Permanent measures to prevent flood water entering homes (and help minimise damage and cost if it does)
In Part 1 of this two-part special on flood damage prevention we offered advice for damage limitation in the event of imminent flooding. But what about long term flood resilience and damage prevention for homes?
Following the destruction caused by recent UK flooding, we have endeavoured to put together some planning advice for anyone intending to build, repair or remodel in flood prone areas. If you are planning a new kitchen within a flood risk locality then you may wish to follow these recommendations within your new kitchen design. Should you fall foul of future adverse weather these implementations should help prevent and limit flood damage to your home and kitchen, or at the very least reduce the time and cost of any necessary repairs.
NB. Always seek professional advice and adhere to applicable building regulations when embarking on a building project or making any changes to your existing home.
How you can protect your home
1) Local area knowledge is key to home and kitchen planning
Contact your local planning authority for local area flood information and advice to establish your risk. Ensure you have a suitable insurance policy that will cover you for flood damage and repair works.
You might also sign up to Environment Agency twitter alerts,twitter alerts or their flood alert app, warning of any imminent flooding expected and allowing extra time to prepare.
If you are planning a kitchen as part of a new-build home project then establish a safe distance on which to build that is above the maximum height any water reached during a previous flood….your very first brick must be above this level! You might also consider elevating your new home and raise door thresholds, including steps up to the first floor. Elevating your home to 3 feet rather than 1 foot above ground level is one of the best flood damage prevention measures you can possibly introduce.
For further information relating to building regulations and flood damange prevention you can contact the National House- Building Control (NHBC)
2) Protect your kitchen from the Outside In!
Protecting your kitchen begins with putting measures in place to prevent water from ever reaching the interior of your home in the first place. More detail on this can be found through RIBA’s Building Resistance Design Strategy but in summary:-
Flood guards and barriers: These can be fitted to your front, back or other external doors to help prevent water from entering your home.
Airbricks and Airbrick covers: Automatic flood-proof airbricks, or else specially designed covers that are easy to fit over air bricks, will help prevent water entry when flooding is expected. Similarly, all drainage pipe surrounds should be sealed.
Plasterboard: Plasterboard forms or lines the inner walls of houses. Most plasterboard is made from Gypsum but is not a water-resistant material. In the event of a flood it is likely it will need fully removing to let the masonry underneath dry out, before replacing. This process is time-consuming and costly so it is better to try and prevent the water from seeping into walls in the first place. You can fit plasterboard horizontally, or else a water-tolerant plasterboard such as lime-based plaster is more suitable in flood prone areas. It is advisable to re-plaster up to 1m above floor level for existing homes, or from floor to ceiling in new builds. Water resistant qualities are also significant for any plasterboard stud walls planned during a remodel.
(Click here for more information and a full Replastering Fact Sheet)
Repairs: Further to the above, any cracks in walls and doors should also be repaired and regularly maintained as part of your flood damage prevention methods.
Internal doors: If you have wooden doors then ensure they are easy to remove, or else opt for synthetic or waxed doors that are water-resistant.
Skirting: Varnish wooden skirting or else fit moisture-resistant skirting boards
3) Home layout and kitchen location
When planning the layout of a new-build an obvious suggestion for flood damage prevention and protecting your kitchen is to locate it on the first floor rather than on the ground floor. For existing homes, if you have previously experienced flooding then consider (if possible) revising your home’s layout to swap a ground floor kitchen for ground-floor bedrooms. A downstairs concrete floor can be tiled rather than carpeted, whilst underfloor heating, rugs and décor will provide a bedroom’s warmth and comfort. Of course, this arrangement relies on individual preference and value of your kitchen versus bedroom. However, in the event of a flood, most bedroom furniture is usually easier to move or less costly to replace than kitchen furniture.
4) Flood damage prevention for kitchen sockets & electrics
In any new build home, regulations dictate that sockets be located at mid-level height. For existing homes, move all your electrical points and sockets during a kitchen redesign so that they are located halfway up a wall rather than at low level. This offers better protection from water immersion with wiring less likely to be affected during flooding. It is also advisable to ensure well-insulated plastic cable conduits rather than cables plastered directly into the wall. Through such means any post-flood kitchen re-wiring required should be less costly to carry out as the wiring is more easily accessible.
5) Flood damage prevention for kitchen flooring
Wood, laminate and vinyl are popular kitchen flooring options but all prone to severe or irreversible damage if exposed to flood water. Ceramic tiles for ground floors are a much better option for flood prone areas as they have a water-resistant surface, providing they are laid using water-resistant grouting. Tiles can be cleaned post-flood, and usually restored to their former state without any lasting or visible damage. Having said that it is advisable to order a few extra tiles than required at the time of purchase in case some are damaged; This way you avoid the possibility of later finding your earlier tile choice has been discontinued.
6) Flood damage prevention for kitchen appliances
There are a number of means for preventing damage to kitchen appliances in the event of a flood. At LWK Kitchens all of our kitchen units sit 15cm off the floor; we can increase this to 20cm where needed which would better suit flood prone homes, allowing 20cm of water before it reached kitchen units.
An alternative to freestanding appliances is integrated appliances, housed within furniture, and also raised off the floor. Built-in ovens, dishwashers or microwaves are frequently cited at mid-upper kitchen heights. Aside from flood damage prevention, many consumers simply prefer this as it means not having to bend and/or struggle lifting heavy items out of dishwashers or ovens.
Heavier kitchen appliances such as washing machines and freezers can also be elevated but require specialist design for achieving this. If a flood risk is in place you can temporarily raise these heavier appliances on brick or plinth to avoid damage but we do not recommend implementing this yourself as a permanent measure.
You might consider kitchen appliances with an AquaStop anti flooding system such as Siemens hydroSafe. This system is common to most wet appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. It is designed to prevent leakage or flooding from the appliance by cutting off the water supply. However it would work to the same effect in the event of a house flood as the mechanism has an anti-syphon device on both the inlet and outlet hoses, preventing unwanted water from entering the appliance at either end, and damaging it.
7) Kitchen plumbing connections and non-return valves
One of the most unpleasant and also hazardous effects of flooding is that sewer and drain blockages can occur and cause their contents to flow back into residential homes through drains, toilets, sinks and washing machine outlets. This is avoidable through installing non-return valves. As their name suggests, these can be closed during times of flooding to prevent the backflow of waste and sewage after it has left the home. Whilst non-return valves are closed all outlets are isolated from the drainage and sewer systems so it is essential that all household appliances such as washing machines and toilets are not used. Once the flood danger has passed, they can, and must be reopened. Non return valves are advisable for homes in flood prone areas but require careful installation by a professional as well as regular maintenance (usually every 6 months).
8) Flood damage prevention for kitchen cabinets
Most kitchen cabinets don’t fare well in floods as they are made from chipboard and MDF so can twist and warp. As stated earlier the best means for avoiding this risk is to site your kitchen off the ground floor. Failing this you can raise cabinets, and where possible use water-resistant materials for your kitchen like stainless steel or solid wood (though bear in mind solid wood can still warp and discolour following water immersion). Kitchen plinth is easily unclipped in the event of flooding, and whilst not ideal to begin dismantling a kitchen, hinges such as Clip-top hinges will let you easily remove your kitchen cupboard doors and drawer fronts to store elsewhere and preserve during flooding. Particularly within Open plan kitchen and living room arrangements, any televisions and other AV equipment should be fixed to walls above flood risk height, and any valuables preserved on upper level shelving.
9) Gas supply, boilers and Central Heating Systems
Boilers and gas meters must always be fitted by professional, registered engineers. In flood areas ensure all systems are fitted above any expected water level to reduce the risk of flood damage.
Radiators and heating system pipework should withstand floodwater unless submerged for lengthy periods in water that contains salts. When planning you should ensure all pipes are easily accessible, allowing for maintenance, as well as any purging or repair work required post flood. Following a flood and even if you think it is safe, you should have your gas system, boiler and appliances checked by a registered engineer before switching back on to ensure no water has got in.
Whether for new or existing houses we hope you have found the above information useful in planning flood damage prevention measures that will make your home and kitchen more resilient to adverse weather conditions.
Please contact us if you need any further advice or information in relation to protecting a kitchen from floods. We have also provided a further list of contact details below which may prove useful for anyone who has, or think they might be at risk of future flooding:-
- Environment Agency
- Floodline 0345 988 1188
- Association of British Insurers
- National Flood Forum
- Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters
- The Met Office
- Electrical Safety Council
- Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Preparing for Floods
- Advice for Finding an electrician