How to Prevent Water Damage if You Live in a Floodplain

Personal Finance

Living in a floodplain can be dangerous and extremely detrimental to your home. Obviously, one of the most important things you can do to protect your home is to have flood insurance. But even if you have insurance, your home is not protected from water damage. Home repairs are difficult, and having to constantly clean up after Mother Nature gets old fast. Plus, insurance can’t replace some things. Here’s a look at how to protect your home from water damage if you live in a floodplain.

Elevate, Elevate, Elevate.

One of the most helpful things you can do is to get your home above flood levels. FEMA’s Flood Map can help you figure out just how high you can expect floods to rise in your area. Put any type of wiring—circuit breakers, light switches, electrical sockets—at least a foot above suggested flood levels. Keep your precious things (photo albums, family heirlooms, passports) on the upper floors of your home. If you have a basement, don’t expect it to keep your things safe. Items mostly outside the home, such as generators or air conditioners, should also be above flood levels; make sure they are anchored to prevent issues such as contamination from free-floating, spilling fuel tanks. Backflow prevention valves can also be installed to help prevent sewage from taking over your home with the floods.

Your home will fair better and be much more protected if you actually elevate the home itself above floodwaters. FEMA recommends getting the home to “at or above 100 year flood levels.” It takes a lot of work, but essentially, you hire a series of professionals to disconnect your utilities, lift it off the current foundation to sit on a temporary foundation at the desired level, and build a new foundation out of materials that will withstand not only floodwaters, but the forces that move within them.

FEMA recommends using the extra space that is now beneath your living area as a garage. It will also be necessary to create stairs and other fixtures that allow you to reach the newly elevated living areas. FEMA has tips for elevating different types of homes, as well as electrical (and other) systems protected your home from water damage. Remember during any types of remodeling to choose materials with better water resistance, such as metal or vinyl windows, greenboard, and galvanized nails or screws to prevent rust.

Redo Your Yard

You can take outdoor steps to make your yard into more than just a place for the kids to play. Levies can provide substantial protection when floods hit. Sand or clay are best for this kind of construction. Essentially, dig a trench where you want the levee to be, fill it with your most resistant dirt, and then create a mound on top of that. Opt for a flatter top, as water can get through the thinness that results from a steep slope.

You can also create a surface drainage system in your landscaping, burying pipes to carry away excess water (just be mindful of neighbors!). Make your own swale, or create a dry streambed if your house is on a slope. Basically, make your landscaping useful as well as attractive—it will have the added bonus of helping to maintain your yard in a flood as well as protecting your house.

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