April showers bring May flowers – and sometimes a little flooding as well. While it’s true that spring rains are great for new plant growth – which is a welcome sight after a long winter – some storms are capable of unleashing several inches of rain in just a few hours. Add a little snow melt, and the ground quickly becomes saturated, storm drains overflow, and rivers and streams spill over their banks. The resulting flood waters can wreak havoc on everything and anything that gets in the way – including your home.
What’s a homeowner to do? Well, for starters, plan ahead. If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding (known as a floodplain or flood zone) – and even if you don’t – it’s best to prepare for the worst. Truth is, flooding can happen anywhere. More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from properties that are not in identified high-risk zones, according to FEMA. Keep in mind that most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage. You’ll need flood insurance for that.
Your insurance agent can help determine the type of coverage you need, but if you live in a high-risk flood plain, your home lender will typically require you to purchase flood insurance. If you aren’t sure, check out the FEMA Flood Map Service. Even a small creek can quickly turn into a flash flood area when spring storms unleash their fury.
In the meantime, here’s what you can do to protect your home and minimize the damage.
- Move your valuables to higher ground. If you live in a multi-story house, consider moving your expensive or irreplaceable items to a higher level where flood waters are not likely to reach. Your child’s baby photo? Check! Your mother’s heirloom necklace? Check! Your passport, driver’s license, and computer? Check, check, check!
- Close up the gaps. While mortar and masonry caulk can be used to seal cracks in your home’s foundation, sealants and coatings that you can buy at the hardware store are generally pretty effective when it comes to sealing walls, windows, and doorways. Keep in mind that even a small gap can lead to a bigger problem when heavy rains apply their pressure.
- Install a sump pump. A sump pump is designed to pump groundwater away from your home, making it an excellent tool for keeping your basement dry. Be sure to choose one that’s battery-powered in case you’re without power for a period of time. Foundation vents, which allow water to flow through the home, are another option.
- Check your landscaping. Make sure your lawn is graded so water flows away from the house and not toward it. It helps to also leave a little space between your house and the mulch in your plant beds so there’s enough space for drying after heavy rains. Some trees can cause problems as well, especially those with aggressive root systems. If planted too close to your house, they can increase the likelihood of flooding.
- Clean your gutters. This may be one of the filthiest jobs on the planet, but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that rainwater flows away from your house. The same is true for downspouts and splash pads. Be sure to routinely clear any debris that could form a dam or prevent the water from flowing properly, and point those downspouts away from the house. Water that pools near the foundation could lead to a leak in your basement.
- Shield your basement window wells. These covers, which are typically made with clear acrylic, add an extra layer of protection against heavy rains while helping to direct rain water away from your house. It’s a simple and relatively inexpensive solution.
- Protect anything electrical. Whenever possible, it helps to place large appliances such as washers and dryers on pedestals. Consider having air conditioning units, water heaters and other similar types of equipment installed about one foot above ground level. For an easy, low-budget solution, use concrete blocks.
- Install sewage check valves. If you’ve experienced a sewage backup in your home, you already know how messy it can be. The good news is, sewage check valves can be installed on the pipes entering your house to prevent this backup, acting as an added level of protection against the pressure from flood waters.
- Decorate with caution. If you’re remodeling your basement, consider installing tile or vinyl floors instead of carpet or wood. The latter could be easily damaged if water enters the lower level of your home. Installing a water sensor in your basement may also help to provide an early alert, which could help mitigate water damage.
The climate is changing, and weather experts have made it clear that many of the storms are intensifying. Flood protection is serious business. Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Take steps to protect your home today.
For information only. Not applicable to all situations.