How to Prevent Floods From Damaging Your Home
Living in a flood-prone area not only puts you in danger, but it can pose risks and damage to your home. Taking necessary precautions to avoid flood damage — repairing foundation cracks, removing gutter debris and correcting landscaping slopes — is essential. Your home is your most expensive and important asset and should be protected. Find out how to assess your level of risk, conduct flood protection and purchase the best homeowners insurance for your home in this guide.
How to Know If Your Home Has a Flood Risk
To properly protect your home from floods, you must first evaluate your level of risk. There are a number of ways you can do this, such as reviewing flood maps in your area and assessing if your house is built to withstand a flood. This can also help you determine what type of renovation or protection measures you need and how much flood insurance you should get.
Chances of Flooding in Your Area
Your flood risk depends on where you live. The map below showcases states with the highest and lowest risk of flooding within FEMA Designated Flood Hazard Areas. According to the map, Florida is the highest flood hazard area in the U.S. at 39.09%, followed by Louisiana at 29.74 and Mississippi at 25.59%. The state with the lowest risk is Alaska at 0.08%, followed by Idaho at 0.76% and Hawaii at 0.94%.
Hover your cursor above or tap your state to find data on your area.
MoneyGeek compiled data from each location using the CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network. Specifically, the data examined an area’s precipitation and flooding data and their vulnerability and preparedness using the number of square miles within FEMA’s designated flood and hazard area. Each county was analyzed using 2018 data, which is the latest data available.
Using the Flood Map
Flood maps are designed to help determine if a location is in a high-risk flood zone. The most commonly used flood map is the FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC), which is maintained and updated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The FEMA flood map designates areas by moderate- to low-risk and high-risk flood zones. This can help homeowners, mortgage lenders and communities make informed decisions about where to live and what property protection measures may be needed.
Reading the FEMA Flood Map
At first glance, the FEMA flood map can be confusing, but understanding how it works is essential to assess risk levels. Keep in mind that FEMA only updates their flood maps every five years, which means data may not accurately represent the severity of flood risk for a given area.
To read the flood map, make sure to understand the different zones. There are three types of flood zones: high risk (labeled as A or V on flood maps), moderate- to low-risk (B, C or X) or undetermined (labeled as D). Once you know your flood zone, you can look up your address or zip code in the MSC map and determine the flood risk in your area.
Understanding Your Flood Zones
The flood zones on the FEMA flood map are divided into low- to moderate-risk zones and high-risk zones, which are indicated on the map with different markings. Understanding these can help you best determine your necessary level of home insurance coverage and other measures to take.
- ZoneWhat It means
- Blue ZonesThis indicates there is a 1% chance of floods in a year or at least once every 100 years in this zone. Despite the numbers, the FEMA considers these areas as high-risk and homeowners are encouraged to take precautionary measures to flood-proof their homes.
- Orange ZonesIn this zone, there is a 2% chance of flooding or once every 500 years. The flood insurance rates for these areas are typically lower because they are not considered as high-risk compared to blue zones.
- Yellow ZonesA yellow zone on a flood map is considered an area with an undetermined flood risk. Because of this, it can be difficult to determine the area’s true risk. It may be better to figure out the area’s flood history by consulting neighbors or city hall officials.
- Blue with Red StripesBlue and red dashed zones indicate rivers, canals or other watercourses and adjacent land areas. These are considered a special flood hazard area and are typically kept clear, but some areas are exceptions to that rule. Homeowners who live here must take extreme precautions to flood-proof their home.
Aside from FEMA’s MSC, there are other, private flood hazard tools available on the web, such as Flood Factor. Based on peer-reviewed research from some of the world's leading flood modelers, the tool allows you to see past floods, current flood risks and future projections. It has analyzed more than 142 million properties across the U.S. and shows how risk can change over time.
Flood Prevention Tips to Protect Your Home
Flooding can damage your home or foundation in a matter of hours. In general, it’s wise to be prepared for emergencies, as this can help you avoid costly repairs and take action in the instance of a flood. Keep in mind, preparing for floods and emergencies also helps you prepare your finances for emergencies, which can minimize your overall stress after a disaster. The following steps can help you get started on flood prevention measures.
Grade your yard properly
To ensure that yard water moves away from your home rather than towards it, make sure your lawn slopes away in all directions. While you can do it yourself, you can also hire a landscaping company to do it for you.
Use coatings and sealants
Certain coatings and sealants can be applied to your outside foundation, walls, windows and small openings. This can help prevent flood water from leaking into cracks.
Raise electrical components
If your home is high-risk for flooding, you can hire a licensed electrician to raise electrical components, such as sockets and circuit breakers, above your predicted flood level. This way, your expensive components will remain safe from water damage.
Put up floodwalls
By installing a floodwall — a wall created to hold back floodwaters — you can keep water out of your property entirely.
Consider wet floodproofing
Depending on your home’s structure, you can consider wet floodproofing. This is where you let water flow in and out of your home, typically by raising your house above the flood’s baseline. You can use flood vents, flood damage resistant building materials and more.
Point downspouts in the appropriate direction
Make sure that your downspouts point away from your home to avoid pooling water that can lead to your basement.
Will Home Insurance Cover Your Flood Damage?
Standard homeowner insurance policies typically do not cover floods or general water damage. This means that any type of water damage, whether it’s from faulty pipes or flooding, is not covered unless you purchase FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The NFIP is responsible for providing flood insurance designed to protect buildings, the content in buildings or both. However, keep in mind that limits are capped at $250,000 for building coverage and $100,000 for personal property coverage.
While you may think flood insurance unnecessary or an extra expense, the best homeowners insurance is one that protects your home and prepares for all contingencies.
What Flood Insurance Does and Does Not Cover
While flood insurance covers damages from floods, it has limitations. For example, it covers the cost of damage to your home caused by flooding, but it does not cover your personal or property items, such as your car or completed landscaping.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
There are two flood insurance coverage types available: building and personal property coverage. You can choose to purchase one or both coverage types, depending on your needs. Review the table below to see what’s covered with NFIP flood insurance for both building and content coverage.
What’s covered with NFIP flood insurance for both Building & Content coverage
- Foundation walls, anchorage systems and staircases
- Systems, such as your electrical and plumbing
- Built-in items including permanently installed bookcases, cabinets, paneling and carpeting
- Central air conditioning
- Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances (e.g. dishwashers)
- Detached garages
- Furnaces, water heaters, fuel tanks, well water tanks and pumps
- Personal belongings, such as clothes, computer and furniture pieces
- Carpeting not covered by building coverage
- Appliances, such as your washer, dryer and microwave oven
- Portable and window air conditioners
- Valuable items up to $2,500
What Does Flood Insurance Not Cover?
Flood insurance only covers damages to your building or property if it was directly caused by a flood. For instance, if your sewage system caused flooding damage then your coverage would pay for it. However, if improper maintenance of your system flooded, it would not be covered. Instead, sewer or water backup coverage would cover it if your insurer offers it.
Hazard insurance and catastrophe coverage is another option for disaster protection. If you think your existing NFIP flood insurance policy coverage limits aren’t enough, you can look into adding excess flood coverage to your policy.
NFIP vs. Private Flood Insurance
Flood insurance coverage can be purchased from the NFIP or private providers in your area. Compared to private insurance, NFIP policies are federally-funded and are limited in how much coverage you can buy. Conversely, private providers have higher limits and may cover a greater variety of things, depending on the provider.
- Policy FeaturesNFIPPrivate Flood Insurance
Set by FEMA and costs the same
regardless of the insurer
Depends on the provider
Capped at $250,000 for building coverage
and $100,000 for content coverage
Often has higher claim limits
Across the country
Depends on the state
Waiting Time for Claims
Available to all
Not available to everyone
Should You Purchase Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance coverage can be beneficial for many individuals or businesses. The following circumstances may be a good fit for NFIP coverage.
Situations Where You Might Need Flood Insurance
You live in a floodplain.
Homeowners that live on or near a floodplain have a higher risk of water damage and flooding. Aside from causing fatalities, floods in these areas can cause irreparable damage to your home. Having flood insurance can ensure you’re financially covered if the worst happens.
You live in a hurricane prone area.
Certain areas across the country are more prone to hurricanes than others. If you live in one of those areas and your home is impacted by hurricane-created floods, your flood insurance will cover damages.
You don’t have the finances to cover flood damage.
Flooding damage can cost you tens of thousands of dollars and even destroy your home entirely. No matter where you live, you can experience flooding. If your emergency funds can’t cover repairs or home rebuilds after a flood, a flood insurance policy may be a wise choice.
What You Should Do if a Flood Is Threatening Your Home
It can be stressful before, during and after a flood — which is why proper preparation and awareness can help you keep a level head. Below are steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared and safe in the instance of a flood event.
Have a communication plan
Create a plan with your loved ones on how to communicate with one another in the instance of a flood. It’s also a good idea to have a safe meeting spot outside of the home determined in case of an emergency.
Prepare an emergency bag
In case of evacuation, have a disaster supply kit ready. This would include basic survival items, such as food, water and other essentials that can last at least 72 hours.
Store your valuables in a safe space
If you live in a home with more than one floor, bring all your valuables, including your furniture and appliances to the highest possible floor to protect them from flood damage. Don’t forget to also store any chemicals and poisons above the projected flood level.
Turn off gas, electricity and water supplies
If it is safe to do so and your house has not been flooded yet, turn off your gas, electricity and water supply. This way, you can reduce the potential of damage to your home.
Expert Insight on Protecting Your Home From Floods
No homeowner wants to experience flooding damage. This is why emergency preparedness is crucial. MoneyGeek reached out to industry experts for their insights on how homeowners can best prepare for a flood.
- How can homeowners protect their homes from floods? What actions can they take?
- Is flood insurance necessary for all homeowners? How can a homeowner determine if they need flood insurance?
Owner of Tres Amigos Realty Group
Home Contractor Real Estate Agent at Kind House Buyers
Founder and Principal at Nanticoke Global Strategies LLC
There are many resources available to help you navigate flood risks and flood insurance. Learn more about FEMA, disaster safety and what to do in the case of a flood in the resources below.
- American Red Cross: The American Red Cross has flood relief resources and services that can help disaster survivors find safe places to live, eat and get all the help they need.
- Disaster Safety: Disaster Safety offers numerous resources on how to rebuild and prepare for various types of disasters, such as floods, hail storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and more.
- Enterprise Community: This helpful resource outlines how to save damaged homes and prevent mold-related health problems caused by flooding.
- FEMA: Disaster Survivors Support Federal Emergency Management Agency: To help disaster survivors, FEMA has a number of assistance programs and services that can provide aid, such as the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, the Individuals and Households Program Assistance and more.
- FEMA: Flood Fact Sheet: Manage your future risk with FEMA’s helpful fact sheet on how to lower insurance premiums.
- FEMA: Flood Insurance Requirements: If you are a recipient of federal disaster assistance, FEMA provides this guide on the requirements to get flood insurance. This targets homeowners and renters with federal disaster assistance.
- FEMA: Historic Flood Risk & Cost Federal Emergency Management Agency: To have a better idea of your historical flood risk, take a look at FEMA’s interactive data tool.
- FEMA: Homeowners, Renters and Business OwnersFederal Emergency Management Agency: Flood risk can be reduced in part by homeowners, renters, and business owners. This resource helps homeowners find their area on the flood map, understand flood risk and learn how to request a change to their flood zone designation.
- Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.: Learn how to flood-proof your house with this helpful guide from the NRDC.
- St. Bernard Project: The St. Bernard Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeowners pre- and post-disaster through online and in-person training, rebuilding programs and opportunity housing. They also have a number of resources that can help households make smart and informed decisions before and after a disaster.
About the Author
- Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Historical Flood Risk and Costs." Accessed January 23, 2022.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency. "National Flood Insurance Program Summary of Coverage." Accessed January 23, 2022.
- First Street Foundation. "Understanding FEMA Flood Maps and Limitations." Accessed January 23, 2022.
- Insurance Information Institute. "Natural Catastrophe Losses In The United State." Accessed January 23, 2022.
- National Flood Insurance Program. "The cost of flooding." Accessed January 23, 2022.