Protecting Your Home from Flooding and Flood Damage
Find ways to limit the amount of water entering your home during a flood and follow our tips for reducing the damage it causes. Even a home that has a low risk of flooding can benefit from being prepared for the possibility of burst pipes and water leaks.
Homes can be made more resilient to flooding by ensuring maintenance is undertaken, Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures can be installed to reduce the amount of water entering your home and you can use materials that make your home more recoverable.
Make a plan
Where your house is at risk of flooding, it is important to plan ahead:
- Sign up for free flood alert messages from the government Flood Warning Service
- Use the Environment Agency's personal flood plan to gather key information and create a plan in case of flooding
- The National Flood Forum publication Ready for Flooding also gives good advice on preparing for a flood
In some cases, the flood risk can affect an entire community and the National Flood Forum can support you to set up a Community Flood Action Group. Find out more about the impact on communities and how the National Flood Forum can help.
Get the right insurance cover
Make sure you have the correct insurance cover for your situation and adequate cover for repairs. Are there any special provisions in your policy for listed buildings? To find out more about obtaining insurance suitable for listed buildings and establishing what extent of cover you need for your situation download Historic England’s guide Insuring Historic Buildings and other Heritage Assets.
The ‘Flood Re’ flood re-insurance initiative between the government and insurers aims to make the flood cover in household insurance policies more affordable.
Good and effective maintenance can help make your home more flood resistant:
- Keep walls in good order and mortar joints maintained with a mortar mix of lime
- Seal all gaps around pipes or wires entering the building
- Check gutters, downpipes and drains regularly to make sure they're working properly
- Check neighbouring ditches and water courses for blockages, particularly after heavy rainfall and alert the owner if there is a problem
- Make sure external ground levels around your home are as low as practicable and slope away from the building
Burst pipes and leaks
Internal leaks, such as a burst pipe, come without any warning. The tips below will help to reduce potential damage:
- Find out where to turn off the water supply to your home and check that the stop valve works
- Learn how to turn off any water supplied from water storage tanks
- Check that pipes and water tanks that are at risk of freezing are adequately insulated, especially in roof spaces
Limit flood water entering your home
Improving your home’s ‘flood resistance’ helps to reduce flood damage by limiting the amount of water that enters your home during a flood.
Before putting flood resistance measures in place, you need to understand your flood risk and your building’s construction and materials. Check if you need permission for any permanent measures. What Permission Might I Need? provides more information about getting consent for changes. If in doubt contact your local planning authority. For some measures you may also need to consult the Environment Agency.
Dos and don'ts
Do install barriers
- Add air brick covers to prevent water entering your home through the ventilation holes. There are automatic covers which are activated by flood water. Alternatively, you can use manual covers that you put in place when there is a flood alert.
- Add flood barriers to doorways. You can install automatic barriers or manually put barriers in place when there is a flood alert . These may only keep water out for a limited period, depending on the level of flood water, but they will give you more time to move valuable possessions to safety and help restrict the entry of debris.
Water flooding to a depth greater than 1 metre should not be held back, because of the risk of structural damage to the building.
- Install temporary flood barriers in your garden if you have space to store them when not needed. Made of interlocking units, they are kept in place by the weight of flood water.
The National Flood Forum’s Blue Pages online directory provides advice and information on property flood products and services. Look for products that are kite marked as complying with BSI standards.
Do not apply waterproofing products
Do not apply coatings, tanking and other ‘waterproofing’ products to any building of traditional construction.
Coatings, tankings or other waterproofing products can trap moisture within the structure and slow down the rate of drying, increase the risk of long-term damage to the building, and will encourage mould, damp and rot.
What do we mean by 'building of traditional construction'? Buildings of traditional construction are made with natural materials that manage moisture by absorbing and releasing it slowly. Some of them have solid walls made of brick, stone or earth. Even older buildings may be timber framed.
Do not lay hard paving around your home
The increase in paved surfaces is contributing to surface water flooding and sewer flooding. Removing or reducing areas of hard landscaping around your home will allow the ground to absorb water and reduce run-off.
Guidance is available from the Royal Horticultural Society on:
Many older homes and buildings were built near rivers or the coast in times when water offered the fastest transport routes. These buildings were designed and constructed to be resilient to flooding.
Minimise water damage
You can minimise damage in the event of flooding by making your home more ‘flood resilient’:
Remove or raise what you can out of harm’s way
- Replace carpets with rugs that can be lifted and stored
- Keep the items you value most upstairs or on higher shelves downstairs. After a Flood introduces methods of restoring items that have suffered flood damage
- Install or move electrical sockets above potential flood level, and request the circuits are run from above not below
- Raise any vulnerable electrical equipment such as freezers, fridges, ovens and boilers above potential flood level
Install pumps and drainage
- Add non-return valves to drains connected to sewers where silting will not occur. If your house is built in an area where silt or mud is likely to be in high quantities, such as at the mouth of an estuary, then the non-return valves will get blocked and stop working. In this situation open drains will be easier to clear so may be a better option.
- Install a sump pump in cellar areas or sub-floors that are particularly vulnerable to flooding to help pump the water out
- If you have timber floorboards, ensure some can be easily lifted (for example, use screws rather than nails to fix them in place). This will enable you to access the sub-floor space to pump water out and boost ventilation. This will help with drying out when the flood water subsides
Use traditional materials
- Solid wood, tiled floors and surfaces, and lime plaster/mortars and renders can be easily cleaned after flooding
- Lime plasters should only be decorated with lime wash and pigments to prevent hindering its permeability and drying of the wall
- Where gypsum plaster (modern water-impermeable plaster) needs to be removed after a flood event, replace it with lime plaster
- Avoid composite wood materials like mdf, chipboard and fibreboard for fixtures such as kitchen units as these will be ruined with quite low levels of flooding. Instead opt for hardwood kitchens or stainless steel as they will not need to be removed
- Keep historic solid wooden doors. Where they are well maintained and have a tight seal these can prevent water entering the building and will recover easily
For more information see our technical guidance and research below: