As the North of England braces itself for the arrival of Storm Christoph, the emergency services in the area are preparing for the likelihood of widespread flooding.
It’s thought that parts of the UK could see two months rainfall in just two and a half days as the storm crosses the country.
The Environment Agency has warned of a volatile situation as heavy rain combines with melting snow – a combination that is likely to cause severe disruption and possible flooding in some locations. In Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire, police have declared major incidents.
An amber rain warning is in place for Yorkshire, the North West, East Midlands and the East of England. A yellow rain warning was issued for the rest of the country.
Over the past few years, domestic flooding has wrought havoc across the UK, and the effects can be devastating to both people and property.
While in most cases, it’s not possible to completely prepare for a flood, in some cases there are some steps you can take to help prevent the worst of the damage, and most importantly keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
With this in mind, we explore what to do before, during and after a flood, and answer some of the most common questions asked when considering flood protection.
Is your home at risk of flooding?
Over five and a half million properties in England and Wales are deemed to be at risk of flooding.
If you are wondering if your home or a house you are considering purchasing is at long term risk of flooding, the easiest way to find this out to visit the governments’ long term flood risk assessment page. This allows you to enter your postcode (or that of a property you are considering buying) and find out what the risk is for your property.
The website categorises risk from rivers and the sea, and also surface water, and groups them into four primary risk levels which are;
- High risk (over 3.3%)
- Medium risk (1% -3.3%)
- Low Risk (0.1% – 1%)
- Very low risk (under 0.1%)
Of course, you may be more concerned about imminent risk – in other words “is my home currently at risk of flooding”? To find out if you are at immediate risk of flooding, you can check the government’s flood information service to check for flood warnings or river and sea levels.
What do flood warnings mean?
Flood warnings are grouped into categories including;
Flood alert – This means that flooding is possible and is usually announced several days in advance of any anticipated flooding.
Flood warning – A flood is expected, and this is the point at which you should take some of the steps outlined below and make plans to evacuate
Severe warning – Flooding is imminent and poses a serious threat to life.
If you live in an area which is often at risk of flooding, it may be a good idea to sign up to the Environment Agency’s Flood Warnings Direct service which keeps you up to date on flood risk in your location.
How to flood-proof your home
While it’s impossible to make a home completely safe from flooding, you can take numerous steps which will help to defend your home from flood water entering and ways to limit the damage to both your home and your belongings.
The Environment Agency lists two ways in which you can protect property. The first is “flood resistance” – this means taking steps to prevent water from entering in the first place.
The second is making a building “flood resilient” – the means taking steps to minimise the damage done from flood water which enters the building – and is used where flood resistance measures cannot be put in place due to building structure, cost or other factors, or where flood resistance measures may fail. We explore these measures in more detail.
Floodwater can enter a property through a vast range of routes. The most obvious being areas such as doors, and patios – but also through airbricks, drains and pipes. Blocking off these routes help to protect floodwater from getting into the home in the first place – and can be something you have permanently – or could be a temporary measure you put in place when you are aware that you are at risk from flooding in the near future.
Temporary measures to stop water entering your home may include:
- Placing of sandbags
- Putting up barriers on doors and windows – such as boards
- Adding covers to air bricks, appliance vents and catflaps
- Toilet plugs and pipe bungs
Permanent ways to protect from flood water entering the home may include:
- Fitting specialist flood doors and windows
- Adding non return valves on drains and pipes
- Painting your home using water resistant paints
- Choosing anti-flood bricks
- Creating flood barriers or water diversions by way of garden landscaping and layout
What is flood resilience?
Where it’s not possible to entirely avoid water getting into the house – flood resilience is all about reducing the amount of damage caused and protecting items within the home.
Flood resilience measures which can be taken include
- Raising electric sockets to a level which is likely to be above flood water levels.
- Choosing flood resilient paints and flooring
- Resilient insulation
- Installing pumping systems
- Making sure TV’s are wall mounted at a high level
How to prepare your kitchen for flooding
Your kitchen is likely to be one of the rooms in your home, which will cost the most to repair if flooded. After all, we tend to spend a lot of money on kitchen units and fittings – and, unlike our furniture, these are items which are not easily removed when we know a flood is coming.
However, there are some measures which you are able to take to both protect parts of the kitchen, and also to make them more resilient should flood water get in.
Firstly choosing kitchen units which are on legs (with a removable kickboard) offer you some resistance against lower rainwater – as the units are raised. Consider removing kitchen doors if you know a flood is on its way. If this is not possible, ensure that you cover any kitchen units with watertight plastic sheeting.
Consider a raised plinth for appliances such as your fridge freezer or washing machine to protect from damage.
Consider choosing waterproof flooring – there are a number of laminates available which are 100% waterproof and will mean that there is no need to replace flooring in the event of a flood. For those who prefer tiles, choose waterproof adhesive and grout.
Choose waterproof coating for paintwork, and ensure that any tiling using waterproof grouting.
Additionally, water can enter through drains and pipes as the water pressure created by flooding can reverse the flow making water back up and come into your home via sinks, washing machines etc. – so consider adding non return valves to be fitted to drainpipes.
What to do in a flood
One of the best ways to be ready for a flood is to make sure that you are prepared. Pack a bag that includes important documents, medicines and belongings. Don’t forget to include insurance documents as you are likely to need to access these should a flood cause damage to your home. If you live in a high-risk area – it may be wise to keep this on standby whenever there is any risk that flooding may become an issue.
When you know that a flood is likely, start moving furniture and belongings to the upper floors. This is the time at which you should implement your temporary protective measures, such as placing sandbags around the entry areas to you home. This is also the time to add boards to windows and add covers to air bricks.
When a flood is imminent, remember – the most important thing is you and your family’s safety. Be sure to cooperate with any evacuation plan, and work quickly to get to safety.
Turn off all gas electric and water supplies if water is close to entering your home if it is safe to do so. If water has already begun to get inside the home, DO NOT touch any electricity sources, as this can lead to electric shock.
Put plugs into your sinks and baths, and consider weighting them down with sandbags or other heavy objects.
It can be easy to underestimate how dangerous flood water is. Firstly sharp objects can be easily be hidden within it.
Just six inches of fast flowing water can knock over an adult, and two feet of water is enough to move a car.
Does my house insurance cover flood damage?
The average cost of fixing flood damage on a house in the UK is £50,000, so it’s important that you choose the right insurance to cover flood damage.
However, if you live in an area which is deemed to be of high risk or have previously experienced flooding in your home, you may find it hard to find affordable insurance. However, there are specialists agencies who will cover these types of property, and it’s worth undertaking comparisons.
It’s worth remembering that there are two types of insurance for your home. Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home and will help with costs relating to structural damage or exterior damage caused by flooding.
Contents insurance should cover replacing belongings and fittings such as curtains, carpets or kitchen units which are damaged by flooding.
Even if you rent your property – you need to ensure that you have contents insurance to cover your belongings.
How to dry house after water damage
Before the drying out process can begin, the property needs to be fully cleared of water. Flood water tends to be too dangerous to be managed by a homeowner themselves due to risk of infection, so it’s best to use a trained professional.
Airing out your home should then be your first priority. Without appropriate drying out, mould can start to form, and this can happen within just 24 to 48 hours of water exposure. Mould colonies will continue to grow as long as the moisture level remains high.
Do this naturally by opening windows and doors, making sure that air can move through your home. For larger amounts of water damage, dehumidifiers and high powered fans are usually used to try and speed up the drying out process, but in some cases, this can still take months.
Be sure to remove wet objects – such as furniture or carpets to help to reduce the moisture levels inside your home. Be sure to throw out any wet insulation under flooring, and remove any vinyl or lino to promote evaporation.
Using desiccants such as silica gel, clay or calcium oxide can help to absorb moisture. This can help to dry out tricky areas such as the insides of kitchen cupboards, airing cupboards or awkward nooks and crannies.
If mould does start to form, consider using commercial mould and mildew removers to help to remove it.
How to clean up after a flood
When cleaning up after flooding, you have two priorities – both to get you items clean, but also to disinfect them to make sure that they are safe.
While much repair work may be undertaken by specialists appointed by your insurers, there are some areas of your home you may wish to clean yourself.
The best way to clean after a flood is top down, as often higher areas would have suffered less damage. Many household cleaning products are suitable for cleaning walls or floors, but be sure to wear appropriate gloves boots and even a mask if needed – as flood water can carry harmful bacteria.
Make sure to disinfect anything that may have come into contact with floodwater properly – so ensure that any damaged clothes are cleaned separately from your normal washing, and make sure to clean items such as dishes and cutlery.
Read our specific blog for ideas on how to deep clean your kitchen after flooding.
While flooding can be devastating, by taking these steps, you can help to reduce the impact of a flood on your home.