Permanent flood protection adjacent to the River Thames at Chiswick, London
Permanent flood protection adjacent to the River Thames at Chiswick, London © SPAB
Permanent flood protection adjacent to the River Thames at Chiswick, London © SPAB

Making your home flood resistant and resilient

If your home is in a flood risk area or has been flooded in the past, there are measures you should consider to help reduce the risk of water entering your home, and increase its ‘flood resistance’. You can also take steps to reduce the amount of damage if your home is flooded and increase its ‘property flood resilience’.

Avoiding water entering your home – increasing ‘flood resistance’

Flood resistance measures can help reduce damage by limiting the amount of water that enters your home.

Consider appointing a conservation accredited architect or building surveyor with experience in repairing and adapting historic buildings, as well as flood damage. They will advise you on flood resistance measures suitable for your home. Any assessment should consider the type of flood risk, how the building is constructed, what materials have been used and whether parts of the building will be more resistant to flooding than other parts. You may need to look beyond the building itself and consider flood resistance measures away from the property.

You'll need to find out whether you would need statutory consent for any permanent measures, particularly if your home is a listed building or if it's in a conservation area or close to a scheduled monument. Our page on Making Changes to Your Property provides more information. If in doubt contact your local planning authority. For some measures you may also need to consult the Environment Agency.

Things you can do:

  • Add air brick covers to prevent water entering the building through the ventilation holes. Automatic covers are activated by flood water. Manual covers are fitted when a flood is expected.
  • Add flood boards to doorways. Boards are either put in place when there is a risk of flooding or installed as automatic barriers. 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 one metre should not be held back, because of the risk of structural damage to the building.
  • Temporary flood barriers consisting of interlocking units kept in place by the weight of flood water can be useful, but require a storage space when not in use.
  • Keep a supply of modern water-absorbent sandbag alternatives at hand to help prevent water entering your home or to soak up water.
  • Coatings, tanking and other ‘waterproofing’ products should not be applied to the walls of the property. They can trap moisture within the structure and slow down the rate of drying. Also, they increase the risk of long-term damage to building materials.

The National Flood Forum’s blue pages online directory provides advice and information on property flood products and services. Look for products which are kite marked as complying with BSI standards.

Minimising damage when flooding occurs – increasing ‘flood resilience’

There are many quite simple ways to make your home more resilient and minimise damage in the event of flooding:

  • Install or move electrical circuits above potential flood level
  • Raise any vulnerable electrical equipment such as freezers above potential flood level
  • Add backflow valves to drains connected to sewers
  • Add a built-in pump for cellar areas or sub-floors that are particularly vulnerable to flooding
  • Ensure that a few floorboards across a room can be easily lifted when flood water subsides. This will help drying and allow water to be pumped out of the sub-floor void
  • Use traditional materials such as solid wood, lime plaster and tiled floors and surfaces as these recover much more easily that many modern materials:
    • Keep lime plaster as it's permeable and won't hinder the drying of the wall following flooding
    • Avoid composite wood materials such as chipboard and fibreboard for fixtures such as kitchen units as they will be ruined
    • Keep historic solid wooden doors as they are much more resilient and water resistant than modern hollow ones

For more information see our guidance below about Flooding and Historic Buildings

Read the research Report: Does wall plaster retard the drying of walls after flooding?

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