Flood disasters happen. But nobody can predict when they will strike. That’s why it’s important to protect your home against flooding through preventative measures.
As climate change continues and sea levels rise, flooding poses an ever greater risk. In the US, an urban flooding event happens every 2 to 3 days. And most of those affected don’t have flood insurance.
House floods are both common and very costly. Since 1980, they have cost US taxpayers $1 trillion in damage repairs.
Evaluate Your Flood Risk
To fight against flooding, you first need to evaluate your flood risk. You can do this with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Flood Maps and National Flood Insurance Program.
Of course, it’s best to find out if you’re in a high risk area for flooding before buying a property. But if you discover that your existing house is in a flood zone, consider relocating. You might even be eligible for a buyout program for repetitive loss properties.
Also research your property to see if it’s ever been flooded before. Even if you’re not in a high risk area, it could be a potential flood zone.
Most importantly, get flood insurance, especially if you are within a 100-year floodplain. Standard insurance and government disaster relief usually won’t cover most flood damages. So it’s better to stay on the safe side by having insurance.
Once you have flood insurance, the next best thing you can do is to floodproof your house. You can do anything from expensive home renovations to simple maintenance measures, but floodproofing generally falls into 4 categories: dry floodproofing, wet floodproofing, flood barriers, and elevation.
Dry floodproofing refers to measures that keep your house watertight. To keep your house watertight, you can apply sealants and coatings to cracks and holes in your basement. This will help prevent water from leaking in.
You can also install sewage water backstops. These are valves that prevent flooded sewage systems from backing up into your house. You’ll want to have a licensed plumber install these to make sure it’s done correctly.
You can also hire a plumber to burst proof the flexible water hoses in your house. If these break, they can cause flooding from inside your house.
Another small thing you can do is keep mulch from touching the side of your house. As mulch gets wet, it tends to rot the base of your house which can lead to leaks.
Wet floodproofing refers to measures that allow water to come into your house but minimize the damage from it.
For example, you could install foundation vents. They relieve pressure on the walls of your house as water pools around it.
You could also invest in a sump pump. It will remove water from the sump basin in your basement. If you get one, get a battery backup for it as well in case the flooding is accompanied by a power outage.
Flood barriers surround your property to stop the water before it gets to your house.
You can lay sandbags to direct water flow away from your house. Or you can build permanent walls to do the same.
You can also grade your lawn and driveway away from your house so water has to flow upward to get to it.
Or you can build dams. Dig depressions in your landscaping to absorb the water or use porous dirt. Make sure downspouts point away from your house to send the runoff away.
Finally, you can always leverage elevation to minimize flood damage.
Elevate expensive items in your house. For example, raise your HVAC, including boilers, heaters, and central A/C. Do the same for any washing machines, dryers, and generators.
You should also install electrical outlets, sockets, circuit breakers, and switches to be at least one foot off the ground.
You can even put your entire house up on stilts. But this is easier to do when you first construct your house, of course.
What to Do During a Flood
When a flood does happen, do all you can to minimize the damage in the moment:
- Turn off any water sources that could be the cause.
- Clear out your gutters.
- Pile sandbags to block any gaps.
- Use a sump pump or a shop vacuum to start pumping water out.
You should also photograph the flooding damage to help with your insurance and warranty claims later on.
In the end, the best time to prevent flood damage is before the flood. So adopt as many of the 4 floodproofing methods above as you can, and you’ll be in good shape to face the worst.