Our family home was wrecked by floods costing £140,000 – millions are at risk too but a £3 item can save you thousands | The Sun

FOR Ian Dawson, the recent storms have brought back terrible memories of seeing his family's home destroyed by flooding in 2019.

The 66-year-old teacher, his wife and their three children were left temporarily homeless after Yorkshire river the Arkle Beck burst its banks four years ago.

While their home is in Richmond, the river's water levels rose up to four metres in some places, causing flash floods across the whole Langthwaite and Reeth area.

More than 300 homes, 30 businesses and 50 farms were left under water, with the clean-up costing millions.

"The water flowed over the fields, surrounding houses and homes until the pressure of the water forced its way through our ground floor doors," Ian told The Sun.

"Water was also pouring in through one window and coming up through the sewer outlet."

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The entire ground floor was submerged, with the water half a metre deep in the worst affected rooms.

"The house, the garden and the whole surrounding area were covered in mud," said Ian, who described how upsetting it was for the whole family.

"Most of our possessions in those six rooms were affected by the water and the contaminated mud.

"Walls and floors were similarly affected. Even the ground floor bathroom had mud in the toilet, bath and shower cubicle."

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Ian noted they didn't know they lived in a flood area when they moved there in December 1993.

The damage

The family of five were forced to move out for 18 months, changing temporary accommodation eight times while things were put right.

That alone cost £55,000 and the damage repairs were eye-watering.

Over £11,000 went into stripping everything out of the house.

Furniture and other destroyed possessions cost £37,000 to replace.

The heating system cost £20,000 all in, while the interior work and redecoration set them back another £26,000.

"We also put in better doors and windows and insulated the first floor walls when the house was rebuilt," Ian said.

"I'm not even sure how much was spent on the ground floor walls being insulated and floors concreted.

"And then there was a large amount for lifting the first floor above the kitchen that had partially collapsed.”

The toll it took on the family was not just financial.

"The whole family was upset at the sight of the effect the flooding had. I think that lasted for quite some time.

"There was a lot to do initially so we kept ourselves busy but very quickly we realised we would have to move out of the property.

"The time and effort handling the aftermath was exhausting."

Luckily, Ian had home insurance which covered almost everything including full insulation to ground floor walls and floors, as well as contents.

However, they had to pay for the additional costs of having a heat pump installed.

"I am just so glad we had our home insurance policy in place and I'm so grateful to all the people who came and helped to clean up in the immediate aftermath," Ian said.

Home insurance

There are two types of home insurance – buildings and contents.

You must have buildings insurance if you have a mortgage but contents insurance is optional.

However, not having contents insurance can be devastating.

Flooding, theft and fire can destroy the things kept in our homes as well as the home itself.

According to insurer Axa, the average one-bed flat is estimated to contain £15,713 worth of goods and the average four-bed house has £41,361.

Meanwhile, figures from comparison website Unbiased suggest the average buildings-only policy costs £113 per year.

Contents insurance policies average between £59 and £66 a year.

To work out what is covered by buildings insurance and what's covered by contents, you'll need to check the terms of your specific policy.

But a good rule of thumb is to imagine picking up your home and turning it upside down.

Everything that falls is covered by contents insurance and everything that stays put is covered by buildings insurance.

Renters don't need buildings insurance but it's worth considering contents insurance.

It's also worth remembering that when your policy renews, insurers typically put your premiums up following a claim.

Usually, the bigger the claim, the bigger the premium hike.

In Ian's case, their premium went up from £750 a year before the flood to around £1,100 at the following renewal.

They then switched insurers and it dropped to £807, in 2021 to £875 and last year it rose to £944.

There are also some circumstances that mean you'll have to stay with your existing insurer for a specific time following a claim.

If your home suffers subsidence, for example, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to get cover from another insurer for three years after the building work is finished.

Your existing insurer has to keep you covered, but they can hike your premiums annually.

Are you at risk of flooding?

As many as three million homes across the UK are currently at risk of flooding, according to Flood Re and the Environment Agency.

Flood Re was set up as a government-backed reinsurance fund to help insurers to keep premiums affordable for anyone who lives in a high risk area following devastating flooding across the country in December 2015.

Together with the Environment Agency – part of the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – the organisation is warning that climate change will push that number up by at least 40% by the 2050s.

It will leave at least 4.2 million homes at risk, both organisations said, and probably more.

That's why they've teamed up for a campaign to tell more people about simple and often really cheap ways to protect homes from costly flood damage.

You can check if your home is at risk from flooding using a tool available online at https://www.gov.uk/check-long-term-flood-risk.

The Environment Agency website also has maps and other information to help you work out whether you're affected.

How can you reduce flood risk?

Official statistics show the average cost of flood damage to a home is £32,000 – though in Ian's case, it was over £140,000.

The emotional cost is also huge, with the mental health impacts of flooding estimated to be between £3,000 and £7,000 per flooded household.

Time off work and treatment for shock, depression or other conditions that arise after flood damage adds up.

But there are things you can do to minimise the risk your home will be hit.

Property flood resilience (PFR) is a set of modifications added to a building to lower its flood risk.

It can reduce flood damage and speed up recovery after a flood.

And, some of the modifications cost as little as £3 – for example, a sewage bung can stop flood water coming up through the toilet.

Get your home flood-resistant

The Environment Agency recommends a combination of these measures – and ideally all of them.

Airbrick and vent cover from £50 to £350

Water can enter homes through air bricks such as these.

Homeowners can cover air bricks with single use or screw on covers or replace them with self closing air bricks.

When we looked, there was a simple cover on sale from Water & Pest Technologies for £11.49 down from £14.99.

It's likely you'll need more than one. Amazon has a range of options from independent suppliers too.

Toilet bung from £3 and non-return valve from £50

Homes can flood with sewage that enters via toilets.

Anti backflow valves guard against this by preventing water from flowing in a reverse direction.

Backflow valves can also be used to prevent flooding in other areas of the home. 

Alternatively, toilet bungs can be fitted to prevent water overflowing.

When we looked online, the cost of a toilet bung varies considerably.

You can pick up a cistern hole bung from Homebase for £3.

A top of the range toilet flood overflow stopper kit costs £133.85 from Aspli.com.

Amazon has a 50mm non-return backflow flood prevention valve for £16.50.

Bigger and more sophisticated options range from around £50 up to £200.

Hydrosnake/Hydrosack from £18 and Puddle Pump from £200

Houses with basements can flood when water collects from the bottom up. A paddle pump sits on a flooded floor and moves water to outside the home.

Hydrosnakes/sacks are flood barriers made of super absorbent material.

They can absorb up to 20 litres of water which can later be released into soil without any negative environmental impact.

When we looked, Screwfix was selling a pack of two hydrosnakes for £24.99.

We also found a Wolf 400w submersible puddle pump from manomano.co.uk scanning for £42.50.

Most models cost around £150 to £500.

To anyone who could be at risk of seeing their home under water, Ian gave this advice.

"If you know you're at risk, try to get some protection as soon as you can.

"Flood barriers, one way sewer valves, flood tight doors really do work."

Get financial help

While some of the basic measures you can take are pretty cheap, if you want to carry out a full set of defences you might want to consider applying for a grant.

Grant funding and subsidies for flood repairs and resilience are available for all flood-affected areas of the United Kingdom.

The rules are different depending on where you live and some grants are restricted. You can find out what you're entitled to by visiting the official Flood Guidance website at www.floodguidance.co.uk.

In England, the following schemes are available.

Household Flood Resilience Grant

Up to £5,000 funding from the UK government in order to offset the cost of flood resistance and resilience measures and to repair damage caused between December 3 and 11, 2015.

Communities and Business Recovery Scheme

Government funding has been provided to the local authorities affected by storms Desmond and Eva during December 2015.

The local authority decides how to allocate the money to best meet local needs. This allows the issuing of payments of up to £500.

Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI)

RABI is a UK based welfare charity providing financial and guidance support for farmers who have been impacted by flooding in recent years.

RABI also offers support in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Residents in Scotland may be entitled to grants from the Scottish government and the country's Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme.

Wales offers the Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme to households affected by flooding while Northern Ireland residents can apply for a Homeowner Flood Grant.

Other help

You may be entitled to additional funding from various independent or local charities. Turn2Us can help you work out what you could get.

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Citizens Advice offer support and help you with grant or funding applications.

Housing charity Shelter is another good source of information and support if you've had to move out after flooding.

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