Saving Valuables After A Disaster

Charlotte has such fascinating stories; we can experience history every day– block by block. When the city was founded back in 1768, a large group of colonists, loyal to the British Crown, decided to settle in Charlotte. The intersection of two Native American trading paths is now the intersection of Trade and Tryon in Uptown.

Cotton mills, village homes and machinery rest below Lake Norman’s surface.  Duke Energy flooded hundreds of acres in the 1960s–even cemeteries. Under the lake, you can now find a portion of Elm Wood Estate, a Georgian-style plantation house built by a Revolutionary War general in the 1820s. However, when you find your Charlotte home with too much water, here’s some advice for saving your valuable possessions:

Prevention – Store Valuables In Protected Spaces

The best solution is to avoid any problems! In general, but especially before a predicted storm, move your most important valuables above historic high water marks. Consider sealing paper, books, and jewelry in waterproof plastic boxes or in zip-top plastic bags, both of which are easy to grab and move quickly; then store them on higher shelves in an easy-to-access bedroom or hallway closets.

When You DO Suffer Water Damage

Fresh air is vital after water damage since mold and mildew form quickly. As soon as you can safely gain access to a flooded home, immediately open doors and windows to get air circulating. Plan to spread out your valuables and organize box fans for maximum ventilation. (Remember that you will need a generator if the electricity in your area has not been restored.)

Books And Important Papers

Keep in mind that mold and mildew begin within  24-48 hours, so focus on your irreplaceable items. Soaked papers and books will probably develop water stains, but you can avoid further damage by opening them on a table to dry. Lay papers flat; fan out the pages of books and set them upright.

Or interleaf wet books every few pages with paper towels, blotter paper or plain newsprint from an art supply store. When the document or book no longer feels damp, place it flat with weight on top to minimize warping. (This technique does not work on books with glossy pages, they require professional restoration.)  

Furniture And Antiques  

Disturbing wet surfaces can damage the varnish and cause scratches; don’t wipe off the water or mud. Lift furniture up off the floor to keep metal pieces from rusting. Solid-wood furniture has a chance to be saved: remove drawers, take out any wet fabrics, remove any knobs or drawer pulls. Dry out of direct sunlight for several weeks. However, any furniture made with particle board, even expensive veneered pieces, will not be usable.

Think of upholstered furniture as a sponge; if the water was polluted, then the piece is unsalvageable. If the water was clean, discard the outer fabric and inner padding. If you plan to have it reupholstered, clean the frame to avoid mold. Before you make a decision, estimate the cost of recovering versus buying new.


If it is an important artwork, get it to a professional right away. Amateur efforts can ruin something a conservator might save. Do not attempt to blow dry a wet work of art; this will damage the surface. Instead, lay it flat and let it air dry. Remove the frame when possible. Dry face-up with blotter paper underneath, changing the paper to absorb moisture. Try to get four to eight inches of space underneath the artwork using blocks, and direct fans AWAY from the surface.  

Wet Photographs

If your photos have dried and stuck together or are stuck to pages in a photo album, do not try to pull them apart. Contact a professional conservator, who may be able to re-humidify or submerge them in water to separate them.

Photographs in water will quickly deteriorate: images can separate from mounts, emulsions can dissolve or stick together, and staining can occur. If photographs cannot be dried immediately,  they should be frozen in a zip-top bag, to be dealt with later.

When a water damage emergency happens, you can always rely on the trusted professionals at Restoration 1 in Charlotte.