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With flooding already hitting parts of the country, clean-up costs can be enormous. But homeowners can take action before it happens to reduce the cost and time to fix the problem

Selena Whitehead outside her flooded home
The cost of flooding can be huge, but there are steps that can help reduce it

A family whose home flooded twice, costing £200,000 to fix, have shared how to protect your house if water threatens to inundate it.

Flooding has already hit parts of Cambridgeshire, Devon, Cornwall and Worcestershire over the Christmas period following heavy rain across the country, and experts say more is coming.

Flood-hit homes are hugely expensive to repair, but taking the right steps can help protect your possessions and lower your bills.

Selena Whitehead, 51, lives in York with her husband and says her property flooded twice since 2015, each time costing £100,000 to repair the damage.

One of the floods happened over the Christmas period of 2015 – causing huge disruption to Selena and her family.

“It was very surreal,” she said. “We had to move the Christmas tree and Christmas presents, and at 12.30am we moved up the road to stay with a friend as we had been told a flood was likely.







Flooding can easily ruin property – including cars
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Image:

Stephen Huntley/HVC)

On December 27 the house was dry in the morning, but then we saw the river had burst its banks and knew we only had 20 minutes or so.

“We went back and gathered essentials, but before long there was a metre of water inside the house.”

The property was flooded for about 36 hours, which was enough to rack up the £100,000 repair bill – which took six months.

Fortunately the Whiteheads were insured, and their insurer paid them a lump sum to cover the cost.

Flood expert Mary Dhonau, or ‘Flood Mary’, said: “In recent years, we’ve seen floods wipe out many homes and communities over the Christmas period and it may happen again this year, particularly with Storm Barra already causing havoc for families across the UK.”

How to prepare for flooding

Dhonau and Whitehead said there were several steps that can help stop homes flooding, and reduce the costs if it does.

Getting the right insurance cover is vital, Dhonau said – as many home insurance policies can exclude flood risk.

Getting home insurance to cover flood damage is only possible due to a body called Flood Re – an alliance between insurers and the government.

Dhonau also said homeowners in flood-prone areas should:

  • Sign up for a free Environment Agency Flood Warning here
  • Find out how to turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies
  • Keep a list of useful telephone numbers (including GP details, insurance claim line and policy number)
  • Put together an emergency flood kit
  • Think about the needs of children, babies, elderly, the disabled who live at home and, of course, your pets.
  • Take detailed photos of your property and contents before any flood occurs
  • Always plan to move your car to higher ground first
  • Identify and list urgent actions in priority of value and move items upstairs if possible
  • How are you going to prevent water entering your home?
  • Make sure you have the means to keep warm and have food and water
  • Make sure mobile phone chargers, computer data and photographs are stored safely
  • Most things can be replaced, but family photographs often cannot – move them to safety in good time.

If your house does flood, remember that just six inches of fast flowing water is enough to knock you over.

Two feet of water is enough to flood a car, and just an eggcup of water can wreck an engine.

Floodwater can also cause manhole covers to move, creating hidden hazards when wading through water.

The water can also be contaminated, so wash your hands if you touch it.

Flooding can also cause bridges, culverts, riverbanks and sea defences to become unstable and dangerous.

Fallen trees and power lines are further hazards to be aware of.

What to do if your home is flooded

Dhonau said the first thing to remember is not to return to your home until you have been told it is safe.

Her other top tips include:

  • Phone your insurance company as soon as possible, many have 24 hours help lines during a flood
  • Take photos and a video of the damage, this includes the contents of fridge and freezer
  • Mark a line on the wall to show the high water line
  • Wear gloves when touching anything that is wet
  • Cut a piece of your carpet and save it for the loss adjuster, then try to remove carpets into the garden but don’t throw them away, as carpets retain water and slow down the drying process
  • Once they are outside try to keep windows and doors open to aid ventilation but remember to lock up every time you leave your home as unscrupulous thieves never miss an open door

She added: “If someone calls and says that they are from the insurance company – check first. If in doubt, contact your insurance company or loss adjuster.







Stainless steel kitchen units will not be ruined if a house floods
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Image:

Selena Whitehead)

“You can use your own trusted builder if you so choose so book a local reputable builder early. There could be a real shortage of builders. Finally, don’t pay in advance, do pay in stages, and don’t make the final payment until you are happy with the work.”

How to reduce the risk of future floods

If you can, try installing fittings to your house that make it easier to make things right if it does flood.

Whitehead said her home now has electric sockets higher up on the walls, to protect wiring from water damage.







Whitehead’s home now has raised plug sockets on the ground floor
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Image:

Selena Whitehead)

She has also raised her stove, and bought lighter furniture to make it easier to move.

Many of her kitchen appliances are now made of stainless steel, which won’t damage so easily if a house is inundated.

She has also bought a pump, to help remove flood water.

Sometimes insurers will pay extra to help homes get this flood protection when settling up a claim.

Dhonau added: “Self-closing airbricks, flood barriers, flood doors, non-return valves, pumps and absorbent cushions can significantly reduce the awful impact a flood can bring.”

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