

According to Ken Bowman at Masonry & Glass Systems Inc., some glass blocks withstand hurricane impact. Available in various sizes, there is a 3/4-inch of glass on each side with an interior air pocket. The Texas Department of Insurance approves these glass blocks.

Because interior walls do not require thermal insulation, some or all could be built out as “stud walls” with no wallboard or paneling for an interesting designer look that would be super easy to clean up after a flood. Another similar idea is to go with lapboard siding inside. I personally like this minimal and clean look — especially if you’re going to be doing flood duty now and then.

Because Brian had to remove his lower kitchen cabinets, he plans to restyle the space with freestanding pieces that can be easily removed, cleaned and dried after any future flood. Stainless steel, restaurant-style worktables have caught our eye.

Brian had ceramic tile flooring with waterproof grout. Perfect. Concrete floors are also easy.

One hundred-percent recycled plastic (from milk cartons) creates some sturdy furniture pieces (as well as lumber sheets). Glass, acrylics, woods (not MDF), cement and high-grade stainless and noncorrosive metals limit choices, but meet FEMA standards.

Outdoor fabrics offer plentiful choices. Be sure to use nylon or stainless zippers; the metal ones corrode, says Peter Crocenzi at The Upholstery Shop. Anti-microbial polyurethane foam may be a best bet, too.
*FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency,


Masonry & Glass Systems Inc.

Payless Insulation

Texas Department of Insurance

Tri-Way Enterprises

The Upholstery Shop

Houston Web Design Company