Think water damage is no big deal? Think again. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), just a single inch of water in your home can cause $25,000 in property damage.
Flood insurance can protect you against these losses. But what if you can proactively stop damage from happening in the first place? This guide will show you how to prevent flood damage in your home or business.
Understanding the Risk
Floods are a near-daily occurrence in the United States. Every year, at least 300 days report one or more floods across the country— a pattern that’s continued since 2000. Water damage can come from sources such as:
- Flash Flood: Caused by heavy rainfall in a short period, usually within 6 hours
- River Flood: Occurs when river waters rise above the top of river banks
- Coastal Flood: Caused by high tides and worsened by rainfall and offshore winds
- Pluvial Flood: Happens in flat areas where the ground can’t absorb enough rainwater
- Groundwater Flood: Happens when the water table rises above the surface of the ground
- Urban Flood: Happens when rain/snowmelt overwhelms a city’s drainage system
While certain types of floods are more common in certain regions, every state in the US is affected by flooding.
FEMA reports that total flood insurance claims average around $4 billion annually. And even a single inch of water can cause $25,000 worth of damage to a single home or business. That is to say nothing of the potential danger of floods, which claim an average of 88 lives every year. Flood victims report that they “don’t sleep well when it’s raining,” and even minor damage can leave homeowners unsettled about their future safety.
Evaluate Your Property’s Vulnerability
Some regions are more prone to flooding than others. For example, the closer you are to the coast or a river, the more likely you will experience coastal or river flooding. Elevated homes experience less risk of flood damage, while properties with a basement are more vulnerable to water leaking from flash floods or rising water.
You can evaluate your risk using a FEMA website flood map. Simply enter your zip code to receive a specified map. You’ll notice that FEMA superimposes a series of letters to designate flood risk areas:
- High-risk areas are marked with the letters “A” or “V”
- Moderate- to low-risk areas are marked with the letters “B,” “C,” or “X”
For example, if you live in a high-risk flood area, there’s a 25% chance of flooding during the lifespan of a 30-year mortgage.
How to Prevent a Flood in Your Home
Since you can’t always avoid flood areas, learning how to prevent flood damage to your home or business is important. Here are some ways to prevent flooding in your home.
Proper Landscaping and Drainage
Make sure your yard slopes away from your house — never toward it. You may have to build up any sunken areas using heavy soil (containing sand or clay) around your foundation to ensure a clear path for runoff from your roof or gutters. Keep your gutters free from debris so runoff can flow safely through these channels and away from your foundation.
Vegetation can assist in absorbing excess rainfall, and the root systems can also mitigate soil erosion. But avoid having larger trees too close to your home, as their root systems can damage your foundation.
Foundation and Basement Protection
Your landscaping can play an essential role in protecting your home’s foundation, but you can also install some additional features to prevent flooding in house. Start with a sump pump, which pumps water out of basements and transports it outside.
You can also install a flood vent — a small, permanent opening that allows water to flow freely through the walls of your foundation or garage. The goal is to position these vents to allow floodwater to flow more easily and prevent a buildup of pressure that can damage your walls or foundation.
Improve the safety of your home by elevating utilities. These include:
- Air conditioning condenser units
- Heat pumps
- Water meters
- Exterior electrical outlet
How high off the ground should you raise these items? Aim to have them at least twelve inches above the potential flood elevation. You can also anchor exterior fuel tanks or other equipment to prevent damage due to floodwaters.
Granted, this step won’t protect home from flooding, but it will minimize damage to your utilities and prevent an interruption in service during a severe storm or flash flood event.
Home Improvements With Flood-Resistant Materials
If you want to learn how to stop flood water from entering a house, you might consider the actual construction of your home. Elevating your home with piers or stilts is an expensive option, though it may be worth it if you live in a coastal area prone to frequent floods.
Otherwise, you might consider some of the above methods to protect your home’s exterior. Seal any cracks in your foundation, walls, windows, or doors to prevent water from entering your home.
You might also consider using flood-resistant materials in your home’s interior. For instance, if you have a basement or living area below ground level, you might use materials that resist water damage. Consider doing the following:
- Replacing wooden floors or carpets with vinyl, rubber, or ceramic tile
- Using lime plaster, cement board, concrete, or pressure-treated wood on walls/ceilings
- Replacing wooden doors or frames with metal or flood-resistant materials
These minor improvements may have an upfront cost, but you’ll avoid the higher price of repairing flood damage to non-resistant materials.
Safe Storage and Emergency Plans
While there are ways to prevent flooding in your home, you should also have a contingency plan to protect yourself, your family, and your most valuable possessions. A waterproof safe can preserve essential documents; larger safes can accommodate important possessions, family photo albums, and more.
It’s also crucial to make an emergency plan. Your plan might include:
- Gathering your family in a secure, designated area
- Activating your sump pump
- Shutting off electricity at the breaker panel
- Moving furniture, rugs, electronics, and other items out of danger zones
- Elevating major appliances (washer, drier, etc.) on concrete blocks
If you anticipate a flood, you can use temporary flood barriers such as sandbags or flood skirts to redirect water and protect your home.
Regular Property Maintenance and Monitoring
Have you noticed a recent crack in your home’s foundation? You’ll want to address it right away. Ignoring these cracks and defects will only make you more vulnerable in the event of a flood. At least once a year, perform the following maintenance duties to ensure your home remains flood-resistant:
- Inspect your home’s exterior for cracks and damage
- Evaluate your runoff and drainage system
- Clean your gutters and inspect downspouts to prevent blockage
- Keep foundation vents clear of debris
- Ensure that outdoor equipment is anchored securely
- Reapply waterproof sealers or coatings
During winter, you’ll also want to clear away any snow or ice from your foundation to prevent flood damage from melting snow.
If you live in a high-risk area, you might consider installing a flood alert system. These alarm systems can alert you to the risk of imminent flooding so you can take immediate action and minimize flood damage. These systems are a great way to prevent flooding.
Participation in Community Flood Preparedness Programs
Many communities have some type of flood preparedness program. They may offer tips on how to prevent flooding in homes and insight on what to do if a flood occurs.
At the most basic level, flood preparedness programs can help you and your neighbors develop strategies to protect against rising floodwaters. Since your properties are in the same area, working together to ensure proper grading and drainage or deploying sandbags and other protective measures when facing a flood is essential.
In other settings, a flood preparedness program can provide a community-wide emergency plan, giving clear instructions on evacuating safely or listing any resources available during an area-wide flood.
Secure Flood Insurance Coverage
While knowing how to prevent flood waters from damaging your home or business is important, some damage cannot be prevented entirely. That’s why home or business owners must invest in flood insurance.
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy will not offer provisions for flood damage, which is why this additional coverage is necessary. And if you live within one of FEMA’s high-risk zones, flood insurance is mandatory.
Companies like Rocket Flood make it easy. You can get a quote in less than three minutes, and the fast, easy process gives you access to affordable, comprehensive coverage for your property. Coverage goes up to $20,000,000 for the building, with as much as $5,000,000 for any personal contents.
Additional Safety Tips
Knowing how to protect your home from flooding is vital, but staying safe is more important. Before the waters ever start to rise, take steps to protect yourself, your home, and your family.
Create an Emergency Kit
Start by creating an emergency kit. This kit should provide enough supplies to last three days. Make sure to include:
- One gallon of water per person per day
- Non-perishable food
- Manual can-opener
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Extra clothing
- Paper and pencil
Make it a priority to check this kit at least once a year and restock as necessary. That includes checking the expiration date on your food and batteries so you’re not caught with old supplies during an emergency.
Develop a Family Emergency Plan
Families should develop an emergency plan during a flood. Ensure that every family member can answer the following questions:
- Where are the electrical breakers located to shut off power?
- Where will your family meet during an emergency?
- Are the electrical appliances turned off in your room?
- Do you know how to activate the sump pump?
- Where is the family safe located?
Everyone in your household must know how to stop flooding in a house since you and your spouse may not be present during an emergency situation.
Elevate Valuable Items and Documents
Ideally, your most valuable items and documents should be stored in a waterproof safe. You can purchase various sizes and configurations of safes to accommodate multiple items. But if you can’t keep everything in a safe, you can elevate your most valuable items above the expected flood level.
That can include raising your electronic devices or using concrete blocks to elevate major appliances such as your washing machine, dryer, chest freezer, or other items. Always unplug these appliances to prevent water from shorting out the electronic components.
Secure Your Home’s Utilities
Elevate your interior and exterior electrical outlets, especially in your basement, which is more prone to rising flood waters. Anchor your electrical meter and other external utilities to your house to prevent water from sweeping them away.
Familiarize yourself with your home’s breaker box so you can shut off power to prevent damage to your home’s appliances.
Protect Your Home With Rocket Flood
Now that you know how to prevent flood damage, your next step is to secure the right insurance coverage. If you live in a high-risk area, flood insurance is a requirement.
Start by getting a fast, easy quote from Rocket Flood. Our no-hassle process can connect you to flood insurance that’s as affordable as it is comprehensive. Learn what Flood zone AE and how it affects insurance cost. Don’t wait for the next weather report. Start your journey today.
About The Author
Garrett Mitchell is an experienced author and speaker in the field of insurance and financial planning, with a focus on educating homeowners and business owners about flood insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). He is known for his clear and easy-to-understand writing style and engaging presentations.