How do I protect my home from flooding?
Parts of the UK, in northern England and Scotland were hit by the worst floods in a decade over the Christmas period, following a culmination of unforgiving Storms; Desmond, Eva and Frank. The extreme flooding has been strongly linked to climate change by scientists, which is only set to continue as we enter a time of unknown extremes.
Many suggestions have been raised to help prevent a similar kind of destruction that left thousands displaced from their homes and many more having to rebuild their lives, with the overall cost of the damage estimated to be in excess of £1.3bn. The solutions ranged from shooting rainclouds over the Atlantic to remeandering straightened rivers. But how you cope with a flood in your neighbourhood and in your home is a different thing entirely. If you live in an ‘at risk’ zone, you may be seeking advice on how to protect yourself from potentially destructive weather threats. This is what you should do after suffering a flood.
Flood Safety Checklist
The three stages of recovery from flooding
Photo credit: Phil MacD Photography/Shutterstock
Harsh flooding usually leaves semi-permanent damage to your property. Wallpaper hanging from your walls, ruined decorations and furnishings, damp, mould and discolouring are all likely effects of flood water entering your home. The first step is to start cleaning.
- When cleaning up after a flood, wear rubber gloves, boots and eye protection, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
- When washing clothes affected by flooding, a 60 °C cycle with detergent is recommended to kill off all germs.
- Use hard bins or rubbish bags to dispose of all extra waste. Your council should organise more frequent rubbish collections or skips during this period. If not you can find your local contact details here.
Water gets into everything as anything wooden like flooring, beams and drywall all act like a sponge and soak up moisture.
- Heating, dehumidifiers and proper ventilation will help dry out your home, and mould will stop spreading as your home dries out. You may need specialist cleaning for severe mould.
- Do not use petrol or diesel generators indoors to dry out your home. The exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which can kill.
- You must dry water damaged walls from the inside out before you start restoring, repainting and recovering them.
- If your walls are covered with vinyl-coated wallpaper, strip it because it will limit drying in flood-damaged walls.
- Remove water soaked insulation and replace because it will hold water up to months after a flood, creating mould and odour issues.
In the case of serious water damage you may need to call in a professional contractor, but you can do it yourself with most standard repairs.
Remove water-damaged dry wall
First you have to check how much damage has affected the area. If the wallboard sags from the ceilings or crumbles to touch then it is heavily infiltrated and needs pulling out by hand or with the claw end of a hammer. If the damage is not severe, then you may be able to cut around the affected area with a keyhole saw to cut into a square or rectangular shape. Then you can make the repairs by patching the wall or ceiling. After the cement adhesive dries you should roll on a layer of primer/sealer across the whole area. Then it is ready for painting. Small repairs like this are not as difficult as you may think.
Photo credit: thomas koch/Shutterstock
How to flood-proof your home
Returning to your home after a flood is devastating. The last thing you want to think about is the prospect of something similar happening again, so you may be looking for a fast house sale. But for the majority of people, when you are ready, thinking about how you will secure your house for the future is necessary. Here are some easy-to-implement tips on flood-proofing your home:
Tanking is a heavy-duty form of waterproofing which can be applied to areas with a high water table or rooms beneath the ground. Tanking can be done by either applying a surface coating solution or installing an appropriate/porous membrane.
Flood fencing is an innovative way to stop flood waters at the boundaries of your property. By combining PVC with flood seals, the PVC fence boards will stop water entering, providing ample protection from the lateral force created by flood water. Flood fencing can withstand waters up to 6 feet deep. These types of fencing come with long guarantees of up to 20 years and are well worth the expense. Installing flood barrier systems can help you achieve a cheaper insurance premium, especially if you live in an area that has been affected by flooding.
Also consider moving plug sockets higher up the walls to prevent potential water damage in the future as they are expensive to replace. Being vigilant and being prepared is the best approach to combat severe weather. Therefore, regular checks, which can be carried out by yourself, are recommended on all external features of your property.
The roof is especially vulnerable as it is prone to loosen in high winds opening up to leaks. Inspect your roof at least twice a year to ensure tiles, lead flashing and pointing are secured.
Keeping your gutter clear is a must, to be able to cope with extreme water flow during heavy rains:
- Make sure you rake leaves and debris off the roof to prepare for the next time there is heavy rainfall, so it doesn’t’ wash down into the gutters, blocking them again.
- Then scoop clear all debris remaining in your gutter. Take care when carrying out this job by wearing gloves and goggles if necessary.
- Flush your gutter by using a high powered hose/jet to clear any lingering debris on each length of guttering around the roof perimeter of your house.
- Then check water is running freely down your drainpipe. Gutter guards can save you the dirty job if you prefer not to do this yourself or are elderly/ cannot climb to your roof.
Photo credit: Yorkman/Shutterstock
Why was Britain unprepared for the floods?
Britain is building around 10,000 new homes each year on floodplains, and the Environment Agency is urging a rethink on the UK’s flood defences. One new home in every 14 built between 2013-14 was on land considered to be at risk of water. About 27% by value of new homes in England are built in flood hazard areas against the advice of the Environment Agency. So be careful when considering your next property.
Too many people in England were unprepared for the worst floods we’ve experienced for decades. Leaving thousands devastated, and for the unfortunate ones in Cumbria who were hit two or three times consecutively it begs the question as to why. For example, of the estimated 1.7 million homes currently located on flood-plains, 25% of homeowners are unaware of the fact and 13% would not know who to turn to for help and advice in a flood situation. So prepare yourself now and check if you’re at risk.
There have been a variety of efforts to aid families affected by flooding. One example of changes to building regulations in response to the floods was in the Eden district, where the council decided to lift requirements on Building Regulation Approval for works on flood damaged properties. The works allowed included:
- Replacement floors
- Replacement windows
There is financial help available for those affected by flooding with a £500 fund for every eligible household to support temporary accommodation and to help recovery, funded by the Communities and Business Recovery Scheme. Each local constituency is running its own recovery and assistance scheme. There is also temporary business rate and council tax relief which you can apply for to your wider district council in most affected areas. Furthermore, there is a household flood resilience scheme that offers up to £5,000 to fund things like moving electrics, flood doors and waterproofing in residential properties. Contact your local council for further details of any of the above.
Sign up for flood warnings here.
The Floodline Service number is 0345 988 118.
Feature image credit: Phil MacD Photography/Shutterstock