Adapting your home or business to the risk of flooding

A guide to adapting your home or business to flooding, and how to pump water out of your property after a flood.

Applies to England

If your home or business is flooded it can be very disruptive and upsetting. It can also be expensive and take a long time to repair.

You cannot completely protect your home or business against flooding, but there is a lot you can do to reduce:

  • the amount of flood water that gets in
  • the damage from flood water
  • the cost and time of cleaning up after a flood

Some changes are simple and temporary while others involve permanent structural work.

Whether you rent or own your home or business, you should make these changes well before a flood – these are long-term adjustments.

Find out how else you can prepare for flooding.

Find out if you are at risk of flooding

It is important to check the risk of flooding in your area. Flooding can happen to you even if you don’t live or work near a river or the sea.

You can:

Reduce how much flood water gets in

There is no way to completely stop flood water getting in, but you can make changes to protect your home or business.

External doors

You can:

  • put in a flood resistant front door
  • buy temporary, removable flood barriers for your doors
  • raise the bottom (the threshold) of your doors

Walls and floors

To protect your walls and floors, you can apply:

  • a dampproof coating
  • a dampproof layer or membrane (also known as tanking)

Air bricks

Air bricks are bricks with holes that allow air to circulate under or through a property.

You can replace air bricks with self-closing air bricks, which close automatically during flooding to stop water entering. You can also buy watertight covers to put over your air bricks.

Drains and pipes

You can fit flood resistant valves to drains and water pipes. These valves close under pressure and stop sewage and dirty water flooding into your home or business.

You can place an inflatable bung in the u-bend of your toilet. This stops flood water coming up through the toilet and into your property.

Reduce the damage flooding can cause

You can make changes to your home or business to reduce the damage caused by flooding.

Internal walls

You can attach plasterboard (dry-lining) to walls. It is better to use horizontal plasterboard or lime-based plaster, not gypsum.

You can also get a special draining system for cavity walls.


Tiles fixed with waterproof adhesive and grout are better than fitted carpets.

If your home or business is at risk from groundwater flooding there are different floors that can reduce the damage:

  • dampproof reinforced concrete floor
  • suspended floor
  • raised floor

Speak to a specialist about the best option for your property. You can find flood specialists at the Property Care Association.


Fix shelves high up on walls. If you have valuable or important items that you cannot move to another floor or storey, keep them on a high shelf.


Fix TVs or other home entertainment equipment on a wall, at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) from the floor.

Skirting boards

You can fit water-resistant skirting boards, or you can varnish them.

Windows and internal doors

You can put in hard wood or synthetic windows and doors. You can also wax or varnish them.

Kitchen and bathroom:

In a kitchen or bathroom, it is better to use water-resistant materials such as:

  • stainless steel
  • plastic
  • solid wood

If you can, raise your fridge and other appliances by putting them on a plinth.


To reduce the risk of electrical problems during a flood, you can raise the following to at least 1.5 metres (just under 5 feet):

  • electrical sockets
  • fuse boxes
  • control systems
  • wiring

Pumping flood water out of your property

You can use a water pump – such as a puddle pump – to divert or remove small amounts of water from your home.

If you are removing large amounts of water from your home, you should consider the following:

  • you may need to pump water over many days, weeks or months
  • to reduce damage to your home you should start pumping when the water outside is lower than inside
  • a pump works best when the inlet sits in a low point into which water can drain (a sump)
  • you should consider where you are pumping water to – you must not cause flooding in another area
  • if the water in or outside your home is very deep (at least 1 metre or 3 feet) speak to a structural engineer

What powers a water pump

A pump can run on electricity or fuel (petrol or diesel):

  • check with an electrician before using an electric pump
  • you may need a back-up generator for an electric pump if there are power cuts
  • a fuel pump will need refuelling and it will be noisier than an electric pump
  • a generator must be outside as it will give off poisonous fumes that can kill people

Getting permission to pump out water

If you are pumping flood water out of your home you may need a permit. Find out about getting permission to pump out water.

Dealing with sewage during flooding

Sewage (or foul water) is the name for waste from sinks, baths and toilets. During a flood, sewage can contaminate flood waters. This is very dangerous to human health.

Sewage leaves your home in one of the following ways:

  • mains drainage
  • on-site drainage (package treatment plants, septic tanks and cess pits)

Mains drainage

If the sewage from your home drains or flushes into the public sewer this is called mains drainage.

You can fit flood resistant valves to drains and water pipes. These valves close under pressure and stop sewage coming back into your home.

After a flood, your water company or housing association can help with sewage problems.

On-site drainage (package treatment plants, septic tanks and cess pits)

On-site drainage is when sewage from your home drains or flushes into a:

  • package treatment plant
  • septic tank
  • cess pit

Package treatment plants contain electrical components so a specialist should check them after flooding.

There are often problems with septic tanks during groundwater flooding. You should contact the Environment Agency and seek specialist advice.

A cess pit is a sealed, underground tank so it should be unaffected during groundwater flooding.

You should speak to your drainage contractor before emptying your package treatment plant, septic tank or cess pit after a flood. In extreme cases, emptying after a flood can cause the tank to lift out of the ground.

Buying and checking flood protection products

You can find flood protection products and services at Blue Pages.

Find information about tested and kitemarked flood products

Find flood specialists at the Property Care Association

Published 1 October 2009