When most people hear about homes being flooded, they usually think about ground floors and basements. However, attic spaces are vulnerable to flooding, too. That is why you need to know how to protect your home as well as quickly and correctly handle attic flooding. Here is what you should know:
What makes attic flooding uniquely damaging?
Rising water from rain-swollen bodies of water is the cause of most residential flooding, but flooding in the attic is typically caused by other reasons, both natural and manmade:
- Leaks in roof
- Catastrophic storm damage
- Burst pipes or water heaters
- Inadequate weather sealing around attic windows
The attic's location in your home is what makes flooding a particularly dangerous occurrence, even though it is likely to be on a smaller scale than other flood events. Your attic's relative isolation can allow water to build up without notice for a period of time; by the time it is discovered, the damage may have mounted to extreme levels.
In addition to its undiscovered nature, the buildup of water in the attic is a burden to your home's structural components. For example, a flood event that allows one thousand gallons of water to enter your attic adds over eight thousand pounds of weight to your home's ceilings and joists. This can cause breakage and sudden collapse, and the water damage will spread to your home's living spaces.
How do you prevent attics from flooding?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that adage fits well when it comes to flooding in your attic. There are several things you can do ahead of time to prevent flooding in many instances:
- Relocate hot water heaters - if you have a hot water heater in your attic, you need to consider moving it to a different location. A hot water heater failure can result in a sudden release of many gallons of scalding hot water, and this can cause ceiling collapse and even potentially burn home occupants. If it isn't feasible to relocate your hot water heater, then be sure that you have a containment tray in place beneath the water heater to capture spills.
- Maintain your roof - most roofs will need to be replaced at some point, so be sure that you don't neglect necessary maintenance. Slow leaks can allow water to accumulate unnoticed in some areas of your attic for long periods of time, and those same slow leaks can worsen quickly in downpours. If you live in an area that receives heavy snowfall, you should also guard your roof from ice damming, a buildup of ice that causes water to pool on your roof and subsequently soak into the underlayment. Contact a roofing contractor for assistance with preventing ice dams.
- Check your windows and vents - attic vents and windows are prime spots for water intrusion. If a vent isn't properly attached to your home or is turned the wrong way, rainwater and snow can enter your attic. Windows that aren't sealed properly will also permit water to enter around the edges. That's why you should take a few minutes to check your windows and vents in your attic to ensure they are adequately sealed.
What do you do if your attic floods?
Despite the best of intentions and efforts to prevent attics from flooding, it can still happen to homeowners, especially if the roof suffers extreme damage during a storm or other similar catastrophe. Here is what you can do to help mitigate the damage:
- Make safety first - before attempting to respond to a flood in your attic, make safety your first priority. Do not attempt to climb on a damaged roof, especially if it is wet, to cover a hole. Also, be on the alert for submerged electrical wiring or components, as you can be killed by touching water charged by a current. Finally, watch where you step; drywall ceilings are greatly weakened by water, and you could fall through to the floor beneath. If you are in doubt about the safety of entering your attic, stay out altogether until help arrives.
- Shut off the water - if flooding is caused by a burst pipe or other plumbing disaster, then you should immediately cut-off the water supply to your home. Be sure you know where the main shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off before an emergency occurs.
- Protect your items - remove items from your attic that are likely to be damaged by water such as documents, clothing or other vulnerable goods.
- Call a professional - water cleanup on a large scale is a difficult task; it not only demands that moisture be quickly removed, but it also requires that considerations be made for structural integrity and long-term concerns such as mold development. A flood restoration specialist from a company like Central Flood Management Inc has the equipment and knowledge to do the job correctly.