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House hunters flood proof

How can I flood proof my home?

It's impossible to completely flood-proof a property but there are lots of things you can do to reduce flood damage. Perhaps you're doing repairs after a recent flood or moving into a flood proof area and want to make sure your refurb project uses the latest measures. We've got some ideas to get you started...

What are the simplest and cheapest steps I can take to flood proof my home?

  • Stock up on sandbags. Your local council should have a stockpile. But if you want to take matters into your own hands, speak to your local builders’ merchants or look for non-sand alternatives on the National Flood Forum Blue Pages Directory. But beware, if your problem is with groundwater flooding sandbags won’t help (see below for suggestions).
  • Varnish wooden skirting boards. This isn’t as fail safe as fitting water resistant plastic skirting boards but varnishing your existing  wooden ones is a quick and cheap alternative.
  • Air brick covers. You can buy  covers that fit over air bricks to stop flood water entering. They are relatively cheap at £50-300 but make sure you remove them once the flooding has passed, to allow the bricks to dry out again. (For water-resistant air bricks, see below.)
  • Fit non-return valves on drains and pipes. This helps prevent sewage from flowing back through pipes from toilets and sinks. And it is relatively inexpensive at £50-£500.
  • Shelving. Mount high shelves for storing valuable items if you don’t have the option of moving them away from the ground floor.
  • Raise your household appliances Similarly, to protect the mechanics of household appliances you can either move them off the ground floor or raise them on plinths where they stand.
  • …and home entertainment. You can also raise televisions and sound systems to the wall above flood level.
  • Protect valuables with sealable bags If large items such as electrical goods and sofas are too hard to move to a higher floor, buy large sealable bags.

Here are some effective measures to take if you have more time and money to spend on flood-proofing your home…

  •  Move electrical sockets higher up the wall  If you move electrical sockets to a height of about 1.5m they are less likely to be damaged by low level flooding. But this is not always practical and it will cost around £1,000-4,000.
  • Replace wooden floors and carpets. Concrete with a damp-proof membrane and ceramic tiles are preferable to wooden floorboards. But be careful sealing it around the point where the floor and walls join. And replace fitted carpets with rugs, which are easy to move them away when there’s a flood warning.
  • Quick release internal doors These can be quickly and easily lifted off their hinges and moved out of the way so that they don’t absorb flood water. If you can’t be sure you’ll be around to remove doors you can fit synthetic or waxed doors which will resist flood water.
  • …or get them raised. You can have your door thresholds raised above the flood level. The front door and porch could cost from £1,000-£10,000.
  • Replace chipboard and MDF units. Materials such as plastic, solid wood and some metals will absorb less water and require less drying out after a flood.
  • Fit water-resistant skirting boards Plastic skirting boards might not be as attractive as wooden ones but they are less absorbent so all you’ll need to do is wipe them down after a flood.
  • Seal exterior walls. Applying sealant to the exterior walls will cost around £500.  But it may cause damp inside your bricks if they are in bad condition.
  • Water-resistant air bricks These will cost £500-1000 and mean you don’t have to fit covers every time it floods. But they need to be carefully maintained to avoid seepage.
  • Barriers Building a flood barrier can be expensive (anything from thousands to tens of thousands of pounds) but your neighbours may be willing to pool their resources.
  • Landscaping The outside areas of your home can also be designed in order to divert water away from the building.
  • Protect your doors and windows. If you don’t have time to fit flood-resistant doors and windows, you can fit flood boards quickly if you are expecting flooding. This will cost around £500-3000 and it will require permanent fixtures which will be permanently visible on your building.

What are the best measures for keeping groundwater out?

  • Should I use a pump? Yes, a pump is the most effective way of dealing with groundwater and it will cost anything from £50-2,500. But make sure the inlet is installed lower than the water you are pumping so  that it can drain (more on this below).
  • What if the flood level outside is higher than the water inside? Don’t pump! You could increase the water pressure outside and cause structural damage to your home.
  • Should I use an electric or petrol/diesel pump? Electric pumps are quieter and easier to power because you just need to plug them in. But be careful because electricity  can be dangerous near flood water. You may also need a generator if flooding has caused a power-cut.
  • Can I flood proof my basement? Yes, tanking is a popular way of flood proofing basements. But it can be expensive (£10-20k) as well as complicated.

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