The right flood protection products can save you money and heartache in the event that your property should be put at risk by flooding. But with so many products and installers out there, how can you know which are best for you?
In an industry that still has a long way to go in regulatory terms, it can be difficult to know where to start when searching for products that you can rely on during a flood.
Flood protection products and services can be in high demand during and after severe weather, so it’s recommended that you take measures to protect your property as soon as possible – before it’s too late.
1. Do the groundwork
The first step is to check your insurer’s policy on flood resilience technologies. The Association of British Insurers or the British Insurance Brokers Association may be able to suggest insurers that specialise in flood risk cover.
2. Get a survey
A good surveyor will be able to recommend the best solution to suit your property, requirements and budget. Organisations such as the National Flood Forum and the Property Care Association can direct you to reputable surveyors.
A good surveyor will recommend a variety of products taking into account other nearby properties, previous flooding and the location of drains. You can expect to receive a report that provides an assessment of the flood risk, details all possible points where water could enter and how it might affect the property, and details the measures that can be taken to protect it.
3. Do your research
Spend some time researching different options to find the best solution for your property.
Check out the National Flood Forum’s Blue Pages for an independent directory of products and manufacturers, and before you settle on anything make sure it has been independently tested. Don’t be fooled by claims being made by contractors if they sound too good to be true – confirm that the works being recommended have been tested to the PAS 1188-4:2014 standard (or equivalent).
4. Find reputable tradespeople
The next step is to find trusted tradespeople to carry out the work. Sadly after flooding, unscrupulous ‘flood protection companies’ come out of the woodwork and prey on the already vulnerable.
Some manufacturers will install their own products, but it can often be the case that products will be installed by a third party. Here, the manufacturer is responsible for providing the installer with the necessary instructions. You should ask who an installer works for and who pays their fee. Some belong to the Property Care Association, which has a code of practice and can be contacted in the event of complaints.
If the works have been completed under an Environment Agency or Local Authority scheme, they can provide you with a revised flood risk mitigation assessment on the basis of the installed products. Paying for a post-installation survey may be useful in the future when asking for quotes from insurance companies.
These tips will help you avoid ‘cowboy builders’ and find contractors you can trust. A good manufacturer should be able to provide testimonials from people who have previously bought their products.
5. Know your flood resistance from your flood resilience
A combination of flood resistance measures (those designed to keep floodwater out, e.g. barriers, drain sealers and anti-flood air bricks) and resilience measures (those designed to reduce damage when water enters, e.g. as sump pumps, raised electrics and water-resistant building materials) offers the best way to protect your property and minimise recovery costs.
Flood resistance measures
Examples of products you can use to help minimise the risk of damage include:
- Doors: purpose-built flood-proof doors and flood barriers that can be installed in front of doors when flooding is imminent. Door thresholds can also be raised.
- Walls and floors: damp-proof bricks and wall and floor coverings. Sealing floors (‘tanking’) can prevent water from rising from the ground.
- Airbricks: buy specially designed covers that are easy to place over ventilation bricks.
- Drains and pipes: fit non-return valves to drains and water inlet and outlet pipes.
Think about things like who will operate any flood defence products, and whether they are physically capable of doing it.
Flood resilience measures
For bigger floods (when the floodwater is more than a metre high), it is actually important that water does enter your property. If it doesn’t, the pressure caused by its weight might inflict structural damage or even cause the building to collapse.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the damage floodwater might cause inside:
- Shelving: put irreplaceable or valuable items on high-mounted shelves.
- Home entertainment: fix any audio-visual equipment like TVs and hi-fis to the wall at least 1.5 metres above floor level.
- Skirting: fit water-resistant skirting boards or varnish them.
- Pump: fit a pump in a basement or under-floor void to remove floodwater.
- Walls: dry-line walls. Use horizontal plasterboard, or lime-based plaster instead of gypsum. Get a special draining system for cavity walls.
- Flooring: lay tiles with rugs rather than fitted carpets, as they can be rolled up and moved to a higher position.
- Doors and windows: install synthetic, waxed or varnished window frames and doors.
- Kitchen and bathroom: use water-resistant materials such as stainless steel, plastic or solid wood rather than chipboard. Where possible raise fridges and appliances on plinths.
- Electricals: raise electrical sockets, fuse boxes, controls and wiring to at least 1.5 metres above floor level. If rewiring, bring cables down the wall to the raised socket so that cabling isn’t affected.
6. Don't rely on sandbags
Calderdale Council does not provide sandbags to individual properties during a flood as its limited resources are targeted to areas of greatest risk to benefit as many people as possible. Stocks from local suppliers can be low during flood incidents so it’s important to consider other actions you could take to protect your property.
Moreover, sandbags are not reusable and can rot in storage, and are rarely the best solution for keeping floodwater out of properties anyway. There are other products available including artificial versions, which are more effective, easier to use and reusable. The National Flood Forum can advise you on these.
7. Maintain flood products
Once you have received the products/the work has been carried out, the last thing you want to happen is a failure of that product at a crucial time. Regular maintenance checks are necessary to ensure that the measures you have installed in your home will perform when required. See this guidance on maintaining flood protection products for more information.
Take care if having any alterations made to existing products such as flood doors as these may invalidate manufacturers’ warranties.
8. Practice your flood plan
Practice installing products such as flood barriers and check mechanisms on products like flood doors and valves regularly to ensure that you know how to use them and they are in good working order. Make sure your family, employees, neighbours and tenants know how to operate them in case your property is flooded when you are away, and offer to do the same for them.
9. Have a trigger for action
You should make sure you have signed up for flood warnings and have an up-to-date flood plan to ensure that you are able to deploy products quickly and take other measures to minimise damage during a flood.
Flash flooding is more difficult to predict but you could sign up for Met Office weather warnings, keep an eye on water levels and get updates from your local flood group or the Calder Valley Flood Support Facebook page.