Repairs underway to a listed building following flood damage

Repairs underway to a listed building following flood damage © Peter Rhodes/Ward and Dale Smith
Repairs underway to a listed building following flood damage © Peter Rhodes/Ward and Dale Smith

After a Flood

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a flood then this page helps you get started with planning repairs and how to minimise damage in historic homes.

The National Flood Forum also gives practical advice on what to do after a flood.

Planning flood recovery work

If your home is insured it will most likely be inspected by the insurer’s loss adjuster who may bring in a surveyor to establish and specify the extent of repair works required. A ‘recovery contractor’ appointed by the insurers would then be brought in for any necessary decontamination work and to dry the property. A separate contractor may be brought in for the building repair works.

Historic buildings can be particularly vulnerable at this stage as potentially damaging works may be specified involving extensive removal of historic material. The appointed contractor may also have little or no experience of working on historic buildings and use incompatible materials for the repairs.

Our advice:

  • Make a comprehensive photographic/video record of the damage.
  • Inform your insurance company that you need a loss adjuster/recovery contractor with experience of older buildings to prevent unnecessary damage.
  • If the building is listed, get advice from the local planning authority
    to establish whether listed building consent is required before any stripping out work or repairs are put in hand.
  • Consider obtaining independent advice from an architect or surveyor who has experience of older buildings and who knows local contractors suited to this type of work.
  • Beware of bogus contractors who can take advantage of flood victims.

Drying out

Ideally repairs and drying can start as soon as is practical after any contamination issues have been dealt with and the building made safe. Decontamination is not always an issue as it depends on the nature of the flooding.

  • Basements and sub-floors can be pumped out when flood waters have receded to a safe level.
  • Damp items and sodden floor coverings need to be removed as they will slow drying and trap moisture, encouraging mould growth and decay. Contaminated items will need cleaning if viable.
  • Large items will need to be moved away from walls and cupboards or voids opened to encourage drying. Dry rot and other decay problems will not occur provided that drying proceeds and moisture does not become trapped. The removal or treatment of timber items in case they decay at a later time is unnecessary.
  • Removing panelling, floors or lime plaster may be unnecessary and could cause unacceptable damage to the building. If you are in any doubt about your listed building, consult your local planning authority/conservation officer. Historically important materials should only be removed by people with appropriate skills and experience and with thought given to appropriate storage and recording.
  • Open doors and windows and the air flow maximised with fans or blowers. Quadrupling the air flow across a surface doubles the rate of drying and discourages mould growth.
  • Heat and forced air movements should only be used if there is significant ventilation otherwise warm humid air will be dispersed around the building causing potential secondary damage in the form of condensation and mould growth elsewhere.
  • Dehumidifiers can be useful at the start of the drying process. Continued use of dehumidifiers may only produce superficial drying.
  • Rapid drying can be damaging to historic fabric.
  • Meters and data loggers recording temperature and relative humidity can be useful for monitoring the progress of drying but data needs to be interpreted with care. There is huge variation in the moisture levels in different buildings, and older buildings moisture levels are different to modern standards.
  • New plaster and wall finishes should be avoided until a wall is thoroughly dry, which could take at least 12 months as salts may come to the surface if there are still pockets of wet material. Moisture distribution within a wall is highly variable and damp patches are not easy to locate.
  • Try to keep a detailed photographic record of every stage of the flood damage and subsequent drying and repairs.
  • Repair works after a flood can be a good opportunity to build in flood resilience measures so that if the property floods again, damage can be minimised. See our page covering minimising damage if flooding is a possibility for some measures.
  • Do the repair works provide the opportunity to reinstate more flood resilient features like lime plaster rather than modern gypsum plaster?

Our guidance Flooding and Historic Buildings includes more on:

  • Initial drying, decontamination and cleaning, including
  • Safety checks
  • Structural issues
  • Reconnecting services
  • Drains and sewers
  • Salvaging detached and damaged items
  • Security
  • Assessing and recording damage
  • Drying out
  • How flooding affects historic building materials
  • Concrete
  • Earth construction
  • Structural timber
  • Timber panelling, floor boards, doors, staircases
  • Render and plaster
  • Metalwork and ironmongery
  • Wallpaper, paint amd wall painting
  • Monitoring the long-term effects
  • Further sources of advice and information

Flooding and Historic Buildings

Published 30 April 2015

This guidance is designed to assist those who live in, own or manage historic buildings that are threatened by flooding. Advice is provided on preventative measures as well as on the inspection, conservation and repair of historic buildings after flooding.

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