One in six properties are at risk of flooding in England and Wales, so it's essential that you're prepared for the worst.
Our winters are getting wetter and warmer, and in recent years flooding has brought real misery and extensive damage to many households in the UK.
In December 2015 storms Desmond, Eva and Frank hit the UK in quick succession. Insurers spent £1.3bn repairing and replacing flooded homes, businesses, vehicles and belongings damaged by the three storms according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
With the risk of winter floods at an all-time high, it’s really important that you check any flood risk to your house and secure it against potential damage, so that you and yours can stay safe, dry and warm.
Before you buy: check the flood risk to your house
If you’re looking to buy a property, it’s absolutely essential that you check the risk of flooding beforehand. This will save you so many problems down the line.
Remember, floods can be caused by ground water and heavy rain, as well as rivers and the sea.
When checking, make sure that you look at the area as a whole, and not just the house. Even having a friendly chat with your future neighbours about any flooding problems they might have had could shed light on things. The estate agent is also obliged to let you know if the house has previously suffered from flooding.
You can also check flood risk areas online. Follow the links to search in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Short-term preventative measures
If your house is at risk from flooding, there are steps you can take to prepare and limit the potential damage.
As a short-term fix, sandbags used with plastic sheets can help prevent water getting in if there’s a flash flood. Your council may have these kinds of protective materials for you to borrow.
There are, however, more robust flood-protection products available. It’s possible to buy temporary flood barriers and guards. You can also buy hydrosnakes as a replacement for sandbags. Be sure that what you buy has a BSI kitemark.
Have some kind of emergency kit available. Obviously your mobile phone is handy, but have a collection of useful numbers written down as a backup. Also keep a first-aid kit and blankets to hand, and a torch in case of power cut.
Also make sure that you have your home insurance details to hand. You’ll need to contact your insurer as soon as possible if you have to make a claim. Admiral has a 24-hour helpline to assist if you need help or advice.
Move valuable possessions upstairs – including your passport and important documents. Also take what electrical items you can upstairs. Not only might they get damaged, but could be really dangerous if they come into contact with water.
If you’re confined to the ground floor, 1.5 metres off the ground is the magic number recommended by the Environment Agency for keeping your electronics and important objects elevated.
If you have a car that you think may be affected, try to park it further uphill if you can.
Protect your home from flooding in future
If your home’s prone to flooding year after year, it makes sense to take more long-term measures. Sockets, fuse boxes and wiring should be raised 1.5 metres off the floor where possible.
If you have carpeted or vinyl floors, for example, you can replace these with ceramic tiles or wood. Water-resistant doors and window frames are available, as is water-resistant sealant for outside walls and doors. You can also fit flood-proof skirting boards around the property.
Properties often have air bricks installed for ventilation. However, as they’re not impermeable, they may allow flood water to seep in. You can buy covers for them, but you can also get smart air bricks which seal up the vents under certain conditions. This is especially useful as it means you don’t have to cover them manually, giving you peace of mind if you’re away from home when a flood hits.
Again, be sure that anything you buy has a BSI kitemark, as it will have been thoroughly tested by the British Standards Institution and the Environment Agency.
If you’re unlucky enough to have been affected, read our guide on what to do if your house floods. Also, if being in a flood-risk area has driven up the cost of your insurance, you could find out more about the government’s Flood Re scheme, and whether you might benefit.