Building in a Flood Zone? 12 Ways to Protect Your Home (2024)

Severe rain, storms and floods have again battered parts of the country this year, devastating communities and leaving tens of thousands of homes uninhabitable. If you live in a flood-prone part of the country and have a new build or renovation planned, it’s a warning about the importance of designing your home to limit the effects of water damage. Here, design experts share 12 design measures you can take to protect your home.

LAK Constructions Pty Ltd

1. Do you understand your building zone’s flood risk?
The first step is to determine the level of flood risk where you’re building, says Simon Croft, executive director of building policy and services at Housing Industry Association (HIA).

“State, territory and/or local governments undertake flood mapping to determine flood hazard areas or flood-prone land. These maps are generally available on council or state/territory governments’ websites, or you can contact the local council where the building is located to check,” he says.

Arcke Pty Ltd

2. Enlist the right professionals
“For anyone embarking on building or renovating in a flood-prone area, it’s essential to have a flood-compliant design to be able to receive a building approval and certification,” says Kate Kennedy, studio manager at Arcke Architecture and Interior Design.

“It’s a complicated process. Architects are the best-placed professionals to guide you through the process as they will have relationships with the other consultants required to have your project realised.”

Norman Richards building design + interiors

Building regulations for flood-prone areas vary from state to state and between councils so it’s best to find an architect with prior experience designing properties in your local area, says Kennedy.

“Requirements are very complicated, technical and specific and not having an experienced team can mean costly decisions are made on the fly,” she says. “Many issues can be resolved on paper, prior to building.”

Looking for an architect to help with your renovation or new home design? Find one near you on Houzz

Aboda Design Group

3. Elevate your home
“Lifting your house off the ground to a compliant height is the most obvious remedial work that can be done [if you’re renovating] in a flood-prone area,” says Kennedy. “However, be aware that this won’t be possible with some forms of construction, such as brick veneer and slab on ground.”

Lindon Homes Pty Ltd

4. Encourage water run-off
“The design and placement of the building should encourage water to escape via its most natural course,” says Kennedy. “If you have the opportunity to lift and shift your home, consider moving it to a higher part of your site, while allowing water to flow either underneath or around the house.”

“You could also design the house to have habitable rooms set higher off the ground,” says Croft.

Plot Architecture

5. Include open, easy-to-clean structures
“Create an open structure made of hardwearing materials that water can traverse, which can be quickly and easily cleaned and disinfected,” says Kennedy. “Open stairs and carports, slatted gates and fencing, and hardwoods that can withstand some water ingress can all mitigate water damage to the building structure.

DCM Building Design

“Also think about the hard surfaces that water will traverse [to ensure they encourage rapid water run-off] – the idea is to get water away from your home as quickly as possible, not moving towards it,” she says.

6. Maximise drainage
“Look to add step downs and strip drains in front of large openings [such as exterior doors], awnings over covered areas, and porticos over external doors, all of which can provide a good first means of protection against water ingress and build-up,” says Croft.

When it comes to specifying the size of gutters and downpipes, ensure they are big enough to aid rapid water run-off, he adds.

Arcke Pty Ltd

7. Raise electricals
“Move all electrical items as high as practically possible to avoid water damage,” says Kennedy. “For example, air-conditioning units, which can be lifted and bracketed on external walls, hot-water systems, washing machines, dryers, lighting, switchboards and power points.”

Browse more images of great Australian exteriors on Houzz

Room By Room

8. Choose weather-hardy materials
“Internally, look to use more durable or moisture-resistant materials at the lower level of your building to help minimise the impacts if flooding does occur. These might include, for example, fibre-cement sheeting, bricks, water-resistant plasterboard and structural insulated panels,” says Croft.

DCM Building Design

9. Use outdoor materials inside
When it comes to interior materials and finishes such as kitchen cabinetry, wall cladding and flooring, consider selecting ones that are traditionally used externally, which will hold up better to the challenges of rain, says Kennedy.

“Consider using hardwoods for floors and skirtings, which will eventually dry out [after water damage], or tiles, stone, concrete or bricks. Avoid porous materials or those that hold water,” she says.

Arcke Pty Ltd

“If the habitable parts of your house have flooded on multiple occasions, an architect can advise which building materials can be used that are also compliant with the National Construction Code (NCC). Each home and situation is unique,” says Kennedy.

10. Open up your stairs
According to the Queensland Government’s Design Guidance for Flood Resilient Homes guide, some other measures you can take include replacing closed stair risers with open treads that are designed to be removable in the event of water damage.

Adam Amin. - Architecture and Interior Photography

11. Smart bathroom and laundry cabinetry
To mitigate the effects of moisture damage in your bathroom, the guide recommends installing a wall-hung vanity rather than a floor-mounted style. If you have a built-in bath, add a removable panel or replace it with a freestanding bath. When it comes to joinery and door hardware, choose corrosion-resistant finishes.

Alix Helps Interiors

12. Opt for solid walls and doors
The guide also recommends replacing cavity walls and doors with non-cavity versions to reduce the chance of mould build-up within walls.

Adding additional weep holes in wall cavities and sub-floors will help boost airflow and help your home dry out.


Your turn
Are you worried about the effects of climate change on your home? Tell us in the Comments below. And don’t forget to save these images, like this story and join the conversation.

Would you like to see more extreme weather advice. Read
12 Ways to Get Your Home Cyclone-Ready

Building in a Flood Zone? 12 Ways to Protect Your Home (2024)


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