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Home flood prevention checklist: Protect your house from broken pipes, floods and other water damage

Water damage makes up nearly a quarter of home insurance claims. Here's how to avoid it.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Flooding is one of the most common causes of damage in a home, and water damage makes up nearly a quarter of homeowners insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Whether it's the result of a massive storm or faulty piping in your home, flooding can be disastrous. As a result, it's best to take steps now to ensure your home is protected from flooding and other types of water damage.

In this guide, we're laying out a checklist of nine things you can do today to keep your home and belongings safer from water damage.

Know your risk of flooding

One of the most important steps to prevent home flooding is to evaluate your flood risk. Certain parts of the country are at higher flood risk, and therefore must take extra precautions to keep their homes safe and dry. Any area with at least a one percent chance of flooding is considered a Special Flood Hazard Area by FEMA. People in those areas should take increased measures to prevent flooding in their homes. You can use FEMA's flood map to determine if your home is considered a high-risk area.

Seal your home's foundation

If there are cracks in your home's foundation, water can get in and cause damage. Water build-up can weaken the foundation of your home over time, too, leading to more serious problems. Use mortar or masonry caulk to seal any cracks and fill any gaps in your foundation. You can also seal your basement walls to help further waterproof them.

Keep your gutters clear

Clogged rain gutters and storm drains can prevent the free flow of water, causing it to back up and pool around your home. When water pools, it's more likely to seep between shingles, behind siding and into other cracks. The best way to avoid this is to schedule regular maintenance of your gutters, spouts and storm drains. Also ensure that your downspouts are pointed away from the house.

Install flood sensors

flood sensor can help to ensure that if your home does start to flood, you'll be immediately alerted to it. These sensors are triggered when they come in contact with water, so place them behind toilets, under sinks, near appliances and in your basement. If they alert you to flooding in your home even a few minutes earlier, they could save you hundreds of dollars -- if not more.

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Flood sensors detect water when it makes contact with both metal probes on the device, allowing current to flow through it.

Chris Monroe/CNET

There are many types of flood sensors to choose from, with prices ranging from just $20 to nearly $100. Some home security companies also offer flood sensors as a part of their home security systems.

Repair water leaks

If you have any leaks in your pipes or roof -- even minor ones -- get them fixed as soon as possible. Even if these leaks haven't caused problems before, they could indicate locations more likely to see problems in the future. The last thing you want is a huge rainstorm to show you just how serious that tiny leak was. Even if you haven't experienced problems with leaks, it's good practice to keep an eye on anything in your home that could leak so you catch it right away. That means checking ceilings for water stains, checking under bathroom and kitchen cabinets for water-swollen wood and checking around the base of your HVAC and water heater for evidence of pooling.

Improve your yard's grading

Grading refers to the shape and angle of your yard. An effective way to prevent flooding is to have your grading checked to ensure the land around your house is level and that the lawn isn't graded toward your home. If it is, then water is likely to pool around your home when it rains, making it more likely to flood. Instead, your yard should be graded so that rainwater moves away from your home.

Install a sump pump

A sump pump is a device designed to pump groundwater away from your home, directing it away from your pipes and foundation. These devices are installed in the sump pit at the lowest point of your home, usually in the basement. When there's heavy rain or moisture in the ground, the sump pump automatically activates and pumps the water away. These devices can help to keep your basement free of water and help prevent problems such as mold and mildew, foundation damage and other disasters.

Elevate appliances and utilities

If you live in an area with frequent flooding -- or finding water in your basement is a seasonal occurrence -- make sure to protect your appliances, utilities and other electrical equipment around your home. You can raise electrical switches, circuit breakers, and switches at least one foot off the floor to prevent electrical damage. You can also elevate your HVAC system and other major appliances so they're off the lowest level and are less likely to be damaged in the event of a flood.

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Depending on how flood-prone your house is, you may consider elevating your appliances slightly so they don't get damaged in case of minor flooding.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Insure your home

In a perfect world, you would never experience flooding in your home. That said, it's not a bad idea to plan for the worst-case scenario.

Most home insurance plans cover sudden and unforeseen cases of broken pipes, and other reasons for flooding, such as sewer back-up, is often a fairly affordable add-on. If you neglect your pipes, though, and they burst due to rust and age, your insurance likely won't cover the damage.

If you live in an area at high risk of flooding, you may be required to purchase flood insurance for your home. Even if it's not required for you, it's still something to consider, depending on where you live.

The most important thing is to do your research: check your pipes for rust and damage, check the flood risk in the area and talk to neighbors about what issues they've experienced.

What's next?

Flooding and water damage are all too common problems for homeowners. But having the right precautions in place can help to ensure that in the case of a storm or other unforeseen event, your home is protected. 

Additionally, flooding isn't the only danger your home faces. Be sure to visit our home safety checklist with seven more steps you can take to keep your home and family safe and secure.