There are few things worse for your home than flood damage, a deluge or flash flood can be enough to render your home inhabitable or straight up destroy it. In fact, in 2017 alone, the estimated total cost related to flood damage was a whopping 60 BILLION dollars.
A large part of that damage is caused by hurricanes, which not only cause debris flying at thousands of miles per hour but also major floods (Check out how to protect your house from flying debris HERE). Unfortunately, 2020 will be no exception, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach and his team at Colorado State University (CSU), this year we can expect 19 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes with a high likelihood of making landfall in the US.
So, as hurricane season rolls around, there’s no better time to waterproof your home and there are several ways to go about it.
Evaluate Your Risk
Hurricanes are not the only reason floods destroy homes, heavy downpour or blocked rivers are also very common occurrences depending on your location. So the first thing you should do is assess the flood risk. For that, there is none better than the FEMA flood service map. Just plug in your zip code to see your area’s flood zones.
- If you live close to a blue area, you’re in what is called a 1% per year zone, which according to FEMA is high risk enough to warrant flood protections and flooding insurance.
- If you’re in an orange zone, your yearly chances are 0.2%. While small, it is still advised that you invest in some form of flooding protection and insurance. Moreso since your rates will be significantly cheaper.
- If you’re in a yellow zone, FEMA cannot estimate the likelihood of flooding. Consult your area’s local history and take action accordingly.
- Red and blue lines are designated floodways. These are usually kept clear to avoid damage and blocking, but if you’re close enough you can still be affected.
Once you’ve determined that your area is at risk for flooding, you should prepare your home for when the water comes. If your house isn’t already outfitted for floods, which I’m guessing is the case since you’re reading this article, there are a few renovations you can conduct to make it safer.
- Elevate your house. The best protection against rising water levels is to keep your house higher. This can be done by raising your house on stilts, even a couple of inches can make a huge difference.
- Direct the water away from your home. Raising your house on stilts can be quite expensive to do after its already built. An alternative is to create a gradient in your garden so that water flows away from your home. On the same note, you should look out for the places where water collects after rain since these will flood first. Consider installing drains in these locations.
- Keep the water out. By applying coatings and sealants to your foundations, door frames, windows, etc. to keep water from leaking into your home.
- Consider “wet-floodproofing”. Wet waterproofing is a way of protecting your home by keeping the water flowing, instead of letting it pool outside or inside your home. By installing foundation vents or a sump pump, the water can flow through your house and into a better location, like a drain or sewer.
- Shut off electricity from the breaker to avoid short circuits and raise appliances and furniture to a higher floor or on concrete blocks
Where does floodwater enter your home?
You might be surprised to learn that floodwater does not only come from the outside of your home. Even if you seal every crevice on your home’s exterior, you still might find yourself with a flooded home. That is because a flooded sewage system can reverse its flow and dump sewage water all over your home through your toilet and drains.
If this is the case, water damage will be the least of your problems. Sewage water getting into your home is extremely dangerous. There are plenty of bacteria and pathogens in it that can be hazardous to human health. Not only that, but it can also cause mold growth if not treated right away, which is dangerous all on its own (More about that HERE). Even if you do treat it, you might not get rid of the smell entirely.
If you want to prevent sewage water from coming into your home through your toilets, sinks, shower, etc. you should install valves on every pipe coming into your house. Gate or flap valves will allow the water to get out, but not in.
Do sandbags work in a flood?
Sandbags are a common recommendation as a form of “dry” floodproofing, they are meant to prevent water from entering the home and damaging the insides. If placed correctly and filled with the right materials, they can divert water flow enough to work in all but the heaviest of floods.
If you’re considering using sandbags, look for fine sand or sandy soil. Remember, the coarser the material you fill it with, the easier the water will go through. Garbage bags are not recommended for sandbags since they are too slick to stack correctly, go for burlap sacks instead and consider doubling up to prevent spillage. Stack them offsetting the bags by one half, like when laying a brick wall.
However, you should know that “dry” floodproofing is not always the right answer. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it’s better to let the water in to lessen the pressure put on your walls, windows, and foundation. If you have a basement or multiple floors, a couple of feet of water can be enough to permanently damage your foundations. This is where “wet” waterproofing comes in handy.
How can flood damage be reduced?
The best way to reduce water damage is to get to work as soon as possible. However, this can be a dangerous endeavor if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once in the water, you might encounter exposed live wires, toxic bacteria, and sewage just to name a few.
If you find yourself with a flooded home, your best bet is to get professional help, since a mismanaged flood can lead to mold growth and structural problems. If you’re unsure who to call to get your house back into inhabitable conditions, leave it to us. Here at RestorationUSA, we take pride in working with only the best of the best in all 50 states!