Cleaning Up After the Storm – Initial Steps
First, regardless of if you have insurance coverage or not document, document, document. Take pictures of everything before you remove anything, this includes all flooring, walls, furniture, appliances -- everything. If you have flood coverage your insurance company will want to see all of this. If you don’t have flood coverage and will be applying for aid you need clear documentation of what you lost. So again document, document, document.
Next, remove all wet carpet and padding. If you have laminate floors take those out as well. You may be able to save wood floors, depending on how much they are cupping, if you can get to them soon enough. Get the water off the wood floors and dehumidify ASAP. Unfortunately, many people will not have electricity and may not be able use the air conditioner as a dehumidifier. But, even if you do have electricity and are able to run the AC, it is best to get some dehumidifiers in there along with fans to move the air to help dry those wood floors. If your floors were installed in the 60s or earlier it may have a wood screed under it. This can also trap water so be sure to verify all the moisture is out. If you have ceramic tile or natural stone floors these can normally be saved by just a thorough cleaning.
Now, let's remove the sheetrock that got wet. Most people think they need to remove all the sheetrock, but that is not the case. If you had 18 inches of water in your home you normally only need to remove 20 to 24 inches of sheetrock. Keep in mind when the sheetrock was installed it is laid its side and there is a joint at the 4-foot height. If the structure had less than 4 feet of water you should not need to remove above that joint. Once you have the sheetrock out remove all wet insulation. The reason I had you cut the sheetrock a little above the waterline is because the insulation will absorb water a little up into the wall.
Treating the areas that got wet
In order to kill any bacteria, remove all wet items from the house. If you come across backer board in the walls or floors know that this material will normally dry out. Again, circulating air in the house and having the AC on and/or a dehumidifier will help. The water that was in your home was not necessarily clean water, so everything needs to be scrubbed in order to kill any bacteria that may be growing. You can use bleach, products such as Wet & Forget or Spray & Forget, or any other product that will kill mold, mildew and bacteria. Mold, mildew and bacteria can destroy your lumber, but as long as take steps to clean it out the frame of your home should be fine.
Even though the cabinets in your home are wood, generally after a flood are not salvageable. Besides that, you need to get to behind them to remove sheetrock and insulation. Additionally, rarely are you able find matching cabinets so you will likely be replacing the upper cabinets too.
The other items that have to come out if they went underwater is all electrical outlets, such as plugs and switches. If you are right on the coast and had salt water in your home may have to replace some of the wiring, but I would have it checked by an electrician first. There is normally no need for the homeowner to remove the wiring because electrician can use the old wires to pull the new wires if need be.
These are just some quick notes to get you started down a long journey rebuilding your home. My heart goes out to everyone whose homes were damaged and I wish I could tell you that they will be rebuilt quickly, but I'm afraid that will not be the case. If you have insurance, the adjusters will want to come out to do their part. If you don't have insurance and you decide to apply with FEMA remember you are dealing with a government agency with lots of red tape and it will be slow. I will tell you normally FEMA offers rebuild money at a very reasonable cost if you have to pay it back at all.