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Installing flood defences in your BTL property

The UK has seen some pretty dismal weather in 2014 so far. Though the traditional onset of bitter cold and ice has been delayed, we’ve had to contend with a spate of rather nasty rainfall instead – which has shown our flood defences to be, on balance, rather lacklustre.

Flooding poses a significant risk. First, there’s the obvious water damage to personal belongings. Then there’s the fact that it picks up nasty contaminants like chemicals and refuse, which can contaminate local water supplies and continue to be an issue even after a flood has passed. Floodwater also poses an electrocution risk if it reaches the fuse box or electrical sockets.

If your property has a high risk of flooding, it can be very expensive to insure. Even if you can find a landlord insurance policy with an affordable premium, you may well face hefty excesses and onerous policy conditions.

In short, flood damage will cost you – both in putting the damage right, and in lost rent while you do so.

So what can I do about flooding?

Your first port of call will be the Environment Agency’s website; specifically, the nifty interactive maps they have that show at-risk areas. Punch in your property’s postcode and use the drop-down menu to see if your property is at risk from river or sea, reservoir or groundwater flooding.

If you live in a high- or medium-risk area, you might want to take precautions and install some flood defences in your property.

Flood defences to consider installing

As you’d probably hope, most houses in the UK are built to prevent water getting in through ordinary means, such as rain. When floodwater rests against the side of the house for long periods, however, matters aren’t quite so simple.

Some routes for floodwater, like cracks in walls, airbricks, doors, vents and windows, are obvious. Others, like washing machine outlets, porous brickwork and gaps in below-ground floors and walls, are less so.

Doors and windows

Free-standing barriers during flood season – or simple sandbags – are a good temporary fix, though like other measures that fix the ‘obvious’ entry points, they don’t take account of the threat from drains and pipework.

Raising the door threshold is another simple way of keeping out shallow water.

Downstairs floors

Fit water-resistant skirting boards in your property, or varnish existing wooden ones. Depending on your groundwater flooding risk, you might consider replacing your flooring; organic materials such as wood and laminate are obviously out.

If the groundwater pressure is particularly high (one foot of water can lift a five inch concrete slab!), consider fitting a reinforced concrete floor with a continuous damp-proof membrane.

Drainpipes

Fit non-return valves to your inlet and outlet pipes and drains in order to prevent foul water from flowing back into your property.

Air bricks and vents

You can purchase self-sealing covers for air bricks and vents. You or your tenant can fit these along with the temporary barriers whenever flooding is expected. Alternatively, you can fit specially flood-proofed air bricks and vents.

External brickwork

You’ll want to check your pointing (the visible mortar between the bricks in your external walls). Pointing is an important factor in protecting a wall from the elements. If the mortar is cracked or decaying in any areas, you’ll need to get the wall repointed.

You might also want to raise the courses (rows) of denser brickwork that are placed nearer ground level to prevent flooding, and apply a waterproof membrane to external walls.

Electricals and wiring

Electricals and wiring are best placed further up the wall in the ground floor of a flood-prone property – the Environmental Agency recommends about 1.5m. This includes all wiring, electrical sockets, controls and fuse boxes.

Visit the Environment Agency website for more information about flood defences and how to flood-proof your buy to let property.

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Amelia Vargo is an online marketing executive for CT Capital. Amelia writes for Turnkey Mortgages, Turnkey Landlords, TurnKey Bridging, TurnKey Life and Commercial Trust.