Polygon - Essential Guide To Flood Planning & Preparation - Chapter 1

The UK may not be hit by monsoons, but it has had its share of overflowing rivers and torrential rain wreaking havoc on British homes over the last decade.

It’s particularly England and Wales that have suffered from flooding issues; Hull in 2007, Cumbria in 2009 and many UK areas in the 2013/14 winter. The Environment Agency estimate that five million Brits actually live or work in flood danger zones.

Needless to say, if your home is listed as a flood risk, it’s important to protect the property as much as you can from any potential dangers. You should also be sure to have adequate home insurance in the event your property is affected by flooding. It’s also worth knowing a little about Flood Re, a collaborative project between the Government and insurance companies. This scheme, launching during 2015, will ensure home insurance is available and affordable for properties at high risk of flooding.

With that said, no insurance can cover you protect you from the disruption and emotional trauma caused from flooding in your home or business. What’s more, many people seem unsure how best to protect their properties. What action can you take to minimise the impact of flooding on your property?

Am I At Risk Of Flooding?

Of course, you may be reading this guide and have no idea if your property is a flood risk. For that very reason, you’ll want to find out as quickly as possible so you can prepare for the worst. The first step to take, which won’t cost a penny, is to check flood risk maps created by the Environment Agency.

With the following link you’ll be able to choose from a selection of interactive maps. Enter your postcode and find out which areas near you are at greatest risk. It’s dark blue for high-risk areas, light blue for some risk and no shading for very low risk levels. These maps are also useful if you’re thinking of buying a property and want to check its flood risk.


With these interactive maps you’ll be able to discover which areas are at greatest risk from river flooding, surface water flooding, reservoir flooding and more. With the ‘Flood and coastal risk management activities’ you’ll also find which schemes are being planned in your local area to prevent the risk of flooding.

What’s important to remember is these maps are intended as a general guide to flood risk areas – they are no guarantee that your home can’t flood. So even if your property isn’t situated in one of the highlighted regions, it’s always worth knowing the dangers and preventative measures you can take.

A second source of information regarding the flood risk of your home or business is local knowledge. This is particularly useful if you’re buying or renting a new property. For instance, neighbours may have experienced flooding prior to you moving in and there could even be records held by the local council or water company.

Even if you’re aware of the flooding risks for your property, there may still be underlying questions not answered by the interactive maps or on records held by the local council. This is where a flooding specialist would come in handy and could help you get the answers to question such as: Which direction will water come from? How often will the area flood? What is the best protection for my home?

The protection of your home doesn’t have a value and flood prevention measures should certainly be factored into your budget if it’s discovered a risk is apparent. A specialist can help in this regard and create a specific plan bespoke to your property. This guide will also provide further tips and advice.

Types Of Flood Risk To Homes & Businesses

Properties can be affected by flooding from different sources and assessing the potential risk from each of these will help provide full-scale protection.

• Surface water flooding

In the UK it’s not uncommon to experience long, torrential downpours of rain. This is the main cause of surface water flooding and because of a rise in occurrences, is something you should certainly be aware of. During lengthy rain spells it’s not uncommon for drains and sewers to struggle with demand, whilst the ground can become saturated. This prevents water from being safely dealt with and can instead lead to flooding risks. Typically, surface water flooding will move downhill and sit in low-lying land areas. If your property is towards the base of a hill or perhaps below the level of the street, you’re at greatest risk.

• Groundwater flooding

Groundwater flooding, like surface water flooding, is caused by excessive rain levels. This time however, the water table is raised until it’s higher than ground level. The water table is the boundary between water-saturated ground and dry ground. Areas with a naturally high water table are most likely to be affected and this includes low-lying areas. Properties with basements should be most aware of groundwater flooding.

• River flooding

River flooding is again the result of excessive rainfall, but this may occur some considerable distance from the affected properties. The flooding occurs when the river and its defences are unable to handle the high flow of water. Any land or properties nearby to rivers are most at risk and depending on the river’s location can lead to widespread problems and damage. Not only can river flooding be difficult to drain, but also the fast flowing nature of the water can be dangerous to people and animals.

• Coastal flooding

This is caused by high tides raising the sea level and defeating coastal protection measures. Strong winds can add to the problem and coastal flooding can be problematic for properties near the sea and upriver, as water is forced inland. Many coastal regions where flooding is at most risk have sufficient sea defences in place, but despite this, turbulent weather can cause flooding issues.

• Reservoir & dam flooding

With thousands of reservoirs around the UK, it’s no surprise this form of flooding is highly advised to be safeguarded against. In fact, the Environment Agency regularly carry out inspections on the safety measures in place for dams and reservoirs, as the results of a failure can be catastrophic.

• Burst water mains flooding

Burst water mains can wreak havoc on homes or businesses, whether it’s an isolated issue for one property or the flooding of a street or neighbourhood. Whilst this form of flooding is usually quickly dealt with by water companies, damage can be caused particularly to basements and ground floors.

• Sewer flooding

We’ve touched upon the effects of a drain or sewer being overloaded from rainfall, but there are also occasions where the sewer can cause damage to your home through other means. Sewer water can back up through drains and pipes, entering your home through your toilet or drain and causing extensive damage, particularly when rivers are overflowing. As such, the flooding may occur some distance from the root of the cause and affect multiple properties in the area.

How Does Flood Risk Affect Home Value & Insurance?

As you would probably expect, homes and businesses at risk of flooding can be more difficult and expensive to insure than those without problems. The value of these properties is also reduced for two main reasons:

In order to solve these two problems, the property’s flood risk will need to be determined and adequate protection measures put in place to safeguard the building. Of course, regions most at risk from flooding will be greatly affected.