How to protect your home from flooding

When the rain starts and the flood warnings appear, being prepared is vital. And we know flooding is only going to get more common due to climate change.

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

Here’s what you can do to protect your home from flooding and, crucially, what to do if it’s too late.

When the rain starts and the flood warnings appear, being prepared is vital. And we know flooding is only going to get more common due to climate change.

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

Here’s what you can do to protect your home from flooding and, crucially, what to do if it’s too late.

Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
6
minute read
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Posted 8 JANUARY 2020 Last Updated 18 MARCH 2022

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, while contents insurance covers your belongings like furniture and electronics.

Home insurance usually provides cover for flooding as standard, but the level of protection can vary between insurance providers. Don’t write off your chances of cover if you live in a high-risk flood area, or your home has flooded in the past, as you might be able to find affordable home insurance through the Government’s Flood Re scheme. 

If you’re weighing up 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 

As an island nation, we’re well set up for flood alerts. 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 how you would respond if flooding struck your home:

  • 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 if you have to leave your home, such as turning off the gas and electricity. If there’s already flood water in and around the house, get an electrician to do this as it could be dangerous. And make up a bag of essentials with clothing, medication and your insurance provider’s contact details.

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

Pinpoint any weak spots in your home 

Go through your home doing a thorough search for places that floodwater could 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 to get it sorted out.

Make your home flood resistant 

It’s impossible to totally flood-proof your property but 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 and water-resistant products you can buy, such as:

  • Removable guards for doors and windows
  • Air bricks and temporary seals for doors 
  • 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 

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, your first concern is obviously for the safety of its occupants. But your next job is to contact your insurance provider - sooner rather than later - to explain what’s happened. Getting in touch quickly 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, depending on the details of your cover and the extent of the damage. 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, but 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 isn’t a great combination, 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, so 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, and wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with floodwater or the items it’s damaged.

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. Just make sure you agree these in advance and in writing, or you might 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 resist the urge 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, over a year to put right. This is because the property has to be completely dry before any restoration work can begin. You may need dehumidifiers 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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