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House Flooded? Here's What You Should Do

Here's what to do if your house is flooded. Immediate steps to take to protect your possessions and home, as well as how to document the damage for home insurance claims.

The Environment Agency has warned that 3.5 million UK residents are at risk of flooding. If your property is unlucky enough to succumb to the rising water levels or freak rainstorms we are increasingly seeing in our weather patterns, then it’s important to learn how to prevent floods in your home and then to take quick action to minimise the impact in the aftermath of a flood.

Seeing your home flood and cause damage to your furniture and possessions can be very distressing. However, there are steps you should take immediately to help limit the damage and support any claims you make on your home insurance policy.

Important action to take if your house floods

Having a flood in your home can be devastating, not least because the water can flow in very quickly leaving a trail of destruction in its path. The water may also be contaminated, and your possessions could be completely destroyed.

If you are experiencing a flood, these are the first steps you should take to protect your family and home:

  • Move your family including any pets upstairs away from the water.
  • Gather essentials such as medication, water and torches as the power will be out.
  • Turn off gas and electric supplies before or when you first notice water entering the home.
  • Under no circumstances should you touch any electrical outputs or attempt to plug anything in, even if upstairs.
  • Tune into local radio to listen for updates from the environment agency. If you live in a flood risk area it’s a good idea to invest in a wind up radio in case of a severe flood whereby you may not have iIernet access or electricity to charge your phone.
  • If you are the homeowner, you’ll need to contact your insurers.
  • If possible, take pictures or video of the damage as it happens.

You may also wish to invest in sandbags or other anti-flood protection for your home, which you can have ready if flood warnings have been announced.

Document the water damage

Once the area is safe, you’ll need to photograph or video the damage. This is essential for insurers as they will need to assess the severity of the flood in your home in order to process your claim. You should also make a note of how high the water has risen on the walls, as well as which areas of your home have been worse affected.

In addition, documenting the flood can help during the recovery and repair process especially when dealing with property managers or surveyors. Although stressful and upsetting, it will help paint a picture of where the water was most present in your home so repairs can take place. You should make a note of which rooms have been most badly affected, as well as any possessions which have been damaged or lost.

The 3 types of flood water

Any water which enters your home can be a very distressing sight, however it’s important to recognise which water type you are dealing with, as it may pose a risk to your health as well as your home.

  • Clean water: Natural water such as tap water or rainwater. This will normally enter your home as a result of a burst pipe, overflowing taps, loose roof tiles etc.
  • Grey water: This is water which may contain chemicals. The most common source of grey water is through washing machines which have leaked. It could also be from baths or sinks you have in your home.
  • Black water: Most likely consisting of sewage or groundwater. Black water can pose extreme risks to health due to bacteria and contamination it carries.

Even if the water appears clear and therefore harmless, there is every chance it is not. There could be bacteria and chemicals in the water. Therefore you should notify the environment services, and be sure to use waterproof clothing. Avoid touching or swallowing the water as this could prove extremely dangerous to your health of you, your family and any pets.

Contact your insurance company

The sooner you contact your insurance provider the better, especially if your whole area is flooded not just you. This is because your insurers could quickly become inundated, possibly leading to delays processing your claim. You will need to be as thorough as possible providing details, including sending and pictures or video you have captured of the damage.

It’s important to establish what level of cover you are likely to receive. This should have been disclosed to you when signing up for cover, however it’s always worth checking when you make the call. Be prepared to create an inventory of everything that has been damaged or lost, and provide your insurers with as much information as possible.

How to clean up flood water

When it is safe to do so and any damage has been documented, you will need to begin the clean up process to remove floodwater and any damaged or contaminated items from your home. Depending on the severity of the flood, you may be able to carry out this work yourself or you may need to hire professionals. Here are some of the essential steps you’ll need to take:

  • Remove water: Large amounts of standing water can wreak havoc on your furnishings as well as the actual building itself. You need to remove this as quickly as possible. If there is a large quantity of water the fire brigade or environment agency will be able to assist with the drainage.
  • Ventilate your home: If the water is not at the level of the windows and has stopped flowing in, then it’s time to open your windows to let fresh air in. Good air circulation is essential to help prevent mold, damp and other issues.
  • Remove carpets: If your carpets or rugs have been badly flooded, especially with sewage water then they will need to be removed from your home immediately. For light flooding, you may be able to salvage carpets by cleaning them.
  • Clean furniture: Similar to your carpets, you’ll need to make a judgment about your furniture depending on if it was contaminated and how much water it was subjected to. You should clean and disinfect any furniture which is salvageable.
  • Remove floorboards: If your property is badly flood damaged, you should contact an expert to remove the floorboards. This is to ensure the floor doesn’t buckle. It’s worth contacting a builder or property surveyor for advice, to ensure the integrity of your foundations.
  • Disinfect and clean: Regardless of what type of floodwater has entered your home, you will want to ensure all surfaces have been cleaned and disinfected.

Points to note: As you begin the clean up operation you may notice damage or hazards. This could include structural damage, exposed electricity, gas pipe damage, chemical or bacterial contamination, pest infestations or mould. If there are any such issues you should contact the relevant authorities or professionals at the first instance. Take care not to expose yourself or anyone else to anything which could cause infection, injury or danger to life.

What does flood insurance cover?

Depending on your insurance provider, flood insurance is normally covered under your general home and contents insurance. You should ensure you have this in place when buying a home, and carefully check the details of what the policy covers especially if you live in a high-risk flood area. You may have specialty Flood Re insurance if you live in a flood-prone area.

You should expect your insurer to cover the cost of: Drying out your home, removing debris, repairing fixtures and fittings, any services required post-flood such as legal or professional property surveyors or architects. However, flood insurance typically doesn’t cover alternative accommodation costs while your home is being repaired. It will also not cover damage to exterior fences, gates and hedges. Be aware that if your flood is from a burst pipe in the home, this is not covered directly under flooding insurance, instead is listed under something called an ‘escape of water’.

You should take care to make sure all your valuable items are covered by insurance, and if possible store these upstairs to minimise the risk of them being damaged or destroyed by a flood.

Rachael O'Flaherty

Rachael O’Flaherty is a freelance writer who graduated from Teesside University in 2012. Her background is in digital marketing and journalism, with a particular interest in money saving hacks. For more information, see Rachael's Linked In profile.