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 could consider to help reduce the risk of water entering your home. This is called ‘flood resistance’. You can also take steps  to reduce the amount of damage if your home is flooded. This is called ‘property flood resilience’.

Avoiding water entering your home – or ‘flood resistance’

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

Consider appointing an architect or building surveyor with experience in repairing and adapting historic buildings, as well as flood damage.  They will advise 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 will need to consider whether statutory consent is required for any permanent measures, particularly if your home is a listed building or is in a conservation area or close to a scheduled monument. Your Home pages 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 hinder 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 time to move valuable possessions to safety and restrict the entry of debris. Water causing flooding to a depth greater than 1m should not be held back, because of the risk of structural damage to the building.
  • Using temporary flood barriers consisting of interlocking units kept in place by the weight of flood water can be useful, but will require storage. 
  • Keep a supply of modern water absorbent sandbag alternatives at hand to help prevent water entering your home or to soak up water.
  • Products create an impermeable barrier to the external wall of the property such as coatings or tanking should not be used. Such products will trap damp within the building preventing the building materials from drying out and  increasing long term damage.

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 if flooding is a possibility – or ‘flood resilience’

There are many quite simple resilience measures that you can take to minimise the damage if flood water is likely to enter your home.

  • 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 plumbing.
  • 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 assist 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:
    • Retain lime plaster as this is porous and will dry out with the main wall. 
    • Avoid composite wood materials such as chipboard and fibreboard for fixtures such as kitchen units as they will be ruined.
    • Historic solid wooden doors are much more robust and water resistant than modern hollow doors.

For more information see our guidance Flooding and Historic Buildings

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