How to help protect your home against flooding
Last updated: January 1
As a homeowner, you can take steps — both big and small — to help protect your home in the event a flood threatens your area.
Before you decide what steps to take, it may help to know your property’s flood risk. You can find information on your property’s exposure to flooding by searching your address on the flood maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These maps call out areas that are prone to flooding and identify high-risk, moderate-risk and low-risk spots.
Once you’ve determined your property’s threat level, you may want to tailor a plan to address those needs.
Basic flood protection steps
Even if you're in a low-risk area, there are some relatively simple things you can do to help reduce the chance of future flood damage, says FEMA:
- Keep gutters clear: Keep gutters and storm drains clear of debris to allow for a free flow of water.
- Elevate utilities: Set your furnace, water heater, electric panel and other critical equipment on pedestals, relocate them to higher floors or, if you have an outdoor fuel tank, anchor it to a concrete slab.
- Seal the foundation: Patch foundation cracks (use mortar and masonry caulk or hydraulic cement) and then apply a waterproofing sealer to basement walls.
- Install a sump pump: Use basement sump pumps with a battery backup, so the system still works during a power failure. Also be sure to talk to your insurance provider, as you will likely need to add optional coverage to your homeowners policy to be covered against water backup damage caused by sump pump failure. Also be sure to talk to your insurance provider, as you will likely need to add optional coverage to your homeowners policy to be covered against water backup damage caused by sump pump failure.
If you need assistance with any of these asks, consult a professional.
Major flood protection steps
If you're in a high-risk area, you may want to take more substantial measures.
If you're building a new home, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) suggests inspecting your home's site to determine the base flood elevation for the property, which is the height that floodwaters are predicted to rise during a flood that has just a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. The key is to make sure your builder meets or exceeds those elevation levels (which may also reduce your flood insurance rates, according to FEMA).
While it's possible to elevate an existing home above flood levels, that isn't always practical. FEMA says there are still important measures you can take to retrofit your home:
- Improve landscaping: Adjust the slope of the lot or design a swale (a shallow, sloping ditch) to carry water away.
- Wet floodproof your property: Install openings in a crawlspace or basement that allow floodwaters to enter and exit freely. These openings may help reduce pressure that sometimes causes a home's walls to cave in.
- Dry floodproof your property: Add a waterproof coating to exterior walls to help prevent floodwater from passing through. You may also want to consider buying waterproof shields to cover openings, such as doorways.
- Construct a floodwall: Build a water-tight brick or concrete floodwall to help prevent water from entering an outside window well or stairwell, or to surround and protect utilities indoors.
Retrofitting your home can be a big job, so you may want to hire a professional to do the work.
While these measures can help reduce future flood damage, they simply can't eliminate all risk, says FEMA. That's why flood insurance can be an important part of your mitigation strategy. A local insurance agent can help you purchase flood insurance, which helps pay to repair your home or belongings if, despite your best prevention efforts, they are damaged by floodwater.