Our climate is changing and sadly flood events are becoming more common. While insurance can cater for the financial cost, the emotional impact is more difficult. However, by installing protective measures, you can give yourself some control over the risk of flood and minimise the impact should it occur.

Protective measures

Flood protection measures can be installed in a property at any time, however, from a practical viewpoint, it makes sense to do this whilst other work is being done. Therefore, the most likely times to be considering protective measures is during  property improvement work, or following a flood when the property is being repaired.

For this reason you are advised to liaise with your insurer before repairs begin. Insurance policies generally cover you for putting your house back to the same condition it was before the loss occurred. 

If including protective measures costs more, you would need to fund this yourself. This can be money well spent when you consider the upheaval that a flood causes and you may find that local or national grants are available to help with this.

Forms of protection

There are two forms of protection - flood resistance and flood resilience. Ideally buildings should be fitted with both.

  • Resistance - helps prevent water getting into buildings
  • Resilience - ensures minimal damage if water does get in.

Examples of flood resistance measures include:

  • Removable barriers for doors and windows
  • Temporary seals for doors and air bricks
  • One-way valves on toilets and drainage pipes to decrease the risk of sewage backing up into a building during a flood
  • Pump and sump systems which drain water from below floor level faster than it rises.

Other measures

  • Special waterproof bags can be used to protect possessions should water gain entry. These can be large enough to take furniture or even your car. Failing that you could use waterproof plastic bags and elastic bands to cover chair and table legs which will help resist low level flooding.
  • Place items that are likely to be easily damaged higher up in a room, or keep them upstairs. If you are able to, keep some spare bricks or blocks or wooden pallets handy to stand items on to keep them off the floor. Make sure you consider your own safety before trying to move any objects and avoid trying to lift very heavy items.

These measures invariably rely on you being there at the time of the flood to take action, although it is also possible to get water sensors installed which detect rising water and would allow an early warning for you to get to your property and deploy your defences. Consider signing up to the Environment Agency’s Floodline Warnings Direct service.

What if the flood is deeper than 1m?

If the flood water on the outside of your property becomes deeper than 1m, it is recommended that the water is allowed to come into your home as this depth of water can create sufficient pressure on your outer walls, causing them to move and collapse and resulting in serious structural damage. 

At this point, or if water has already found its way in, flood resilience measures will come into effect.

Consider

  • Replacing timber floors with concrete and carpet with tiles – at the point of redecorating a room, lay tiles rather than carpet or laminate flooring
  • Replacing MDF or chipboard kitchen or bathroom units with plastic or steel alternatives - again this could be done if these rooms were being redecorated at any time
  • Replacing gypsum plaster, which is susceptible to water, with more water resistant materials such as lime plaster or cement render
  • Having plastic skirting boards, doors and door surrounds or alternatively varnish these items thoroughly to limit water damage
  • Raising key electrical items such as boilers, wall sockets and meters above the likely flood level.

It is probably a good idea to discuss your circumstances with a surveyor to decide on the best measures for you and then liaise with your insurers to see if any changes can be incorporated during your claim and whether there is any additional cost.

You may worry that incorporating resilience in your home will look ugly and damage the aesthetic appeal or even the market value. However, many of the changes are hidden - such as an under floor pump and sump system and one way toilet valves. Some are temporary which only need to be erected when a flood warning is issued and take just minutes, such as using door guards or air brick covers. Some changes are visible - for example placing sockets half way up a wall - but these can be disguised.

NFU Mutual has developed advice and guidance on flooding for customers who consider themselves to be at risk of flood. For more information please click here.