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Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you can make, so it’s essential to safeguard your property against potential losses, like floods. While homeowners insurance can offer some protection against flooding, not every source of flooding (and the resulting water damage) is covered. Plus, a separate flood insurance policy only offers financial protection after the damage is already done. As a homeowner, protecting your house against flooding starts with preventative action. Learn what steps you can take to prevent flooding in your home.
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.
|Blue (without Base Flood Elevation [BFE])||1% annual-chance||Homes in the blue zone have a relatively high risk of flooding, where there could be a major flood at least once every 100 years. Homeowners in this zone should consider flood insurance, and 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 lower risk for flooding in the orange 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||FEMA’s yellow zone means there is an “undetermined” risk of flooding. If your home is located in the yellow zone, learn more about 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 install 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 home may sustain less damage, especially on the inside. 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 your home 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 possible water damage.
Have a contractor contact on file
In the event of a flood (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. If you don’t already have a contractor in mind, ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations, or see if your insurance carrier can recommend a reputable professional.