How to make your home or business resilient to floods

11 Apr 2018
10 min read
How to make your home or business resilient to floods

In this article we describe how best to stop your home from flooding and measures to make your home more resilient should it flood in the future.

Despite common held perception, fighting floods definitely isn’t about sandbags. But more importantly we also explore how to protect human life as well as property.

What To Do During a Flood?

Flooding can be devastating.  Always move cars and people away from floods before the water comes. If you wait until you see the floods it may be too late. The advise is not to walk or drive through fast flowing water. Driving through flood water is the number one cause of death during flooding. Just half a foot of water can be dangerous, which is why the AA and the Environment Agency strongly advise people not to take the chance. Your car is not an amphibious vehicle even if it is a 4X4.

Risk to Human Life

Hand coming out of flood water

Flood waters can rise fast. If you are in danger call 999. Put people before property and stay safe. If you are told to evacuate, please follow the instructions of the emergency services.

People’s instinct, quite understandably, is that they want to stay in their own home. However, if you are being asked to evacuate it is because the Environment Agency and emergency services have assessed that there is a real risk from flooding. Especially during wet winters, flood waters can take weeks, if not months, to recede. Therefore, it is not possible to stay living in a house for a long period of time with no heating, drinking water, food or sanitation.

This clip shows how easily fast flowing water swept away cars left parked next to a river during a flood.

Should I stay or Should I Go?

If you choose to stay and subsequently need ‘rescuing’ later, you are not only putting yourself in danger, but also other people’s lives at risk as well, such as our wonderful fire fighters and coastguard. Also, if you know there are vulnerable people in your street please let the emergency services know. For further information see the Community Action Plan section in the article Is my Home at Risk of Flooding.

How to Protect Your Property from Flooding: Some Practical Advice

Flood Resilience

Amazing acts of kindness and solidarity have occurred up and down the country after flooding havoc as people donate goods and skills to help those most affected. However, the places that bounce back fastest after flooding are those communities that are already prepared. Where the buildings and people are more resilient to extreme weather events, such as in Cockermouth in Cumbria.

Property Flood Resilience

Property flood resilience (PFR) (also known as property level protection), reduces the risk of flood water entering your home or minimises the damage that it causes if it does. The most appropriate strategy for your property may be a combination of these approaches, depending on the source and depth of flooding and how your property has been constructed.

Resistance: you can install measures that keep water out of the property.

No More Sandbags

Hydrosnake on steps

The most well-known response to flooding is to use sand bags however there are many more products that are much easier and effective to install, Sandbags are heavy, hard to dispose of and crucially not very effective if filled with sand bought from a builder’s merchant. Normal sand just filters the water unless it has ‘fullers earth’ in it. Some manufacturers call these ‘Hydrosacs’, which expand as they get wet.

Flood Kits and other Flood Gadgets

A number of companies supply inexpensive kits with a range of emergency measures that can be purchased, stored and quickly deployed if a flood is expected such as but other suppliers are available.

Other measures include air brick covers, flood doors and non-return valves on drains. It’s worth remembering that water can also enter through brickwork and mortar. The final point is that resistance methods needs to be ‘holistic’: if a water entry point is not sealed, then the whole investment will be wasted.

Property flood resilience is useful for people in flood prone communities particularly, in areas where large flood defence schemes are not practically or financially feasible. Further information about flood resilience can be found here:

Flood Recoverability

Another option is to minimise damage caused by flood water that enters properties. These measures will reduce the amount of post-flood renovations required and therefore the amount of time you will be out of a property. Tips include raising electrical circuits above floor level, tiled floors and fitting stainless steel, solid wood or plastic kitchens so damage is limited and easy to clean rather than replace.

Information and Inspiration on Flood Resilience

The BRE Flood Resilient Repair Home demonstrate what can be done to individual properties and there is even a silent movie that goes with it. There are lots of resources available including Making Your Home Flood Repairable.

The National Flood Forum is a charity that helps people and communities at risk of flooding. And for the final inspiration here is a film featuring Mary Dhonau or Mary Queen of Floods as she is known.

Flood Industry Standards

“Resistance” measures have developed rapidly and that means there are some good products on the market and some with variable results when tested ‘in anger’ on the ground during floods. We recommend that you seek advice from an experienced independent surveyor (RICS and BRE have developed a training course) rather than a product supplier.

The best products meet British Standards PAS1188 (soon to become a full British Standard). There are a range of service providers and a code of practice for the industry is expected in 2019.

Most resistance methods will keep water out to a depth of around 1m, generally it is advised that above this height it is best to let the water in.  If you plan to use flood barriers above this height you should seek advice from a structural engineer before proceeding as the weight of water may cause structural damage to your property.

The Property Care Association provides a list of approved installers of flood protection for your area as well as flood restoration service providers. The National Flood Forum operates the Blue Pages, which offer an independent flood directory. However, they do not endorse the products and services listed.

Property Insurance and Flooding

Somerset floods: couple in flooded conservatory

Installing Property Flood Resilience does not necessarily reduce your insurance premiums however, it can provide extra peace of mind and help to hold back flood waters, which could reduce the time you are out of your property after a flood. Some insurance companies have policies that will fund resilient repair after a flood, which is always a good idea.

Insurance Cover for Floods

Full insurance cover for flooding is a very good idea. Whilst some possessions are priceless and cannot be replaced, such as photos and letters, repairing a flooded home can cost between £20,000 and £45,000. That is why comprehensive insurance cover is essential if you live in a flood risk area.

Flood Re: Finding Insurance for Homes at Risk of Flooding

For home owners in flood prone areas, increased insurance premiums and excess levels are not uncommon. Sometimes, this can happen even if your individual property is unlikely to flood due to your proximity to others who will.

Flood Re was launched in 2016 and will ensure that home insurance is available and affordable to home owners in areas at flood risk. Flood Re is a temporary scheme that will end in 2039. The scheme does not apply to homes built after 2009 and special conditions apply to flats and leasehold properties. Therefore, it is worth contacting them or using a specialist insurance broker if you are struggling to find cover.

Buying and Selling a Property in a Flood Risk Area

Living near water is a dream for many people. Buying a home can be a very emotional experience. However, with one in six homes at risk of flooding, finding out late in the day that your dream house could flood is not unusual.

If it is difficult to secure building insurance for a home then, that may make it difficult to find a mortgage or reduce the amount that a mortgage provider is prepared to lend.  Some buyers have been put off from purchasing property because their searches revealed a flood risk or they had issues with obtaining insurance. Consequently, they feared this would impact negatively on their ability to sell their property.

With 5.2 million homes at risk of flooding in England there is plenty of advice about buying a house in a flood risk area so you can seek advice from a surveyor or your insurance company.

Five Top Tips for Buying a Home at Risk of Flooding

  1. If you are planning to buy a property and are worried about flood risk then it is worth checking on
  2. If the property is in a flood risk area – ask the vendor whether it has been flooded in the past ten years. This is a material fact in the sales process so they should tell you however, normally people find out as the sale is going through when they are emotionally committed to the purchase.
  3. If the property is at flood risk, ask if they have installed any property flood resilience measures.
  4. Seek full flooding cover for both building and content insurance.
  5. if you go ahead with the purchase – most people redecorate….
    1. if the previous owners installed flood resilience measures then work around them. For example, if they have installed a membrane you would need to ensure that it was not punctured.
    2. If you plan to redecorate: consider using materials that would make the property more recoverable if it was to flood such as, tile floors or stainless-steel kitchens.

Speaking of chance…

In the past the phrase a Hundred Year Flood was used to explain the probability of floods occurring. However, this terminology is no longer used and it never meant a property would only flood once in a hundred years!

If your home building survey said it was a one in a hundred event then the 1-percent annual exceedance probability (AEP) flood has a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year; however, during the span of a 30-year mortgage, a home in the 1-percent AEP floodplain has a 26-percent chance of being flooded at least once during those 30 years! The value of 26-percent is based on probability theory that accounts for each of the 30 years having a 1-percent chance of flooding. Also, due to changing patterns of rainfall caused by climate change the frequency and intensity of floods are increasing further.

The Financial Cost of Floods

The winter floods of 2015 to 2016 were the most extreme on record and the cost the UK economy an estimated £1.6 billion. However, there is other damage done that is often ignored such as the stress that flooding puts on people’s lives. Not surprisingly, 50% reported suffering mental health issues after a flooding incident.  

Great Organisations to Contact for Further Advice on Floods and Flooding

Floodline is a 24-hour service that provides flood warning information and general advice for during and after a flood on 0345 988 1188 and National Flood Forum is a charity to help you and your community with any flooding issues.

Preparing for Floods

Floods are increasing and with one in six homes at risk, prevention is always better than cure. There are lots of measures people can take to keep their possessions and loved ones safe. In particular, installing measures to keep the water out and speed up the clean-up process should the water come in. Finally, as a final reminder of what is at stake here is some footage of floods from the British storms of 2014.


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

Please share this article and comment on social.

Related articles