Flooding can wreak havoc on your home, and be devastating both emotionally and in terms of damage to your property.
Ideally, you want to guard against any risk of flooding in the first place, and there are things you can do to prevent or minimise the damage it can cause. But if the worst happens, and your home is flooded, you’ll want to know what steps to take, and whether you can make an insurance claim.
Here, we cover everything from protecting your home if there is a risk of flooding, to what to do if your home suffers damage.
Is my home at risk of flooding?
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one in six properties in England are at risk of flooding from rivers, sea or surface water, and experts believe this number will only increase given the impact of climate change.
If you want to know if your home could be at long-term risk of flooding, you can enter your postcode on GOV.uk and it will tell you your property’s risk level and provide details of your Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA).
If you are concerned about imminent flooding, there is also a page on GOV.uk that keeps track of current flood cautions (when flooding is possible) and flood warnings (when it is expected to happen).
You can also sign up for free flood warnings by call, text or email if your home or business in England is at risk of flooding. If you live in Wales, you can do so at Natural Resources Wales, or at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency if you live in Scotland.
How can I flood-proof my home?
You may not be able to guarantee that water won’t ever breach your home – but there are steps you can take to minimise flooding, and reduce the damage it does.
Here are a few short-term measures and purchases you can make to combat flooding and reduce water damage, as well as some more substantial renovations that will protect your home from flooding in the long term.
Short-term measures to minimise flood damage
- Stocking up on sandbags: You can buy sandbags from DIY and building supplies shops, or in some cases get some for free from your local council. These can be placed down in wall formations to hold back flood water.
- Moving electrical appliances and other items: If you have any household items – particularly electrical appliances – sitting on or near floor level, put them on a shelf or in a cupboard if water starts to get in.
- Varnishing wooden skirting boards: The best solution is to replace wooden skirting boards with water-resistant plastic ones, but if you can’t do this, then varnishing them can help make them more resilient.
- Fitting non-return valves on drains and pipes: Non-return valves ensure that liquid only flows one way through a pipe, preventing sewage and other unwanted substances from flowing back. It’s common for dirty water to backflow through drains and enter a property during a flood, so fitting these valves could make a huge difference.
- Buying air brick covers: Air bricks are bricks with holes or ducts in them to increase ventilation. You can purchase temporary covers to go over these in the event of a flood in order to prevent water from getting in through them, though you should be sure to remove them after a flood so that the bricks can dry out and they can keep air circulating as intended.
Renovations to reduce flood risk
- Using water-resistant plaster: Waterproof paints and plasters will not absorb water like regular plaster, so they will dry out more quickly and can be repainted afterwards.
- Moving electrical sockets: Electrical sockets tend to be close to the ground, making them particularly susceptible to damage from flooding and potentially leading to your whole house needing rewiring. If you are able to, you could consider getting your sockets moved further up the walls. Or, for a more cost-effective option, you could invest in waterproof socket covers.
- Fitting new skirting boards: If you can get your skirting boards replaced, waterproof boards made of plastic will stand up much better to flooding than wooden ones.
- Replacing your floors and carpets: Tiles are much more resistant to water damage than wooden floors or carpets, which both take a while to dry out, and wood can warp easily.
- Fitting quick release doors: Quick release doors inside your home can be lifted off their hinges and moved elsewhere in order to avoid being damaged by flooding.
- Replacing kitchen units: Kitchen units made of chipboard are much more susceptible to flooding damage than those made of plastic or steel.
- Installing a pumping system: It may be possible to get a pump system installed in your home. Cavity drainage systems are an option for those with cavity walls (walls consisting of two layers of brick with a gap inbetween), filtering any water that enters the cavity through a pump and out of the property. For a basement or areas under a property, you may be able to install a sump and pump system with an external battery (meaning it will still function if your power goes out).
If you would like to make some of these changes but aren’t sure how to fund them, read our article How to pay for home improvements for some ideas.
My home has flooded - what should I do?
While the flood is happening
If your home is about to be flooded, apply any sandbags, barriers and covers that you have prepared and move valuable, sentimental or electrical objects out of harm’s way. Turn off your gas and electricity at the fuse box or isolator switch.
If you have time, plug your sinks and baths and block toilets with towels or bedsheets. Wash your hands if they come into contact with the flood water, as it is likely to be unsanitary.
Leave the property, co-operating with any emergency services who may be helping people evacuate, and find somewhere to stay until you have been informed it is safe to return.
Some places you can phone during a flood include:
- Floodline, who operate a 24-hour advice service with practical tips in the event of flooding at 0345 988 1188.
- Your local council, who should be able to tell you what emergency services are doing to help and inform you of any shelters nearby if needed.
Remember that the personal safety of yourself and others always comes first in the event of a flood. Do not remain in a dangerously flooded property any longer than is absolutely necessary.
Once you are somewhere safe
Once you are safely out of the property, you should inform your buildings and contents insurance providers of what has happened. More information on insurance claims in the event of a flood is provided in the next section.
If you rent your home, you should also make sure your landlord or estate agent has been informed.
Once you have been informed it is safe to return to your property, you should be cautious and clean everything thoroughly with disinfectant. Do not switch on the electricity until an electrician has visited and confirmed that it is safe to do so. Do not drink or use water from any of the taps or bathroom appliances until your local council has told you it is safe – use bottled water in the meantime.
Can I make an insurance claim if my home has been flooded?
Making an insurance claim in the event of a flood can be a complicated business. Although you may be covered for repairs and replacement items, many insurers are reluctant to cover improvements to protect against future flooding damage.
If your property has been flooded, hold off on redecorating, repairing and replacing things until you have contacted your provider and know exactly what is covered by your policy. Your insurer may send a loss adjuster to your property to assess the extent of the damage, so contact them to find out how long this will take.
It’s a good idea to have your own evidence of flood damage as well – using a permanent marker to show how high the water level was in each room, and taking video or photo evidence of flooding and flood damage could help bolster your claim.
Can I get insurance if I live in a flood risk area?
If you live in an area with high flood risk, or in a property that has experienced flooding before, obtaining insurance to begin with can be difficult.
Flood Re is a scheme launched in 2016 that aims to help people who live in flood risk areas get affordable home insurance. Flood Re is not an insurer, but it works with insurance companies to make policies more affordable to those in flood risk areas. If you live in one of these areas, you might be contacted by your insurer to tell you about the scheme, or you can ask them yourself if support from the scheme is available.
Shopping around is still often your best bet in these situations, as with buying any kind of insurance. However, those in flood risk areas may be better off steering clear of price comparison websites, as these rates generally apply to those living in standard property. You may have to talk to insurers directly and see which provider can offer you the best policy.
You can use the Flood Re website to see if your property qualifies for support, and view which insurers work with them to provide affordable home insurance. Bear in mind that support from Flood Re is unfortunately not available on properties built after 1 January 2009, although newer properties are subject to more rigorous checks to ensure they are safe from flooding.