The recent floods in Louisiana caused 13 deaths and millions of dollars in damage. Some homes were submerged to their roofs, while others received just a few inches of water. Now that cleanup and repairs are underway, homeowners are evaluating what can be salvaged and what must be replaced -- including their household wiring.
After the Flood
The wiring in your walls can be rendered dangerous or inoperable when it’s either inundated or submerged in water. In the case of a catastrophic flood, where wiring is completely submerged for hours or days, total replacement of all affected wiring is almost a given -- it’s rare for builders to use wiring that is rated for that kind of water exposure.
Nothing can be done until any remaining floodwaters recede and the home is completely pumped out. Even then, the remaining moisture may make the home dangerous, as water is an excellent conductor of electricity. It’s important to have the electrical utility disconnect power at the meter before anyone enters wet areas of the home. Even then, it’s a good idea to shut down all power at the circuit box before proceeding.
A qualified electrician can test the wiring left behind, but even if it still works, it’s rarely a good idea to reuse it. The moisture can degrade the wiring insulation, which can increase the risk of an electrical fire down the line. It can also lead to mold and mildew development, and metal parts can corrode -- especially if they’ve been flooded with salty sea water.
Furthermore, one of the big expenses associated with any rewiring job is the cost of opening and repairing the walls. But in the event of a flood, walls are typically torn down to the studs, so there’s really no better time to fully upgrade wiring than during disaster recovery.
Clean or Unclean?
One factor that makes floodwater such a hazard to wiring and building materials is the range of contaminants that tends to come with it. Oil, sewage, chemicals and other dangerous substances can work their way into tiny nooks and crannies, so it’s often best to simply start over fresh.
But if you have water damage to wiring due to a burst pipe in your home, the water will be clean and there’s a smaller chance any wiring will be fully submerged. In this case, it’s possible that your existing wiring can be saved. But the task of evaluating and repairing the damaged wiring is one best left to the licensed professionals.
If you experience water damage to your household wiring, be it dirty floodwater or a sudden plumbing malfunction, call upon your expert local electricians to ensure it’s safe to use power and you’re not sealing up a moldy mess behind your walls.