Reentering Flood-Damaged Farm Buildings

AUBURN, Ala.—Hurricane Michael ripped through homes, businesses and farms. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers recover resources for homeowners and business owners—including farmers.

Buildings exposed to floodwaters need to be evaluated to determine the extent of damage, cleanup and repairs necessary to restore them to useable conditions.

Evaluate Structural Soundness

Before moving forward with recovery, evaluate standing buildings for structural soundness. If the building has been moved, shifted or twisted, it may not be safe to enter.

Check the foundation, sill plate, roof supports and walls for damage. While storm damage to structures is often obvious, the less obvious damage could weaken the building or cause other problems.

Building owners should do a close inspection of the structure from the outside to check for damage before entering. Check whether ridge and eaves are straight, walls are vertical and straight, and be sure the building has not shifted on its foundation. Look for indications that frame members—such as knee braces—have been pushed into the siding or up into the roof.

Other damage may be visible once inside the building. Examine trusses and rafters for signs of crushed, split or broken wood. Did members buckle, twist, bow or appear to slip, or have gaps between members in a truss joint. Also look at gussets to see if they show signs of deformation. Inspect nail, screw and bolt holes for signs of elongation.

 Dry Out and Assess

Building owners should consult a building contractor if there are indications of severe damage. The cost of repairs may exceed the building value in some cases.

Avoid putting yourself and valued equipment at risk in a structurally damaged building. Once the water subsides, dry out the building as much as possible. This includes using sump pumps, mops, fans and natural ventilation.

After the wood dries, inspect laminated woods—like plywood—that may have been immersed in water to be sure the laminations are still firmly bonded. Check existing nails to ensure they are still firmly driven.


If the building was insulated, the wet insulation must be removed. Floodwater will often leave foul odors that are difficult to remove. When checking insulation, expect it to be wet well above the highest water level because of the wicking action of the material.

If the interior wall sheathing is drywall, it will need to be replaced. Generally, interior sheathing in out-buildings will be wood, which can be removed, dried and reused. After removing sheathing, inspect the walls, studs, sills and plates for structural damage. Repair or replace damaged components.

Wiring and Plumbing

Do not turn on the power to a flooded structure until it has been inspected and determined safe by a qualified person.

Inspect wiring and plumbing for damage from the flood’s pressure. Electrical outlets, switches, sockets and fuse boxes generally need to be replaced. Check local electrical codes.


After the buildings have dried sufficiently, renovation can begin. All floors probably will be covered with layers of silt and mud. This will need to be removed. Wood floors that have absorbed a lot of water could be buckled. Do not repair them until they are fully dried. It may be possible to pull some of the flooring back into place with nails. Plane and sand as needed to remove humps in the floor. This may not get it into condition to look good uncovered, but it will be smooth enough to serve as a base for a new covering.

Insulation will need to be replaced in the walls. Cover with a 4 mil or 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier on the warm side of the insulation according to local recommendations and then install interior drywall or sheathing.



Featured image by Summers.


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