To protect your house from flood damage, first evaluate the risk of flooding in your region and your local area. After that, take necessary precautions to prepare your home, such as carrying out repairs to your home's foundation. Make sure you have flood insurance (either through home insurance or specialty Flood Re if you live in a flood-prone area) and that you follow any steps they recommend. In the event of a flood, take steps to minimize damage and contact your flood insurance provider.
Estimate the Risk of Your House Flooding
If you're worried about flooding, it's important to first understand the odds of a flood in your local area. The Gov.uk flood risk maps will show you estimated risks of flooding where you live. After entering your post code you will see the flood zones in your neighborhood. On the left hand side of the maps, you can select:
- Flood risk from rivers or the sea
- Flood risk from surface water
- Flood risk from reservoirs
The maps initially will display a "Basic View" with limited information. To learn more about depth and flood speed estimates, toggle the button on the top left from "Basic View" to "Detailed View". By doing so you'll also be able to see the monitoring stations in your area.
When determining the flood risk in an area, the effect of any flood defences in the area is taken into account (e.g., dams, bridges, levees, etc.). These defences may reduce the chance of flooding but they don't eliminate the chance of flooding as they can be overtopped or even fail completely, washing away. Also keep in mind that flooding, especially from surface water, is difficult to predict and these are estimates only. Here are the 4 flood zones you'll see on the flood maps, which reflect the risk of both flooding from surface water as well as from rivers and seas.
- High risk: In high-risk areas, each year there's at least a 3.3% chance of flooding. The Environmental Agency states that high-risk areas are likely to face significant flooding at least once every 30.3 years. Although 3.3% may seem like a low figure, the Environmental Agency considers this to be the highest-risk designation, and residents in these areas should absolutely take steps to protect their homes from flooding.
- Medium risk: In medium risk areas, each year the chance of flooding is between 1% and 3.3%. The Environmental Agency has determined that medium-risk areas are likely to face serious flooding every 30.3 to 100 years. Flood insurance premiums are likely to be lower in these areas than in high-risk areas. That said, you'll still want to make sure your house is not at risk of flooding due to leaks (e.g., check your gutters and roof) or due to surface runoff from rain.
- Low risk: In low risk areas, each year the chance of flooding is between 0.1% and 1%. Low-risk zones are expected to suffer serious flooding every 100 to 1,000 years.
- Very low risk: In very low risk areas, each year the chance of flooding is less than 0.1%. Homes in these zones are not likely to experience serious flooding. However, even homes in very low-risk areas are still susceptible to flooding from roofs and gutters in the event of heavy rain.
How to Protect Your Home from Floods
Once you've determined the risk of a flood in your neighborhood, you can decide which steps are necessary to help prevent flooding of your home. Depending on your location, simple maintenance steps such as cleaning gutters and applying sealants may be sufficient. In other areas, flood proofing steps such as installing flood-proof doors and windows may be necessary.
House Refurbishments to Help Prevent Flooding
These home renovations can help to protect your home and possessions from flood damage.
- Point your downspouts away from the foundation and windows. If your gutter runoff is pointed at the base of your house, water can pool around your foundation and may eventually create leaks in your basement or lower ground floor.
- Apply sealants. Sealants that you apply to your foundation, walls, windows and doorways will help prevent flood water from leaking into your house through cracks.
- Repoint cracks in your brickwork. Cracks can let water in, so have your mortar repointed to help prevent flooding inside.
- Use water-resistant paints. In case of flood, water-resistant paints not only resist water pressure but also protect against mold and mildew.
- Raise your home on stilts or piers. While expensive to implement on an already-built house, raising your home with stilts can get your home out of harm's way. Just one inch of flood water can cause significant damage, so this may be a reasonable solution if your home is prone to flooding from rivers, the sea or surface water.
- Buy demountable flood barriers. These systems let you erect a temporary barrier against floods that you normally store away and only employ when there's a flood warning. They can be installed on doors and windows.
- Install a pump. Using a pump in your cellar or under-floor void can help remove any flood water that gains entry into your home. We recommend purchasing a pump with a battery backup unless you have a generator, so it can still be used if the power goes out.
- Raise plug sockets and switches. All outlets, switches, sockets, and circuit breakers should be at least 1.5m above the floor to help avoid significant damage to the electrics in your home if there's a flood.
- Upgrade your windows. Wood windows are more likely to let in water, as well as suffer damage in they're submerged in flood water. Replacing them with UPVC or even aluminium can help to avoid these issues.
- Clean your gutters. Gutters full of leaves and other debris can cause water to pool in the gutters and sneak under roof tiles. Be sure your gutters are clear—it doesn't matter what flood risk zone you live in as rain and leaky roofs can affect anyone!
- Swap flooring. If your home is prone to flooding, replace your carpet or wooden flooring with water-resistant tiles, concrete or treated timber.
In addition to the home refurbishments just mentioned, there are steps you can take to help protect your home appliance and other electrics. Besides turning off the gas and electricity, you can raise your appliances above flood level. The first step would be raising them onto a plinth in your kitchen. If you expect more severe flooding you can take the temporary measure of raising them onto hollow concrete blocks, which you can buy from stores like B&Q.
- Portable heaters, fans and aircon units
Finally, always keep sand bags in mind during a flood warning. If your house is at risk of a flood, sandbags and plastic sheeting can go a long way towards keeping water, mud and silt out of your home.
Take these steps to minimise damage during a flood
If a flood warning has already been issued or flooding has already begun in your area, take these steps to limit water damage to your home and property.
- Turn off gas, electric and water supplies to your home.
- Clear out gutters and drains so that flood water can flow through them and doesn't pool, increasing the risk of local flooding.
- Use sandbags and plastic sheeting to help prevent water, mud and silt from entering your home.
- Move belongings to higher ground (e.g., another floor or elevated onto concrete blocks or other high places above ground level); this includes appliances, rugs, furniture, electronics, books, clothings and other valuables.
- Open windows if it's not raining in order to allow air flow to help dry your home.
- Turn on your pump or use a shop vac to quickly remove water.
- Take photos or video of any flooding to help support your claim with your flood insurance provider.
- If there is a severe flood warning, follow advice from emergency services as there is a significant risk to life due to fast flowing water, damage to infrastructure and potential for collapsing building or other structures.
In addition, be sure to pack medicines and insurance documents in a waterproof bag.