How to protect your home from flooding

When the rain starts and the flood warnings appear, being prepared is vital. Here’s what you can do to protect your home from flooding, and what you should do if it’s too late.

When the rain starts and the flood warnings appear, being prepared is vital. Here’s what you can do to protect your home from flooding, and what you should do if it’s too late.

Chris King
From the Home team
minute read
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Posted 21 MAY 2021

Make sure you have home insurance 

First thing’s first. Check that you have up-to-date buildings and contents insurance. Buildings insurance covers your house and its structure if it gets damaged. Contents insurance covers your belongings like furniture and electronics.   

With 5.2 million properties at risk of flooding in England alone, it’s crucial to make sure you’re fully covered if the worst happens.  

Home insurance usually provides cover for flooding as standard, but the level of protection can vary between insurance providers. If you live in a high-risk flood area, or your home has flooded in the past, you might be able to find affordable home insurance through the Government’s Flood Re scheme. 

If you’re looking to buy a new home, remember to examine the flood risk before committing to anything. Around a quarter of homeowners don’t check whether the house they want to buy is in a flood-risk area 

You can compare home insurance quotes with us to find the right level of cover for your property.

Sign up for flood warnings 

To get a heads-up on any emerging problems, you can register to receive free flood warnings in your area, either by text, phone or email. Each of the four UK nations has its own service: 

Draw up a flood plan 

Think about your options. You might ask yourself: 

  • Where might you stay if your home becomes uninhabitable?
  • What essential documents do you need to take with you? 
  • Does your home insurance policy provide cover for alternative accommodation? If so, is there a limit to the amount you can claim?
  • If you have pets, would you need someone else to look after them while your home is being repaired?  

It’s a good idea to prepare a checklist of things to do, should you have to leave your home. This could include turning off the gas and electricity (but if there’s already flood water in and around the house, get an electrician to do this). And make up a bag of essentials that includes clothing, medication and your insurance provider’s contact details. 

There's a Government guide to making a personal flood plan which you might find useful.

Pinpoint any weak spots in your home 

Do a thorough inspection of your home, looking for places where floodwater could potentially get inside. This’ll show you what maintenance tasks you need to carry out as a priority.

Look for any leaks or cracks that need to be fixed, check for gaps in windows and doors and clean out the gutters, which can become blocked with a build-up of debris. It might also be worth having the roof checked for weak spots and leaks.

If you notice that water isn’t clearing from public drains in your street and seems to be blocked, get in touch with your local water supplier as soon as possible.

Make your home flood resistant 

While you can’t totally flood-proof your property, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent water from getting into your home in the first place.

Sandbags are good in an emergency and should be kept on hand when the flood risk is high. But these days there are more effective ways to stop your home from flooding. Water-resistant products you can buy include: 

  • Removable guards for doors and windows
  • Temporary seals for doors and air bricks
  • Anti-backflow devices for your toilets and drainpipes. These can reduce the risk of sewage entering your home during a flood
  • Pump and sump systems that drain water from below floor level quicker than it rises
  • Water sensors that can detect rising water 

As well as installing flood protection measures in your home, you could also landscape your garden in a style that helps divert water away from your property.

Make your home flood resilient  

No one wants water to get into their home, but if it does, you can limit the damage by making sure you have flood resilience measures in place. Here are some practical steps you could take: 

  • Raise your power sockets and wiring to 1.5 metres above floor level
  • Keep valuables and anything of sentimental value, like photos, upstairs
  • Use ceramic or stone tiles instead of laminate or wood flooring
  • Install stainless steel kitchen units, rather than wood
  • Replace wooden window frames with uPVC  

If you know a flood is coming, raise appliances and heavy furniture off the ground with solid bricks and protect your belongings with waterproof bags.

What should I do if my home is flooded?

 If water does get into your home, contact your insurance provider sooner rather than later to explain what’s happened, as this could speed up the process of getting things back in order. They might even find you somewhere to stay while your home is being repaired. It’s also a good idea to talk to your local authority, who may give you information about any available help.

If you rent your home, call your landlord or letting agency to tell them what the damage is and what repairs will be needed. You may need to find somewhere else to stay, though in most cases this won’t be your landlord’s responsibility. You can check to see if your policy covers you for alternative accommodation and what limits apply.

Be careful around floodwater

Water and electricity are a dangerous mix, so if you do have water in the house, don’t try to turn off the electricity yourself. Have an electrician’s number to hand, so you have someone to call in an emergency.

Floodwater is dirty, and you don’t want to come into much contact with it. Be sure to have plenty of rubber gloves around, along with waterproof boots or wellies.

Check your policy details

Your insurance provider may get a cleaning company out for you, but you can help the process along by drying your home out naturally where possible by opening windows. Cover for flood damage might also include architect or legal fees, but agree these in advance or you may not be able to claim them back.

Keep your evidence

Make sure you have records of your valuables in case they’re flood-damaged. Take a few photos and store any receipts as your insurance provider may want to see proof of purchase. We know you’ll want to get back to normality as quickly as possible, but try not to clear anything up until you’ve spoken to your insurance provider.

Be ready for a potentially long process

Flood damage often takes months and, in some cases, more than a year to put right. This is because the property has to be completely dry before any restoration work can begin. You may need de-humidifiers to be fitted in your home for several months before any building work can take place. Your insurance provider should be able to keep you informed of progress and the extent of damage after initial assessments.

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