Kevin O’Donnell, national product trainer at Crown Paints, explains why planning, preparation and above all, patience, are necessary for the successful redecoration of water-damaged properties.
From November 2019 to February 2020, the UK saw some of the most severe localised flooding in living memory, with the heavy rainfall in February alone making it the wettest month since records began. With both Storms Ciara and Dennis making their presence felt in the worst possible way, hundreds of properties have been devastated and many more people displaced from their homes. It may have only taken a few days for the damage to have been caused but unfortunately, it will take far longer to rectify.
Patience is a virtue
Understandably people and business owners will want to return to their flood-damaged properties as soon as possible but when it comes to redecorating, it’s important to wait until everything is completely clean and dry – and this can often take months rather than weeks.
The drying out process can be very lengthy and frustrating, but there are a few things that can be done to help speed things along. For example, any wall covering that has a low-permeability such as vinyl wallpaper, tiles or gloss finishes, can trap moisture beneath the surface, and so ideally should be removed as soon as possible. Making sure all external air bricks are clean and clear of debris can also help to dry out masonry and brickwork.
Painting a surface too soon, whether an internal wall or exterior masonry, can lead to long-term problems, such as blistering, peeling and mould growth, so it’s important to advise your customers to be patient. There is still plenty of planning work that can be done while you’re waiting though, so that you can hit the ground running when the time comes.
Depending on the severity of the flood, some areas of a property will be able to repaired and redecorated while others will need to be replaced. For example, if plasterboard and stud walls are badly damaged, it may be necessary to completely remove, replace and reskim them, but lime-based plaster, which allows moisture to evaporate through it more easily, usually fares much better.
Masonry too can be largely unaffected, and timber windows and doors do not necessarily rot, as long as they can dry out properly, and in the case of timber, sooner rather than later. However, flood damage can cause significant structural damage that may not be easy to spot so it’s always advisable to seek professional guidance prior to starting any redecoration work.
Preparing to paint
Once the property has dried out, painting can finally begin, but whether you are tackling an interior or exterior redecoration contract, there are a couple of important steps to follow before you apply the first coat.
First of all, surfaces need to be clean, dry and sound. Existing internal surfaces should be cleaned with sugar soap to remove any traces of dirt and grease, and any flaking paint should be removed. Don’t forget to take extra care when working in older properties, as you may be removing layers of paint that contain lead. Any cracks will then need to be raked out, filled and sanded.
Moisture ingress can also cause masonry to expand and contract, and this can lead to cracks appearing. These cracks will need to be filled, and matched to the surrounding area, and choosing a ready-mixed masonry filler that is quick-drying will help save valuable time on site. Following with a flexible masonry coating, such as Sandtex’s High Build Decorative Coating, can also help protect and disguise uneven and unsightly surfaces.
Exterior masonry may also be affected by efflorescence salts which are deposited when moisture evaporates through the surface. These are unsightly, but easy enough to remove by using a stiff bristle brush, and are unlikely to reappear as long as the masonry is fully dried out, and there are no additional leaks or other causes of water ingress to contend with.
The most important stage, however, is to treat the surface for damp and mould, as this is a problem that will continue to rear its ugly head, even when surfaces have been given a fresh coat of paint. Fungicidal solutions are available for both interior jobs and exterior masonry, and all surfaces need to be treated to avoid any future problems with mould and mildew.
Sort out stains
Even when a flood-damaged property has been professionally cleaned, water marks will still be visible on walls and, if not treated properly, will show through even after you’ve repainted. If a stain isn’t properly sealed, it can bleed through the paint layer and cause an unsightly discoloration.
Here, a stain-blocking primer can make all the difference, as it can effectively obliterate stains by providing a high opacity base coat, which will work with even a light or pale coloured top coat. Choosing a high-performance water-based primer such as Crown Trade’s PX4 also has the added benefit of being quick-drying, so you can crack on with painting.
Colour schemes are an important part of any project, whether you are working on a commercial or domestic contract, but for some customers, it can also be an emotional time. For people affected by flooding, the recovery process can be a long and emotional one, and finally being able to return to their home or business can be overwhelming. Redecoration is often the last stage of the journey and, although a property will look and feel like new, it might not feel like home straight away. It’s important to take the time to advise your customer on colour schemes, both inside and out, and if you’re working on a domestic job, a friendly chat over a cup of tea and a colour card can make a huge difference. As preparation work in water-damaged properties can take longer to complete, it’s worth encouraging your client to think about colour as early as possible so they can take their time to decide without causing delays. It can also help them feel a bit more positive and ensure that they are as happy as possible with their new-look property.