Protecting your property

Six steps to protecting your property

If your property has been flooded before – or if you know about properties that have been flooded even though they weren’t considered at risk – then you might be worried about your home and belongings. With one in six UK homes at risk of flooding, it is definitely something worth thinking about.

Fortunately, there are some simple measures you can take – and products you can buy – that can limit the damage caused by flooding. This could save you money and heartache, as well as allowing you to return to your property much sooner than if you had no protection.

Here, we briefly outline six essential steps to help you understand the process of installing flood resilience measures in your property. 

Step one: check if you are at risk of flooding

Knowing the level of risk will help you decide whether to protect your property. The Environment Agency has up-to-date maps showing risk levels. Check these maps from time to time, like when your home insurance policy is due for renewal.

Be aware that flash flooding can occur well away from rivers after heavy rainfall. Other people living in the area can be a source of knowledge on previous flood incidents. Your local flood group may have people who know the area well and know if your house has ever been flooded. Alternatively, the local library, place of worship or community centre may be able to help.

You can also pay a fee for a commercial property search. For advice on providers of these services please see the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO).

Step two: make a flood plan

Flooding can happen very quickly, giving you little time to act. If you live in an area that may be at risk of flooding, you should create and share a 'flood action plan' to help minimise damage as well as safeguard you and your family. Keep your action plan somewhere that everyone can see it.

Your preparation should include signing up for flood alerts, as knowing when to put temporary flood protection measures in place is crucial. The Environment Agency’s free Floodline Warnings Direct service can tell you when to do this by sending you a warning by phone, text and email.

Step three: costs and surveys

Find out what types of products are available and how they might be funded. Organisations that can help include the National Flood Forum and the Flood Protection Association.

Please read the following guides which provide examples of temporary and permanent measures that can be used to make your property more flood resilient.

You will need to check your insurer’s policy on flood resilience technologies. The Association of British Insurers or the British Insurance Brokers Association may be able to suggest insurers that specialise in flood risk cover. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published guidance on insurance for property owners who live in areas that are at high risk of flooding.

See getting insurance in high risk areas

The next important step will be a survey of your property. This will check for all possible points where water can easily seep in, such as doors, windows, airbricks and even the toilet.

You can choose a manufacturer’s survey or an independent survey, and your local authority planning department or the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a list of professional chartered surveyors that you can search by postcode.

A good surveyor will recommend a variety of products and also take into account other nearby properties, previous flooding and the location of drains. Defra has published a template for those carrying out surveys as part of its funded schemes. You can expect to receive a report that:

  • provides an assessment of the flood risk (depth, duration, type(s), frequency)
  • provides a comprehensive assessment of all possible points where water could enter a building, and how it might affect a building based on its existing location and internal systems
  • details the measures that can be taken to protect a building.

Step four: choosing the right products

A good survey should recommend a combination of products. Organisations such as the National Flood Forum and the Flood Protection Association can direct you to reputable companies.

You can check the National Flood Forum’s Blue Pages for a list of products and manufacturers. A good manufacturer should also be able to provide testimonials from people who have previously bought their products.

Examples of products you can use to help minimise the risk of damage include:

  • Doors: purpose-built flood boards that can be installed in front of doors when flooding is imminent. You can also raise door thresholds.
  • Walls and floors: raise damp-proof brick courses. Sealing floors (‘tanking’) can prevent water rising from the ground.
  • Airbricks: buy specially designed covers that are easy to place over ventilation bricks.
  • Drains and pipes: fit non-return valves to drains and water inlet and outlet pipes.

For bigger floods (when the floodwater is more than a metre high) it is actually important that water does enter your property. If water doesn’t enter your property, the pressure caused by its weight might inflict structural damage or even cause the building to collapse.

Here are some things you can do to reduce the damage floodwater might cause inside:

  • Shelving: put irreplaceable or valuable items on high-mounted shelves.
  • Home entertainment: fix any audio-visual equipment like TV and hi-fi to the wall about 1.5 metres above floor level.
  • Skirting: fit water-resistant skirting boards, or varnish them.
  • Pump: fit a pump in a basement or under-floor void to remove floodwater.
  • Walls: dry-line. Use horizontal plasterboard, or lime-based plaster instead of gypsum. Get a special draining system for cavity walls.
  • Flooring: lay tiles with rugs rather than fitted carpets, which often need to be replaced after a flood.
  • Doors and windows: install synthetic or waxed windows and doors, or varnish.
  • Kitchen and bathroom: use water-resistant materials such as stainless steel, plastic or solid wood rather than chipboard. Where possible raise fridges and appliances on plinths.
  • Electricals: raise electrical sockets, fuse boxes, controls and wiring to at least 1.5 metres above floor level. If rewiring, bring cables down the wall to the raised socket so that cabling isn’t affected.

Think about things like who will operate any flood defence products, and whether they are physically capable of doing it. Also consider the standard and quality of the products and suppliers you use. We have more details about this in the booklet you can download at the bottom of this page.

Step five: product installation

Some manufacturers will install their own products. However, it can often be the case that products will be installed by a third party. Here, the manufacturer is responsible for providing the installer with the necessary instructions.

You should ask who an installer works for and who pays their fee. Some manufacturers belong to the Flood Protection Association (FPA), which has a code of practice and can be contacted in the event of complaints.

If the works have been completed under an Environment Agency or Local Authority scheme, they can provide you with a revised flood risk mitigation assessment on the basis of the installed products. Paying for a post-installation survey may be useful in the future when asking for quotes from insurance companies.

Step six: maintenance

All products – even automatic ones – will need to be periodically maintained. During times when the property is unoccupied, it is worth making alternative arrangements for someone else to fit the products or, if they are automatic, to check whether they have been activated if a flood warning is issued.

If any neighbours have already installed similar technology, talk to them about how they maintain it. Also, see if there are others in your community who you can help, especially those less able to maintain or operate certain products.

Some final words...

These products are not a guarantee that your home will be completely protected from any and all flood events, but they should minimise any damage.

Please note that there will be special considerations if you own a listed building or you are located in a conservation area. In this case, please refer to the English Heritage guide Flooding and Historic Buildings that will direct you to specialist advice.

Recommended guides

People who have been flooded before have recommended the following guides: