Going home after a flood
Life can be turned upside down when your home is flooded. Find out the next steps for repairing and restoring your property, and how your home insurance can help.
Preparing for possible flooding
Although floods can take us by surprise, when heavy rain is forecast there’s a chance your home might be affected so it’s important to be prepared.
Listen out for flood alerts in your area and check for flood warnings from the government.
If your home is vulnerable, move precious personal items and anything you’d want to protect to a safe or higher place. This includes electrical items, photographs and furniture.
Dig out your home insurance policy and note down the policy number and helpline - you may need this later.
If there’s time, consider using flood protection measures like sandbags and covering your airbricks.
Turn off your gas, electricity and water supply if flood water is about to enter your home.
- Most home insurance policies cover flood damage, but you’ll need contents insurance for your possessions
- Take photographs of the damage and mark the level of flood water in your home with a permanent pen
- Your insurer may send a loss adjuster to your home who could dispute or reduce your claim amount
- The Flood Re scheme can help you access affordable home insurance if you live in a flood-risk area
Immediately after a flood
If you have to stay in your home after it’s flooded, fill jugs and saucepans with clean water, gather essential items and move upstairs in plenty of time.
But always cooperate if the emergency services tell you to evacuate. If the flooding is serious, you’ll be taken to a temporary rest centre or will need to stay with family or friends.
Flooding can cause chaos, but once you’re safe there are several things you should do to help get things back on track:
1. Contact your insurance company
You’ll need to contact your insurance company as soon as possible and follow their advice - most insurers have a 24-hour helpline.
Explain what’s happened and determine whether you’ll need alternative accommodation. Depending on the damage they may send a loss adjuster to assess your home, so ask how long this will take.
Once it’s safe to go into your home, you’ll need to monitor and record the damage.
Take photos and videos before you clean up and mark the height of the flood water with a permanent pen in every room that’s affected.
If you haven’t got home insurance, the National Flood Forum can offer help and support.
2. Find your local flood action group or flood warden
If the flooding is serious in your area, a council-run flood hub may have been set up somewhere centrally, like the town hall.
Recovery efforts will be organised from here and it’s the first place you should go to get up-to-date information, support and advice.
3. Check if you can return home
If you’ve had to leave your home, don’t be tempted to go back in until you’ve checked it’s safe to return.
You may need to get the all clear from the emergency services first. And your utility companies might want to do a safety inspection before your gas, electricity and water are turned back on.
4. Secure your home
Once you’re able to go back into your home, check to see whether the external doors and windows are still secure.
It’s important to make sure that thieves and opportunists don’t have easy access to your home while it’s empty.
Close all doors to rooms that are unaffected and move any valuables to somewhere lockable and secure.
Before you can move back in
If your home has been flooded, you’ll be itching to get things cleaned up and back to normal as soon as possible.
But before you start, make sure you take photographs or videos of the affected areas and items in your home.
You’ll need to provide your insurers with these, as well as a list of all the items and belongings that are damaged. Don’t throw anything away without checking with your insurer first.
Your insurer may send a loss adjuster to survey the damage. The result of their assessment may reduce the cost of your claim, so you might need to negotiate or dispute this.
If you’re still not happy you can contact the Financial Ombudsman.
Check with your insurers before you start tackling the mess. They may want to use a specialist flood management company to clean contaminated areas and prevent secondary damage to your home.
Floodwater is very dirty and can contain sewage, chemicals and animal waste so you should always wear protective clothing, wellies, rubber gloves and a mask when clearing up.
But before you clean, make sure your electricity is turned off - you may need to use a qualified electrician to do this and to check when it’s safe to use again.
Drying out your home
A key part of making your home liveable again is drying it out. Start by opening windows to get the air flowing and to stop moisture from building up.
You can use a pump and generator to get rid of any standing water. But always put the generator outside as some can release dangerous carbon monoxide fumes.
Dehumidifiers can also be used to dry out rooms, but you’ll need to close your windows first. Your insurer may organise these for you but check to see if they’ll refund you for the electricity costs.
Flooding can cause structural damage as well as ruining interiors. So once your home is dry, your insurer will arrange for plumbers, electricians and builders to make essential repairs as quickly as possible.
Your insurer’s loss adjuster will explain the timetable for repairing and restoring your home and which specialists will be involved.
They may also offer suggestions for how to make your home more flood-resilient, like using water-resistant flooring or moving electrical sockets higher up the wall.
Restoring your home after a flood
Although insurers have their own team of registered contractors for this type of work, it may be possible to use your own builder or decorator if you prefer.
However, you’ll be responsible for making sure whoever you use is competent - your insurer won’t pay to correct poor workmanship.
Your insurer may also limit the cost of repairs to what they’d be if their own approved tradespeople were being used for the work.
And while the insurer will cover restoring your home to its original state, you’ll need to pay the difference if the cost comes to more than the cover amount on your policy.
Replacing contents damaged by floodwater
You should be able to claim for any flood-damaged items through your contents insurance policy.
Carefully go through your home to see what’s damaged and beyond repair. Don’t forget to check tools and equipment kept in the shed or appliances stored in kitchen cupboards.
Check the excess on your policy and the sum covered. Make sure to read the small print carefully. Your insurer will tell you what information they need to support your claim, like photographs and receipts.
Most contents insurance policies will replace damaged items with similar new ones.
But if you’ve got indemnity cover, the wear and tear of items will be taken into account. This means the insurer will only pay what they were worth when the flood happened.
Getting help to cope with a flood
If you’re a homeowner, it’s usually your responsibility to pay for flood damage repairs, which is why it’s important to have the right type and amount of cover.
But if you don’t have home insurance, your local council should be able to tell you whether you’re eligible for any hardship funds.
The National Flood Forum can also help if you don’t have insurance. They provide a range of services, information and advice to people affected by or at risk of flooding.
There are also charities like British Red Cross that can offer practical and emotional support to people in flooded areas.
Moving back in after a flood
Brace yourself for a long wait. The process of drying, cleaning and repairing your home may take several months and could even last a year or more, but don’t be afraid to ask for updates.
Once the repairs are finished, you’ll need to get confirmation from your insurance company or loss adjuster that it’s safe to move back in.
If there’s a working kitchen and bathroom, you may be able to stay while repairs are being made. But using any rooms where there’s a high level of moisture can impact your health.
As soon as all the repairs are done and your home has fully dried out, you can return and enjoy living as normal.
Can I get insurance if I live in a flood-risk area?
Yes, if you’ve already experienced a flood, or live in an area that’s at high risk of flooding, you should still be able to get insurance.
Thanks to a government scheme called Flood Re, you can buy home insurance from one of the participating insurers.
But because not all insurers are taking part in this scheme, it’s still important to check your policy carefully to make sure you’re covered for flooding.
If you’re struggling to find an insurer to provide you with flood insurance, you could consider using a specialist broker. You can find one through the British Brokers’ Association.
How to protect your property from future floods
There are various measures you can use to help prevent or minimise the impact of any future flooding that might affect your home:
Seal external walls
Apply a sealant to the walls to create a waterproof layer and protect your home from moisture
Replace wooden floors and carpets
Lay vinyl or ceramic tiles and use rugs for extra warmth and comfort.
Move electrical sockets
Re-siting your electric sockets to a height of around 1.5m above the floor means they’re less likely to be damaged by flooding
Consider raising your door thresholds above the flood level and changing wooden doors for synthetic ones
Replace MDF and chipboard units
Use units that are made from more water-resistant materials, like solid wood, plastic or aluminium
Fit water-resistant skirting boards
You can buy plastic skirting boards that are less absorbent than wood and should only require wiping down
Protect your air bricks
You can either invest in water-resistant air bricks or use some flood-tight air brick covers when flooding looks likely
Strengthen your pipework
Fit non-return valves to all drains and water inlet pipes to prevent water from backing up and flooding your home