Flood prevention advice & tips

Front door with sandbags and flooded street.

Flooding can be a major risk to your safety, your home and your possessions. Even a minor leak can damage your property and its contents. That's why it's good to keep flood prevention in mind and have a plan for what to do if the worst does happen.

Read on for our flooding tips and advice, so you're prepared if a pipe bursts or a storm strikes.

At Hastings Direct, we know how important your home and its contents are to you. That's why we offer home insurance that covers you for the unexpected expense that theft, loss and damage can bring. Plus, you can choose from a great range of optional extras.

What causes flooding?

There are several causes of flooding, both internal and external.

Within your home, burst pipes are a major cause. This is especially likely to happen in winter when your pipes can freeze up and crack. When the ice thaws your pipes will burst. Faulty radiators and boilers are also potential sources of water damage, as are blocked gutters.

Outside your home, heavy rains and storms can cause water levels to rise, presenting a risk to your property and even your personal safety.

The UK's changing climate is also likely to see more sudden heavy storms in years to come.

How likely is my home to flood?

Risks are higher if you live near a river that might burst its banks, especially if your home is on a flood plain.

In coastal areas, storm surges can push seawater towards the shore, threatening nearby properties.

Even inland areas away from rivers or up hills can suffer surface or flash flooding. This happens when heavy rainwater can't drain away, for example from concrete surfaces.

Check whether you live in a flood risk area. If your property is vulnerable, you should sign up for the free warning service and have a flood-prevention plan in place.

How can you prevent flooding at your home?

Flood prevention is always better than cure. The following measures should help you prepare for water coming in and avoid damage:

  • Lag your pipes and water tanks to prevent freezing in winter. Don't forget those in unheated areas of your property, such as attics
  • If going away, set your central heating to make sure your room temperature never drops below zero. If you'll be away for a long time, drain your system and turn off the water supply at the stopcock
  • Fix dripping taps, as even a small trickle can freeze and burst your pipes
  • Get your boiler serviced regularly to check for damage
  • Look out for signs of leaks in radiators or other appliances
  • If a pipe freezes, thaw it gradually using hot water bottles, a towel soaked in hot water or a hairdryer on the lowest setting. Start at the end nearest the tap
  • If a pipe bursts, turn the water off at the stopcock and turn on all your taps to drain your system
  • Clear any debris from your gutters and downpipes regularly, and make sure all run-off points are unblocked.

If you know your home is in a high-risk area, there are several extra flood-prevention measures you can take:

  • Get expert advice on making your home as flood resistant as possible. This could include installing flood-proof UPVC doors, skirting boards and window frames; plastering external walls with a waterproof coating; and even installing floodgates at your doors
  • Buy water pumps to help get rid of any standing water in your home and install backflow valves on drains to prevent overflowing sewage coming into your home
  • Keep sandbags in your garage or garden shed in case of emergency
  • Place all important documents, such as passports and insurance policy documents, in watertight containers and keep them high above ground level
  • Make sure you know how you; your family and your pets can get to safety in the event of a disaster
  • Look out for flood warnings on TV or the radio.

How to prevent flood damage

If there's external flooding, you may not be able to stop the water coming inside, but there are precautions you can take to limit the damage:

  • Make sure all electrical sockets are raised at least 1.5m off the floor
  • Mount TVs on walls and place other electrical appliances on tables, shelves, or worktops
  • Replace carpets with ceramic floor coverings, which are easier to clean after any water damage.

What should you do during a flood?

If you know a storm is coming or nearby rivers are liable to burst their banks, take the following action promptly:

  • Move your vehicles to higher ground if possible
  • Switch off the electricity at the mains
  • Place sandbags around your doors if possible
  • Store important documents and valuables in watertight bags or containers somewhere dry and high up
  • Pack a bag in case you need to evacuate. Include changes of clothes and any essential medications. Pack a torch, mobile phone, batteries and chargers too
  • Get pet carriers or leads ready
  • If you can't leave your home because of floodwater, call the emergency services immediately.

Always follow police advice and be prepared to get yourself and your family to safety in an emergency. If you're ordered to leave your home, the authorities will arrange evacuation centres if there's nowhere else you can stay.

Remember: floods often occur hours or even days after a storm, so keep an eye out for warnings from the Environment Agency.

Check this government flooding advice for more information.

What to do if your house has water damage

Once the flood has receded, it's time to inspect the damage:

  • When it's safe, remove whatever debris you can. Be careful, as there could be hidden dangers in the water such as sharp objects and pollution. Wear protective clothing
  • Don't walk into standing water if the electricity hasn't been switched off at the mains
  • Get a qualified person to check appliances are safe before you turn them back on
  • Inspect the damage and take photos for your insurance company.

Once you're sure it's safe, contact your insurance company for advice on how to make a claim. At Hastings Direct, our team will be happy to help you get back on your feet and restore your home to its former standard.

Get a home insurance quote with Hastings Direct today.

Home insurance

At Hastings Direct, we know how important your home and its contents are to you. That's why we offer home insurance that covers you for the unexpected expense that theft, loss and damage can bring. Plus you can choose from a great range of optional extras.