High Water Mark

High Water Mark

The recent floods in Queensland and Victoria will result in above average demand for particular building materials in some areas, reports Laura Luvara.

In January, east coast Australia experienced some of the worst flooding and storm damage seen in decades. Properties were destroyed and thousands of people displaced. In the wake of the disasters, the Master Builders Association of Victoria received innumerable calls from builders and tradespeople keen to help rebuild the affected communities. As a result of the storms there was – and continues to be – a huge volume of building and construction work as these communities rebuild their homes, businesses, infrastructure and amenities. Certain building materials and hardware, therefore, will be in high demand during the rebuilding period.

Before starting repair jobs, Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV) Executive Director, Brian Welch, said it was important that anyone carrying out home repairs take extreme care. “Retailers should inform their customers that are buying materials for home repairs that it can be a dangerous exercise,” he said. “In February, a man in Glen Waverley (Melbourne) was killed when he fell from a roof while carrying out flood damage repairs. This was a timely and tragic warning to others to properly consider the merits of hiring qualified builders and tradespeople to carry out their water damage repairs. “Anyone carrying out repairs should also take precautions to eliminate asbestos exposure. Doing this kind of dangerous work has a number of risks involved, which should be considered carefully.”

Welch advised building owners to check the following before launching into any reconstruction or repair on a building:

  • Structural integrity
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Sewerage services

Demand Items

Geoff Woolcock, MBAV’s Manager of Building Services, believes there is a number of building materials that will be in high demand as part of the clean-up and rebuild. “These are the parts of a building structure that are most likely to be damaged by flood or wind,” he said. “Either part, or all, of these sections of the building will need replacing. I think the hardware to be in highest demand will be plaster for walls and ceilings, which will have broken apart with the water damage.” The list of items Woolcock outlined includes the following:


All types of cabinetry will be in demand. Kitchen cabinets will need replacing if water has soaked in and warped cupboards and frames. Also, laminated cabinetry may have lifted and warped.


Dwellings, offices and other buildings that have been inundated by flood waters will most likely have affected plaster board. In most cases, it will be obvious where plasterboard has been soaked or contaminated, but those in doubt should seek advice from a professional tradesman to assess the options. Customers will need to identify if they have plaster board, timber, fibre cement sheet or fibrous plaster. In the case of timber and fibrous plaster, they may not actually require removal and may simply need bleaching and washing down. Almost all ceilings that have been inundated will need to be replaced, especially where absorbent insulation is involved. The chances of the ceiling caving in are usually high. Water is likely to have pooled in areas for a long period of time and fixings will most likely need replacing too.

Insulation will be among the most common parts of the dwelling to need replacing. All wet insulation should be removed to prevent mould developing and to avoid further damage to replacement plaster. The types of insulation that will be most in demand will depend on the customer, the needs of the building they are insulating and their regional climate.


Many roofs were blown away or severely damaged by strong winds and heavy rain. All types of roofing will be in demand, including terracotta and cement tiles, corrugated iron and modern alternatives. People will also need ladders and appropriate footwear to work at heights.

Floor Coverings

Carpet is particularly susceptible to flood damage. Even minor water damage requires specialist cleaning due to the stagnant nature of storm and flood waters. Home and business owners will be seeking small pieces of carpet for repair patches or, when the damage is severe, they will require large quantities of carpet for restoring entire buildings. The tools associated with carpet replacement will also be in demand.

Tiling will be another floor covering in need of repair. People will be looking for replacement tiles in large and small quantities. They will also require the appropriate sealants, grouting mixtures and tools for the job.

Further information

In response to the storms and flooding in Australia during January and February, the Master Builders Association of Victoria launched a webpage on February 4 that contains information for builders, tradespeople and owners. Just click the ‘Disaster Relief’ icon on the www.mbav.com.au homepage. The website also features a ‘Find a Master Builder’ service to help people to locate qualified builders and tradespeople in their area.

Laura Luvara is Media Advisor at Master Builders Association of Victoria (tel: (03) 9411 4555 or www.mbav.com.au).