Recent events in New South Wales and Southeast Queensland have been a tragic and shocking reminder of the power of nature and its destructive potential on lives and homes.
It is also sobering to consider that climate change seems set to make extreme weather more common and more intense.
The NSW Government’s response to the most recent flooding is a Flood Inquiry that will look at, amongst other things, “measures to protect life, property and the environment”.
This comes on top of the NSW Government’s reaction to the March 2021 floods advising Local Councils on how to consider flooding in land-use planning. This required Local Councils to amend their land-use planning documents before the changes commenced back in July 2021.
Much of the focus will be on planning for future uses of land in known flood-prone areas, as well as consideration of how that area might expand given the likely impacts of climate change.
We also hope that there will be more guidance and assistance to people who already own property in these areas to help them flood-proof existing homes.
We all know someone who has been personally affected by the flooding. Most bought their home with no inkling of what lay ahead. Whilst some may have known flooding could happen once in a lifetime, very few could have imagined two major floods in the past year, and some people in northern NSW have now suffered two floods in the past month.
In the context of Addbuild’s work specialising in home additions and extensions, we thought about the changes you can make to your home when you are already renovating – changes you can incorporate to make your home more resilient, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.
Whilst some of these measures would be powerless against a major flood, they might help prevent damage to your home, or at least make the job of cleaning up after a flood a bit easier.
Drainage Around Your Home
Flooding of your home will generally occur in one of three ways.
- Water rises due to an overload of the river system below your home;
- A heavy downpour of water gets trapped around your home and rises to a point of entry;
- Your home is in the downhill path of water flowing from another source and cannot be diverted before entering.
In the first instance, some work can be done to try to increase the ability of the grounds around your home to absorb the water and minimise how much arrives next to the building itself.
In extreme flooding this can only do so much as the water will, at some point, go beyond these defences.
For the second and third causes, you can create covered drainage trenches around your home that redirect high volumes of water to lower-lying ground beneath or away from your home.
It is also prudent to look at ways of diverting water coming from higher ground away from your home so that it doesn’t flow close to your building. Any such mitigation might need consultation with neighbours and your local council. You don’t want to solve your issue, but cause an even bigger one for another homeowner, and vice versa.
Choice of Building Materials and Finishes
As we recently explained in our article comparing bricks to lightweight cladding, modern building materials are more thermally efficient and they also offer better protection against water than older more traditional materials like brick or weatherboard.
If you can’t replace existing older walls and floors, it is possible to recoat them in impervious materials that will resist moisture and water.
And if you live in an area prone to flooding, you should use the opportunity of a renovation to build with concrete floors, or use tiling on walls and floors where appropriate.
As well as reducing the damage caused by water if it gets inside your home, these materials will enable a much easier and quicker clean-up job.
The past year’s events will have been enough for some homeowners to look for more radical but longer term solutions.
If your home is light enough, it is possible to raise it. And you may potentially get financial help from a NSW Government Voluntary House Raising Scheme.
This is a flood risk management tool which involves raising a home above the minimum flood design level or relocating a home within its current lot to higher ground.
Planning For an Emergency
Measures to improve your home’s flood resilience may take some time to complete, so we strongly suggest you also consider how you get ready for a flood in the meantime.
This ABC advice on how to plan for a flood emergency is comprehensive and worth following.
Whether you are able to make changes to your home or not, if you live in a flood-prone area, having a plan and being prepared to protect your loved ones, precious valuables and personal papers is now vital.