When you buy a home, you’ll like­ly look at every aspect of your new neigh­bour­hood, the home itself, and any cli­mate haz­ards that might be com­mon in the area. If you’re house hunt­ing in a loca­tion where there’s a high risk of flood­ing, you’ll like­ly need to pur­chase flood insur­ance. In addi­tion to hav­ing flood insur­ance to pro­tect your home, there are sev­er­al steps you can take to learn how to pre­pare for a flood.

From melt­ing snow to exces­sive rain brought on by a hur­ri­cane, a vari­ety of nat­ur­al dis­as­ters can cause flood dam­age to your home. Here are nine tips you can fol­low to pro­tect your home from flood­ing.

How to protect your home from flooding

Many peo­ple think a stan­dard home­own­ers insur­ance pol­i­cy includes cov­er­age for flood dam­age, but it doesn’t. Flood dam­age is cov­ered only by flood insur­ance, a sep­a­rate pol­i­cy. Accord­ing to the Nation­al Flood Insur­ance Pro­gram (NFIP), almost 20 per­cent of all flood claims come from areas con­sid­ered to be at a low to mod­er­ate risk for flood­ing. 

1) Get flood insurance

You should con­sid­er get­ting flood insur­ance even if your home is not in a high-risk flood zone. For exam­ple, should your home flood just one inch, the dam­age can cost you upwards of $25,000. Your mort­gage lender may require you to have flood insur­ance cov­er­age even if your home is locat­ed in a mod­er­ate-to-low-risk area. While you can pur­chase flood insur­ance any­time, note that it won’t take effect until 30 days after you’ve paid your pre­mi­um.

To see the flood risk in your area, check out the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA)’s Map Ser­vice Cen­ter. The map can help deter­mine if your home, or one you’re con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing, is in a high-risk flood zone. Know­ing what type of flood zone your home is in can help you choose ade­quate flood insur­ance cov­er­age. 


2) Install a battery-powered sump pump

A sump pump will remove excess water from your base­ment and relo­cate it to a dry well or storm drain. Sump pumps require elec­tric­i­ty to oper­ate, so it’s a good idea to install a bat­tery-oper­at­ed back­up so the pump will con­tin­ue to work even if the pow­er goes out. The aver­age cost of installing a sump pump is about $1,200, but it’s a sol­id invest­ment to help pro­tect your home from flood­ing or min­i­mize flood dam­age.

To pre­pare for a flood, it’s best to seal base­ment walls with a water­proof­ing com­pound to pre­vent seep­age through cracks. If you’re unsure where to begin, con­tact a pro­fes­sion­al who can help you water­proof your base­ment and oth­er areas of your home vul­ner­a­ble to a flood.

3) Invest in flood sensors

Flood sen­sors are a proac­tive approach to lim­it­ing flood dam­age. They are placed in var­i­ous loca­tions through­out your home and will alert you when water is detect­ed in a loca­tion that should be dry, such as the base­ment. A flood sen­sor will help you quick­ly respond to a flood. It will also noti­fy you of oth­er events that can cause severe water dam­age, like a bro­ken pipe or over­flow­ing sink.

Inte­grat­ing flood sen­sors into your home secu­ri­ty or home automa­tion is just anoth­er step to help pro­tect your home from flood­ing. Your home secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny can help you find suit­able flood sen­sors for your liv­ing space. 

4) Install an automatic shutoff valve and check the valve

When installed in a strate­gic loca­tion, an auto­mat­ed shut­off valve can help pre­vent sig­nif­i­cant flood dam­age to your home. An auto­mat­ic shut­off valve is locat­ed near the pri­ma­ry water inlet in your house and shuts off the main water sup­ply when a flood sen­sor is acti­vat­ed. They are bat­tery-pow­ered, and thanks to wire­less tech­nol­o­gy, no wires are run­ning from the flood sen­sors to the auto­mat­ed shut­off valve. Like flood sen­sors, an auto­mat­ed shut­off valve can be inte­grat­ed into many mon­i­tored home secu­ri­ty and automa­tion sys­tems.

You can install check valves in plumb­ing to pre­vent flood water from back­ing up into the drains of your home. How­ev­er, if you’re fac­ing an imme­di­ate flood risk and don’t have such valves, you can use large corks or stop­pers to plug drains in show­ers, tubs, or basins to pro­tect your home.

5) Elevate the water heater and major appliances

To pre­pare your home for a flood, be sure your water heater, fur­nace, and sig­nif­i­cant appli­ances, such as the wash­er and dry­er, are at least one foot off the ground. You can choose a tem­po­rary solu­tion, such as plac­ing them on cement blocks and rein­forc­ing them with sand­bags, ply­wood sheets, or oth­er stur­dy bar­ri­ers. Or you can opt for a more per­ma­nent solu­tion, like a cement pedestal. If you live in a warm city like Hous­ton, TX, or Tam­pa, FL and have an out­door HVAC unit, make sure it is also ele­vat­ed one foot off the ground. 

An HVAC pro­fes­sion­al can help you relo­cate your fur­nace, water heater, and oth­er major appli­ances. If you man­age to keep your water heater undam­aged, it may be your best source of fresh water after a severe flood. You can also con­sid­er call­ing an elec­tri­cian to help move your home’s elec­tric pan­el to a less like­ly flood­ed place.

6) Add barriers or sandbags around your home

If your local build­ing codes per­mit it, you can con­struct bar­ri­ers around your house’s perime­ter. Beams, lev­ees, and flood­walls can help stop flood water from enter­ing your prop­er­ty. You can also add sand­bags around your doors if per­ma­nent bar­ri­ers are not an option to pro­tect your home from flood dam­age. 

Faced with an immi­nent flood threat, two peo­ple can fill and place 100 sand­bags in about one hour to cre­ate a pro­tec­tive wall one foot high and 20 feet long. Fol­low weath­er alerts on the radio or TV news to see if your com­mu­ni­ty offers free sand­bags. 

7) Create an emergency flood plan and home inventory list

Now that you’ve made steps to pro­tect your home from flood­ing, it’s time to learn how else you can save your house­hold. Some­times a flood hap­pens quick­ly, leav­ing home­own­ers with lit­tle time to plan an escape. Prepar­ing and prac­tis­ing a flood escape plan with your house­hold semi-year­ly is essen­tial. Mem­bers of your fam­i­ly should know safe places they can go if they can’t get home due to flood­ed streets. They should also be warned of the dan­gers of a flood. For exam­ple, fast-mov­ing water can appear safe but quick­ly sweep them off their feet. 

If you don’t already have a home inven­to­ry, now is the time to cre­ate one. To make fil­ing a flood insur­ance claim eas­i­er, ensure you have the pur­chase date, approx­i­mate val­ue, and doc­u­men­ta­tion of your belong­ings. You can cre­ate a home inven­to­ry list as a writ­ten copy, a dig­i­tal index, or a visu­al record­ing like video or pho­tos. 

8) Safeguard necessary paperwork

Gath­er infor­ma­tion you might need dur­ing and after a flood and place it in a water­proof doc­u­ment con­tain­er. Include a copy of your flood insur­ance pol­i­cy and your insur­ance provider’s con­tact infor­ma­tion. Also include copies of oth­er nec­es­sary paper­work, such as the deed to your house, birth cer­tifi­cates, and health insur­ance cards. It’s also impor­tant to have elec­tron­ic copies where you can secure­ly access them should some­thing hap­pen to the paper copies. To be bet­ter pre­pared for a pos­si­ble flood, ensure these doc­u­ments are secured and acces­si­ble.

9) Put together an emergency kit

Now that you have an emer­gency flood plan and have safe­guard­ed essen­tial doc­u­ments, it’s time to put togeth­er an emer­gency kit. From a long-term pow­er out­age to a nat­ur­al dis­as­ter, like a flood, a well-stocked emer­gency kit can help you and your house­hold nav­i­gates unex­pect­ed cir­cum­stances. In addi­tion to first-aid sup­plies, your fam­i­ly emer­gency kit should con­tain the fol­low­ing:

  • MRE’s (Meal, Ready-to-Eat)
  • Canned food
  • Bot­tled water
  • Blan­kets
  • At least one flash­light with extra bat­ter­ies
  • Change of clothes for each house­hold mem­ber
  • Toi­letries and essen­tial pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tions

Addi­tion­al items you may want to include in your emer­gency kit are insur­ance poli­cies, copies of impor­tant doc­u­ments, emer­gency cash, and portable charg­ers. Make sure to store the kit in a loca­tion that every house­hold mem­ber can access. Floods can cause dam­age that’s both wide­spread and expen­sive. How­ev­er, with the prop­er pre­cau­tions, knowl­edge, and prepa­ra­tion, you can take steps to min­i­mize the risk of flood dam­age to your home. 

Writ­ten by Ali­son Bent­ley

Ini­tial­ly pub­lished by Redfin.

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Brandon Baum
Brandon Baum has been at Protection Plus since he was born in 1998. Since Graduating from Ryerson in 2020, he has been at the company full-time. Currently, his title is Chief Security Officer.