Thanks to its coastline that won’t quit, Florida is the nation’s capital of flooding. And floods are the most expensive natural disaster in the US, according to FEMA. So if you own a home in Florida, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re protected from the potentially costly effects of flooding and water damage.
Here are seven steps you can take to reduce your risk.
1. Figure out Your Floodplain and Risk of Flooding
FEMA has mapped the entire country and graded it according to its risk of flooding. You can enter your address to get your flood designation using this search tool and then read about what each flood zone means.
Briefly, if your zone designation starts with an A or a V, you’ve got a decently high risk of flooding. Zones B and shaded X have moderate flood risk, and zones C and unshaded X have the lowest risk (trust us, this will make sense when you use that tool).
Based on your area’s designation, you can find out something called the “base flood elevation” (BFE), which, for practical purposes, means how high water is likely to come in your home in the event of a major flood.
2. Move Water-Sensitive Equipment above the BFE
Once you know how high floodwater is likely to rise, you can take steps to protect the things most likely to be damaged by water. This includes everything from TVs and computers to your air conditioner and backup generator, which may need to be elevated on and secured to a concrete block.
It’s possible to elevate an entire home using piers or pillars, but doing so is usually cost-prohibitive. Alternatives might include installing water vents to let water flow more easily through your home (rather than rising inside) or sealing external walls to help prevent water from getting in.
3. Update Your Valves
Even if a storm doesn’t drop enough water to flood your home, it can still cause damage if it causes your sewer to back up and flow into your house. To prevent this, have a plumber install a backflow or gate valve on every sewage pipe that connects to your home. These valves are designed to keep water flowing in the right direction – out.
FEMA estimates that installation can cost between $600 and $1,400, a pretty reasonable price given that a single inch of flooding can cause nearly $27,000 of damage to your home and possessions (or more!).
4. Keep Your Property in Good Repair
If you’ve ever experienced a leaky roof, you know how small problems can lead to big damage when water’s involved. To minimize the odds of water damage (in any weather), be sure to take care of essential maintenance tasks on and around your property:
- Clear your gutters. Make sure they’re hung securely from your roof.
- Check your rain spouts to make sure they’re positioned so that water will drain away from your and your neighbors’ houses.
- Repair your roof as needed. A new roof may cost several thousand dollars, but it can also prevent tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of water damage. Even better: some homeowners insurance companies may offer lower premiums if you have a new roof.
- Repair sidewalks and driveways. Crumbling infrastructure around your house could cause water to pool around it. Make sure out-of-date concrete and asphalt aren’t creating a direct channel to your home.
5. Contact Your County
If you’ve noticed standing water on the sidewalks or streets around your home after even small storms, you and your neighbors could be at higher risk for flooding. Luckily, many counties pay particular attention to water management. Get in touch with yours (check for the water services or planning department) to ask for action on improving drainage near you.
6. Review Your Homeowners Insurance
Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover all types of water damage. Typically, your policy will include coverage for water damage that originates inside the house, like a dishwasher leaking and ruining your floors.
The basic policy excludes coverage for floods that come from outside – so pretty much anything storm-related. If you’re not sure what your insurance covers, now’s a good time to check with your agent.
If you’re in a high-risk flood zone, you’ll probably need flood insurance (in some parts of the country, you can’t get a mortgage without it).
Regardless, you may be able to get a better rate on your insurance by following the measures we outlined here because some insurance companies reward risk mitigation with lower prices.
Flood Risk Is Increasing Pretty Much Everywhere
The more severe storms we’ve seen in recent years are the new normal, thanks to climate change. And a new study predicts that 40 percent of Florida properties will be “highly exposed” to flooding by 2045. In other words: the time to manage your flood risk is now, while you still have an opportunity to save your home.