Illustration of a house surrounded by water during flooding
Illustration: Grimgram/iStock

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S., according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration. And just 1 inch of flooding costs $26,807 in a one-story, 2,500-square-foot home. 

Check your property’s flood risk at FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center. Then consider these steps to protect your property.

Buy flood insurance. Homeowners coverage won’t cover many types of floods, so flood insurance is a worthwhile purchase even if you’re not in a high-risk area. Indeed, the National Flood Insurance Program, which underwrites the bulk of flood coverage in the U.S., says that more than 40 percent of all flood losses it paid from 2015 to 2019 were for properties outside of high-flood-risk areas. The median annual cost for homeowners in a high-risk area is $797. It’s $516 in other areas. For renters in high-risk areas, it’s $298 for belongings only; elsewhere, it’s $216. Learn more at the NFIP’s FloodSmart website

More on Emergency Preparedness

Focus on the foundation. Fill hairline cracks and small holes with vinyl concrete patching compound or cement. For larger openings, use polyurethane, silicone, or latex concrete caulk (or call in a pro). The average cost of waterproofing an entire basement is $600 to $11,500, according to HomeAdvisor. Consider a sump pump with a backup battery; prices range from $275 to $3,900, HomeAdvisor says.

Landscape right. A rain garden, for example, is a depressed area where water can pool after heavy rain and be absorbed slowly into the earth. It can be planted with deep-rooted native species for natural flood prevention.

Build to resist the worst. If you’re in a high-risk flood area, consider, among other measures, building a levee or flood wall, or even elevating your house. Raising a home foundation above a flood plain, for instance, typically costs $2,984 to $9,101, HomeAdvisor says.

How to
Stack Sandbags
Fill bags 1/2 to 2/3 full. Loading them is easier with two people.
Lay bags lengthwise, covering the unfilled part of each bag with the next one, tucking the flap under at the end of a row. For more rows, stagger the seams like brickwork.
Lighter “sandless” bags expand when wet and stack the same way. Prices vary; online, a six-pack starts around $33.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the July 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.