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How to prevent your home from flooding

Sandbags Outside Front Door Of House to prevent flooding
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As a responsible homeowner, you want to do what you can to protect what is likely your biggest financial investment. That almost always means ensuring you have homeowners insurance from a reputable company. With this policy in place, you create financial safeguards for your residence against a broad range of perils.

It is not uncommon for homeowners to assume that because their homeowners insurance policy may cover water damage, that encompasses floods. However, this is a misconception. In fact, homeowners insurance typically excludes flooding, which means you would need a separate flood insurance policy to cover repairs and rebuilding in the event a flood causes damage to your home.

That rings particularly true for homeowners in areas where the risk of flooding is high. Fortunately, if you buy flood insurance and put some flood prevention tactics in place, you can better protect your residence — and your finances — from extensive loss.

Evaluate your home’s flood risk

Are you a homeowner who should be implementing flood prevention? If you live in an area with flood risk, you may want to consider flood-proofing your house.

It is fairly simple to determine whether or not you are in an area with a moderate or high risk of flooding; check the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone map. When you pull up your address, the map may be shaded a specific color. (You may need to zoom in and out to get the colors to load.) If your home is in an area shaded by any of the colors below, note the preparation recommended by FEMA for that zone. Your home may be at-risk for flooding and recommended flood prevention steps or precautions may help you prepare.

Zone Risk Preparation
Blue (without Base Flood Elevation [BFE]) 1% annual-chance Although risk in this zone is lower, you may still prefer to purchase flood insurance. You may also want to consider flood-proofing measures like elevating the base floor of your house.
Orange 0.2% annual-chance zones While you have a low risk for flooding in this zone, the chance still exists. Consult with your general contractor or home builder to determine any recommended flood precautions and consider flood insurance if you want to be financially protected.
Yellow Undetermined flood risk Determine the flood history in your neighborhood and assess your home for flood precautions included in construction. You may want to — or be required to — obtain an elevation certificate. This will help you better determine your home’s flood risk.
Blue with red stripes Regulatory floodways If a flood should impact your area, efforts will be made to redirect the water to the designated floodway to discharge it and mitigate damage in the surrounding area. Development in regulatory floodways is heavily regulated. If your home is located in a floodway, flood insurance and flood prevention measures are highly-recommended by experts.

Prepare your home for flooding

If you need extra motivation to undertake flood prevention at your house, consider this: even a single inch of water can do $25,000 of damage to your home.

Although some areas are at higher risk of flooding than others, flooding is possible in most areas under extreme circumstances. Preparing your home for flooding is the recommended way to proactively prepare for a potential loss.

Here are some of the precautions experts recommend as means of flood-proofing a house:

Evaluate your home’s drainage

The grade around your home should slope away from your foundation. The next time it rains, observe to confirm that water moves away from your home and is not pooling in any areas on your property. A general contractor may provide suggestions for ways to resolve problems with drainage.

Additionally, as a flood-proofing house measure, homeowners can instal backwater valves to prevent flood water from backing up into your home.

Consider dry proofing your house

If flood waters cannot enter your home, your post-flood damages will likely be dramatically lessened. Dry proofing — also called dry floodproofing — aims to seal up your house against flood waters. The EU’s effort Resilience-Increasing Strategies for Coasts (RISC) recommends the following practices:

  • Adding flood shields to your home openings
  • Raising the thresholds of your doors
  • Improving sealing around your doors and windows

Chapter 7 (page 122) of this FEMA PDF gives more information about dry proofing.

Dry floodproofing can be a major undertaking. If completely sealing your home against flood waters requires more resources than you have at your disposal, another option is to take wet floodproofing measures. These flood prevention tactics work to mitigate the aftereffects of a flood by ensuring that water flows out of your house once water levels recede outside.

Use flood-resistant materials

Flood-resistant materials are created to help flood-proof houses. These materials are specifically designed to sustain little or no damage even after prolonged water exposure.

FEMA distinguishes between different classes of flood-resistant materials. Use its guide to determine the right material quality for your home.

Elevate utilities and appliances

Determine your area’s base flood elevation (BFE) and, whenever possible, elevate appliances and utilities above that level. Not only will this potentially help prevent costly damage to those features, but it can keep your home functioning following a flood.

If flood waters rise in your area, be sure to turn off your home’s power before electrical systems can become compromised and to reduce the risk of electrical shocks (water and electricity are a hazardous combination).

Rearrange your house

If you want to prepare for flooding but you lack the budget to make any significant changes to your house, consider this low-cost option. Rearrange so the bulk of your living space or high-value items are located on the upper stories of your home. If you live in a single-story home, move valuables to higher surfaces where possible to help protect them from water damage.

Have a contractor contact on file

In the event of flooding (or even for other potential losses), you will likely want to restore your home to its pre-flood condition as quickly as possible. If you already have the information for a contractor you trust on file, getting that process started becomes much easier. Many general contractors will work with your insurer in the claims process to discuss necessary repairs, so having a contractor you have vetted is a huge plus.


Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?

Flood insurance is separate from homeowners insurance. While the two are purchased separately as standalone policies, your homeowners insurance provider may facilitate the process of obtaining flood insurance through a government program or private insurer. If you live in an area with a risk for flooding, experts typically recommend you get flood insurance quotes in addition to your home insurance quotes. Be sure to account for the cost of flood insurance along with the cost of your home’s policy when determining coverage limits and the value of your home and belongings.

Where can I get flood insurance?

While many private insurance companies offer flood insurance policies, you may also be able to secure coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This guide may help you start finding a flood policy that fits your needs.

Written by
Kacie Goff
Personal Finance Contributor
Kacie Goff is a personal finance and insurance writer with over seven years of experience covering personal and commercial coverage options. She writes for Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, NextAdvisor, Varo Money, Coverage, Best Credit Cards and more. She's covered a broad range of policy types — including less-talked-about coverages like wrap insurance and E&O — and she specializes in auto, homeowners and life insurance.