Storms Image Gallery
Storms Image Gallery

Flooding after Hurricane Katrina. See more storm pictures.

Kevin Horan/The Image Bank/Getty Images

­Although water is essential for life, it can be destructive -- particularly when it comes in the form of a f­lood. Scien­tific and historical evidence suggest that a flood was one of the most massively cataclysmic events in human history. Today, we still struggle with periodic floods that continue to wreak havoc on communities. And when a flood strikes your home, the decision of what to salvage and what to let go of is particularly heart-wrenching.

To understand the damage a flood can cause, let's take a look at some of the common problems and hazards associated with a flooded home. Like the famous phrase, "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink," floodwater is particularly dangerous. Because it picks up unsafe chemicals, mud and refuse, floodwater is very unclean. Not only is it unsafe to drink, but it also contaminates everything it touches -- and in a flood situation, that means almost everything in your home.

­Even tap water isn't safe immediately after a flood: You'll need to strain, boil and add bleach to tap water to decontaminate it. But to make a flooded home safe enough to live in at all, you'll have to hose down all walls and hard floors using­ soap and water. Other things in a flooded house are even more difficult to clean. For instance, mattresses and wallboard can soak in contaminants that are almost impossible to get rid of. This is why experts advise disposing of things you suspect are contaminated.

To protect against future flooding in a flood-prone area, you'll also need to floodproof your home during renovations. This might mean adding waterproof seals, installing backflow valves in drains and getting shields for doors and windows [source: FEMA].

On top of all these precautions, structural damage in your home could call for significant repairs. Considering all these factors, you can understand how it might be cheaper -- and certainly safer -- to tear down a flooded home. Local regulations may even require it.

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