6 ways to protect your home from flooding
As a very powerful hurricane Florence heads for the Carolinas, with a landing scheduled for Thursday evening, the threat to life and property is imminent. Besides the dangerous winds, Florence is expected to flood the mid-Atlantic region with water.
Floods are the most common and costly weather disasters in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
From 1980 to 2013, the floods cost Americans more than $ 260 billion in damage; from 2006 to 2015, federal flood insurance claims averaged $ 1.9 billion per year, according to data from The Pew Charitable Trusts. And those numbers don’t include the toll from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017.
The best way to avoid flooding, of course, is to stay above the water.
“The only downside to flooding is that there is no (margin) of safety other than altitude,” says Tim Reinhold, former chief engineer and vice president of research at Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety and now a specialist in wind engineering and natural hazards. consultant on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
“Once the water reaches the level of your ground and rises an inch above, you have significant damage,” says Reinhold.
It is important to know the flood level in your home, an official measure of rising flood waters where you live. You can find this information by viewing the flood maps at the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Your local building department and home insurance agent should also have this information.
Even a house on a hill needs protection from flooding. Here are six steps that will help you protect your property from flood damage.
Be sure to use licensed and insured contractors to make changes. Check with your local building department about permit requirements.
1. Protect the home’s electrical and air conditioning systems.
According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, switches, outlets, circuit breakers, and wiring should be at least one foot above the expected flood level in your area.
Modify your furnace, water heater and other anchored indoor equipment so that it is above the flood level of your property.
2. Anchor and elevate outdoor equipment
Fuel tanks, air conditioners and generators should be anchored and raised above the flood level. Fuel tanks that are not anchored can come loose and severed fuel lines will contaminate the soil, the IBHS warns.
Jose Mitrani, associate professor emeritus at Florida International University’s School of Construction in Miami, said power supply units and generators should never be left on the ground.
“These relief facilities will be flooded (by water) and useless,” he says.
3. Modify your water valves
A flooded sewer system can cause sewage to back up into your home. The IBHS recommends the installation of an internal or external non-return valve.
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, recommends gate valves. They are more complex and you operate them by hand. But they offer stronger seals than check valves or check valves, which automatically open to allow water to flow out, then close when water tries to enter.
Valves should be installed on all pipes entering the house, advises FLASH.
4. Determine how the water flows around your house.
Leveling or sloping the ground can direct water toward or away from your home. Obviously, it is better if the house is built in such a way that water will drain out of it.
This can be easily determined by observing how water flows or accumulates during an average rainstorm, says Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of FLASH. If your street is prone to standing water after an ordinary rainstorm, talk to your county planning department or environmental services, she advises. “A big part of their job is water flow, and they can make suggestions,” she says.
5. Take extreme measures: go for a renovation
If your home is frequently flooded and moving is not an option, you may need to take drastic and costly measures.
FLASH’s home security program offers these options:
- Elevate your house on pillars or columns so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. It’s expensive though. Experts tell FLASH that such a venture would cost at least $ 20,000.
- Moisture proof your home by installing foundation vents that would allow water to flow through the building, instead of rising inside and causing more damage. You would need at least two vents on different walls. A 1,000 square foot home would require 7 square feet of flood vents, according to FLASH.
- Perform “dry waterproofing” by applying coatings and other waterproofing materials to your walls to keep water out.
6. As the waters rise, take last minute measures
- Clean gutters, drains and downspouts.
- Move furniture, rugs, electronics, and other personal effects to upper floors, or at least raise them from the ground floor.
- Turn off the electricity at the circuit breaker panel.
- Elevate large appliances on concrete blocks if they are at risk of flooding.