Floodwater is every home owner's worst nightmare, and can cause enormous damage to even the most well protected homes. However, much of this damage remains hidden out of sight, even after the floodwater has been drained away and standard repairs have been undertaken. One of the most serious, and potentially dangerous, ways floodwater can cause hidden damage to your home is by damaging the electrical wiring:
How can floodwater damage electrical wiring?
In many modern houses, the electrical wiring is fairly well protected from water damage, as it is coated in insulating sheathes made from vinyl, PVC or other plastics that are largely waterproof if undamaged. However, in a flooding situation this wiring may become totally submerged in water, which can drastically decrease the electrical resistance of the insulation and cause serious damage. There are also a number of other factors that can contribute to electrical damage in your home:
- Depth - if the floodwater in your home is high enough, for instance during a flash flood or rainstorm, it can reach more exposed electrical circuitry in your home, which is generally kept higher up on walls to protect against such eventualities. Breaker boxes, fuse boxes, integrated air conditioning systems, electrical outlets and switches and sub panels are all particularly vulnerable.
- Sediment - Particularly dirty floodwater carries large amounts of dirt and other detritus, potentially including raw sewage. Aside from posing a serious sanitary hazard, this sediment can build up around wires and inside breaker boxes and other equipment, causing damage and corrosion.
- Saltwater - Coastal flooding carries more of a risk of electrical damage, as saltwater is much more corrosive to even slightly exposed wiring. Aluminium wiring, which is generally fairly resistant to water damage, is invariably ruined by saltwater damage, and will need to be replaced.
- Older wiring - The wiring in older houses may not have been replaced in many years, and you may find that they are not as resistant to water damage as more modern electrical wires. Fabric sheathed wires should always be replaced, as should some older varieties of plastic-sheathed wire. NM-B wiring is particularly vulnerable, as it contains paper liners between the wires and insulation that draws in and absorbs water.
- Previous damage - It is possible that your wiring may have been previous damaged without you noticing, which leaves it much more vulnerable to water damage. Gaps in wire insulation caused by improper fitting or rodent attack and be particularly troublesome.
What should I do about my wiring if my home is flooded?
- Disconnect your home from mains electricity - You should only do this if you are sure it is absolutely safe to do so. Floodwater may carry a live charge if the electricity is still connected and your wiring has been damaged (particularly if your home is flooded with saltwater). In most cases it is generally safest to call in a professional electrical contractor, who will usually disconnect your electricity meter, and turn off the master switch if your home has one.
- Have your wiring professionally inspected - Once your home has been drained and it is safe to begin repairs, you should have your wiring professionally and thoroughly inspected for damage. This will generally involve stripping interior walls to a certain extent, so be prepared for significant damage.
- Repairs and replacements - The amount of wiring that will have to replaced depends largely on the severity of the flood and the waterproofing of your wires. In some cases, wires may be fit for service once they are fully dried out and refitted, but any significant flooding is likely to require extensive wiring replacement. If this is the case, consider consulting with your electrician on having replacement wiring rerouted to further above ground level, to reduce potential damage in the event of future flooding.
Contact a company such as All Electrical Work to learn more.