Investing in flood prevention measures

Flooding in Surrey, February 2014
Image caption The road outside the Brice's home was heavily flooded

In February, flood waters rose to 2ft in Jacqueline and Ted Brice's bungalow in Surrey - destroying everything inside.

Now, nearly a year later, the clean-up operation is still ongoing.

In the UK, 5.2 million homes are in flood risk zones but only 1.7 million of these have had flood prevention measures installed.

The lack of action is partly the result of people being unaware that they live in a flood risk zone. It is also because householders do not believe it could happen to them.

But, during last winter, it did for thousands of people, including Mr and Mrs Brice.

Rebuilding wait

They had to wait four months before the house was certified as dry enough for works to begin. So far only four of the property's 11 rooms have been renovated.

While their insurance company has covered the cost of restoring their home, the Brices have invested in specialist flood proofing materials. They have to pick up the bill for these additions themselves.

"All these measures should mean that if there is a flood again it will be a clean up operation not a total evacuation and rebuild," says Mrs Brice.

The partition walls have all been rebuilt with flood resistant insulation - fibre glass absorbs flood water and must be replaced if it gets wet. In addition, the beams are water treated and the plaster board being used is a specialist anti-flood form of gypsum. All the floors are now marine ply with an Amtico covering.

Beyond using anti-flood, mould resistant materials, the Brices decided to increase the floor heights of their home as well.

Image caption Jacqueline Brice believes the investment in extra work is worth it

"We've lifted our floors by nearly 25cm," says Mrs Brice. "It means we have had to lift the heights of all our windows and doors as well but it gives us peace of mind.

"The windows have cost £4,000 to fix. The new anti-flood door cost £3,000. These are not bills that the insurance company are picking up but I think these improvements are money well spent."

They have also raised their mains box and all the power sockets in the house.

As their home was flooded between December and March last winter, the couple are eligible for a £5,000 government grant. However, under this scheme, homeowners have to cover the upfront costs before they can apply for the money.

Suggestions of ways to prepare a home against flood damage include:

  • Get an independent surveyor to assess your home and buy what is suggested such as door guards, air brick covers, water pumps
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk
  • Install "non return valves" to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home
  • Make sure your drains and gutters are clear
  • Elevate floors, if possible, and install flood and water resistant flooring, plaster board and insulation
  • Elevate kitchen units, bathtubs on plastic feet
  • Get watertight storage containers for items you do not want to move
  • Register with the Environment Agency website. They will send alerts if you are facing a flood
  • Insure your house and its contents. Specialist brokers may offer a cheaper option

Rebuilding after a flood is a perfect chance to make changes to a home, but even those that were not flooded last winter are making changes.

Neighbours of the Brices say that a bit of preparation could be the difference between having flood water in a home or not.

The National Flood Forum recommends that anyone living in a flood risk area should have an independent survey done on their home. Information on flood risk areas by postcode is available on the Environment Agency website.

"A survey can identify possible points of water entry and recommend what items you should buy that could prevent your home being damaged," says Heather Shepherd, of the National Flood Forum.

"Door guards, air brick covers, alternative airbags and one-way valves are all good products that can stop the water even entering your house in the first place."

Most specialist flood items can be bought online.

Insurance impact

Flood resilience measures might be expensive but they can reduce a household insurance premium.

"When it comes to calculating your insurance premiums, insurance companies will take into account any measures you have added to your home as well as any new broader flood defence measures that have been arranged in your area," says Malcolm Tarling, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The government has said it will spend £2.3bn over the next six years on flood defence infrastructure. Householders should ensure that their insurance company is made aware of any new defences that are built in an area that would reduce the flood risk to their home. This could reduce their premium.

Owners can also keep a cap on premiums by doing some research and shopping around. Specialist brokers might offer a better deal for insurance cover.

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