HOW TO COPE IF YOUR HOME IS FLOODED, an original article by Guy Alexander Bell.
The winter has seen extreme weather conditions across much of the world. AT the time of writing, there have been several recent bad floods in England, southern and northern Spain, Madeira, Germany, England, Italy, France, Chile, USA, to name but a few.
Updated Jan 2nd 2014. The UK has again found itself partially submerged with high tides, gale force winds and extensive flooding in many parts of England, Wales and Scotland. We republished this article as it contains some very important advice that you should follow if your home is at risk, or has already been flooded.
If you are unlucky enough to live in one of the areas hit by the latest bout of flooding and bad weather, we would like to suggest a few straight forward steps you can take to minimise damage to your home or commercial building before the floodwaters invade your property and also there are some suggestions to intensify and speed up repairs once the flood waters start to recede.
With the increasing occurrence of bad weather of late, some insurance companies have issued handy information as to how not only you can prevent the water coming in, but if it DOES enter the building, further suggestions are offered as to what to do in that eventuality.
Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen to you, but just in case, here is some handy info. (If you think you ARE at risk of flooding, please feel free to print this off, for personal non commercial use only)
What to do if you fully expect your property to be affected by floods.
Check you are fully insured!
It may sound daft to suggest but it doesn’t take much time and effort to take a look at your existing policy, or contact your broker, just to be on the safe side. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were flooded and when you contacted the insurance company; they tell you your policy expired last week?
Don’t laugh, it DOES happen. Make sure you are fully covered and make sure they know how to contact you if you have to leave your home, for example, make sure your mobile number is left with them……….and don’t forget to have your mobile on you at all times, and the contacts backed up somewhere safe just in case.
What to do if your home is flooded now
If water entering the house is imminent, turn off the gas, the electric and also water at the mains supply, so make sure you know how to do this BEFORE the water arrives or arrives at a level that compromises the waterproofing element of the house.
You should be advised, or rather warned, that flood water can enter the house through the drains. The easiest way of preventing this is by putting the plugs in each sink, bath, bidet or washbasin and weighing them down with something heavy.
This also applies to the LOO. If the drains are overwhelmed, flood water, AND EVERYTHING ELSE (!), will rise up through the toilet and into your home. Not nice eh?
Avoid contact with floodwaters; they may be contaminated with sewage. Flood water can also come into your property through airbricks or other vents, so remember to block them off. When the waters subside, remove these covers and this will facilitate the drying of the house.
If and when you are outside, don’t wade through deep floodwaters; manhole covers may have lifted, leaving dangerous unseen holes and this also applies to manhole covers on paths or driveways around your house, so memorise where they are, and if flooding is expected, mark them, for example something on the wall next to them or a pole sticking out the ground, so you know where they are.
These manholes are especially dangerous if draining has commenced and the waters are trying to flood away as the hole will cause a huge suction and can and will suck you in, so be very careful.
* Unplug all electrical items like TV, video, playstations, PCs etc, and store them upstairs or on a high shelf.
* Disconnect anything connected to a pipe like a washing machine etc as if the house floods and they float away, at least they wont rip the pipes out of the wall too.
* Try and move anything you can upstairs or to a high place and this includes rolling up carpets and rugs, as once they get wet, they are ruined, so be warned
* Do not touch the electrics. Seriously. Even if its nigh time and you want to switch the light on to actually see, DON’T! You would be submerged in water, which would have a live connection to the electric, if it is still connected. I don’t need to explain what would happen next….;If you think you may be flooded, have torches and candles at the ready, on your person if possible.
* Make sure you leave the inside ground floor doors open because they may swell up if submerged or even just the lower part standing in water and therefore there is a good chance they would stick or jam and you would not be able to open them.
* Do exactly as the emergency services, fire and police etc, tell you to do, dont be a hero in this situation, if they tell you to get out NOW, they really mean it and its for your own good, so do as they tell you to do.
If you are in a vehicle, don’t try and drive through floodwater, the car can be swept away for a start, or the least worse scenario, it can stall and you will be stuck there, which is far worse if the water is rising. Also be advised you may not be covered by your car insurance if you wilfully risk the car by driving through a flood.
What to do after the flood.
Contact your insurance company immediately. If there is any emergency work to do, such as hiring a water pump to drain the house, or getting a hole in the roof fixed, just do it and keep the receipt. If the place has only minor damage, make a decision whether to claim or not on the insurance as next year your premium will go up a lot if you do.
Let friends and relatives know that your ok. Move anything that is not too badly damaged upstairs or away from flood water where possible.
Store damaged furniture, fittings and other possessions in a dry place – they may have a salvage value or be repairable and will need to be inspected. But if you suspect the flood water to be contaminated (by sewage, for example), discard the affected items immediately
Fridges and freezers should be cleaned out as soon as possible and any food thrown away.
If you have the relevant insurance cover, remember to keep a list of the food items for your claim and, if possible, take photographs.
Once the water has begun to recede and the level goes down as it drains away, weather permitting, open all the doors and windows during the day but don’t leave it unattended like that for obvious reasons.
Buy or Hire dehumidifiers and close the windows: These machines are invaluable for drying a house out after flooding but be prepared for a long wait! Some families who have been flooded out of their houses, especially cases from Hull and also Gloucestershire, are still living in caravans or temporary accommodation 6 months after their house was flooded.
However tempting when you see your once lovely house, ruined by floods, don’t attempt to redecorate straight away. This would be very difficult, and also whatever paint etc., you use, will not last for more than a few weeks, or a few days, making you even more frustrated, be patient if your home has flooded, the mess will take some time to sort out.
The effects of floodwater on your house
Generally, masonry (brickwork or block work) should be largely unaffected by the water if it is allowed to dry out properly. The drying out process may take some time if the masonry has been saturated. As a rough rule of thumb, you should allow one month for every inch of wall thickness.
It is also important to bear in mind your house may be one with cavity walls so you need to take the cavity into consideration as that may be wet also, especially if it is insulated with the typical tiny polystyrene beads that they insulate walls with in the UK.
Then check with a decorator, a wall coating specialist, damp proofing company or other expert to ensure that the walls and other surfaces are fully dried out and, if necessary, treated to prevent mould and penetrating damp into the walls, if you have survived an awful flooding experience, take good note of the following.
Your home was flooded, possibly for a reason (not withstanding freak once in a lifetime events like hurricanes, volcanoes, wars and suchlike) and therefore if your home flooded for a reason, identify that reason as your main number one priority.
Then act upon it
Do you live somewhere that is prone to flooding?
If so, you have the following choices what to do, after you have sorted and repaired your home.
1) Did you do enough research before buying your home?
2) Has flooding in the area happened before?
3) If a nearby water drain blocked or burst, contact your local council and possibly the water company in your area, they may be at fault and you could then claim compensation.
4) Did a local stream or river overflow and could it have been prevented?
5) Were other people also flooded? You would be advised to seek the counsel and friendship of these people and this will also help pass on any important info, and again, for all of you to find out why it happened and try and maker sure it doesnt happen again.
6)Move out and sell it. Easiest way in theory, but if you live in a flood area, possibly not so easy, unless you sell at a bargain price or at auction. It depends on how much money you want to lose and how much you love where you live. (despite the water)
7) If your home was flooded because you did not take adequate steps yourself to prevent the water entering your home, learn from your mistakes, and make sure there is adequate provision if there is another flood, in the future, and then in theory, your home will NOT flood as you acted upon what went wrong initially.
PLEASE REMEMBER THE ABOVE IS ADVICE. FOR OFFICIAL INFO WE WOULD ALWAYS RECOMMEND THAT YOU FOLLOW THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCIES WEBSITE.
Are flood proof homes the answer?
Unless you live on the moon you’ll be probably more than aware of the recent terrible floods to hit the UK, and of course the various soundbites coming from the government and the environment agency telling us they really are going to sort it out this time.
Flooding seems to be far more common than when I was growing up, and far worse than ever before, but some experts are saying that building more flood defences is simply not enough and more needs to be done, but what exactly?
Time and time again local councils approve new housing on flood plains or areas at risk from flood, but is this method of build and then defend, really the answer?
Many think not.
You can’t fight mother nature
If you have ever been caught out in severe weather, you will know mother nature isn’t a very nice woman at all, in fact she’s a right pain, but is is this simply mankind’s abuse of nature coming back to haunt us?
It may be worth noting that we ourselves were also affected by the recent floods which affected, amongst other things, our datacentre in Cumbria, which knocked out much of our companies communication systems, and also our phone line which was off for a few days.
Even our customers have been affected, in places such as Lancashire, Devon, Cumbria and Yorkshire, so we know only too well how devastating and disruptive floods can be.
What’s the solution to all this flooding then?
I was sat in my lunch break, reading the newspaper, when I came across a very interesting article which quoted an ex-president of the Institute of Civil Engineers who suggested that it would actually be possible and practical to build new homes that are flood resistant.
He noted that whilst it is more important than ever before, to protect people, and homes, from flooding, he argued that most homes in the UK are not floodproof at all, hence the damage we have seen over the past few weeks.
He noted that water always finds a way into a property if there is a flood, and it can come up through air vents and air bricks in the lower wall, up through floorboards and depending on the severity, also water can back up through your drains and your loo.
He also noted that floodwater can saturate walls, both internally and outside, and simply having a waterproof wall coating on the exterior of your home could actually stop water seeping into the walls, saving costly renovations over time.
However it is worth noting that one or two wall coating companies have tried a marketing scam to tell people an exterior wall coating will prevent their home being flooded?
This is categorically NOT TRUE.
The householders we saw on TV over Christmas one year, with their “Floodgate” barriers (the blue plastic squares that slot into the doorway) bravely trying to save their house were soon enough flooded anyway as the water rose upwards through the floors so a fat lot of good they were.
Recommendations for a flood-proof house.
- New homes should NOT be built on flood plains.
- New houses should be built at a higher level above the road than is the case now.
- Driveways, patios and paved areas should have a permeable drainage solution.
- Plug sockets should be installed at least 4 to 5 feet off the ground, NOT by the skirting board.
- A solid floor rather than wooden floorboards with a void underneath would stop water rising from the ground and into the house.
- No air vents or air bricks should be at a low level outside.
- Doors and windows should be watertight
- Walls should be non-porous, either with the addition of a wall coating, or a prefabricated waterproof surface.
Homes deemed at risk from floods should always have a “flood action plan” so they know what to do if it happens, or happens again in some cases.
Is it just a new approach to construction that is needed or……….?
Well it’s not just putting into action the points above, it’s also working with nature to ensure when and if a flood occurs, water can be drained or re-routed away quickly, to restore the balance.
Many people enjoy living in coastal or riverside locations and few can argue the natural beauty but surely erecting taller and bigger flood defences could become a blot on the landscape?
Some home owners than have been flooded time and time again have elected to have their homes raised a metre above where the home sits now. This is a VERY expensive process involving all manner of things, not forgetting new foundations, so this sort of approach is usually only restricted to those with plenty money in the bank.
A new approach to deal with floods is now needed more than ever.
The government has an urgent need to build new homes, to house an ever growing population, let’s just hope they don’t build them on flood plains again eh?
More thought needs to go into the proper management of rivers and waterways, including ditching the laws the EU passed to us without asking in 2000, meaning rivers weren’t dredged in case it harmed wildlife. Well, we can see the effect of yet another stupid EU law in the recent floods.
Houses need to be built in a different way and using different construction methods. When housing estates are built, more thought needs to go into drainage. A case of joined up thinking is needed to avert more flooding in the future.