Low-Cost Preparedness Projects


These actions do not take much money or time and may help you lessen or avoid flood damage. Some of them don’t cost anything at all. They can also help you and your family rebuild your lives more quickly if a flood damages your home and belongings.

On this page:

Document what you own.

It is very important to have a record of what you own and the condition and value of those things. That’s because you will need this information when you file a claim with the insurance company to help you pay for replacing or repairing the items.

You should document your belongings in two ways.

Take pictures of your home and the things you own inside your home.

Photos are a good way to prove to the insurance company what you own. They also help show the condition those things were in before the flood. This can be very important when filing claims for flood damage. These photos also should include:

  • A family member in the photo as additional proof of ownership
  • A time stamp on the photo that shows the date it was taken

Make a list of your most expensive belongings and appliances.

For each item, your list should include:

  • A description
  • The model and serial numbers
  • When and where you bought it
  • How much it cost (with receipts, if possible)

Be thorough with your list. Some items that do not cost much individually can be very expensive to replace collectively. For example, it would not cost you much to replace a pair of pants and a shirt. But it would cost a lot to replace all the clothing you and your family own. The same may be true for towels, linens, and other household items.

When in doubt about listing an item, include it. There is no harm in listing too much.

Collect and safely store documents that you will need for flood recovery.

  • Review our list of the most important documents you should collect and keep, based on Federal Emergency Management Agency recommendations. These documents will help you recover more quickly from flooding. Many of them are important to have when applying for federal disaster assistance.
  • It is important to store the documents together in a waterproof container. This protects them from flood damage. It also makes them easy to grab and take with you if you must evacuate.

Redirect water away from your home.

Water can leak into the inside of your home if the ground gets too soaked near the home’s foundation. There are several ways you can help keep this from happening.

Clear gutters and storm drains.

  • Your gutters and downspouts collect water from the roof and direct it away from the walls of the house. That’s critical for keeping your basement dry.
  • Leaves, sticks, and other debris can block the flow of water. Check and clean out your gutters at least twice a year — in late spring and late fall. You can do this yourself or hire a gutter cleaner.
  • Clear the ground where the water exits from the downspout. You don’t want anything there that blocks the flow of water away from the house.
  • Make sure that any nearby drainage ditches or storm drains are clear of debris, too. This helps prevent flooding for your own home and the entire neighborhood.

Regrade areas around your home.

  • Water runs downhill, so you want the ground to slope away from your home. If it does not, you can create a slope by adding dirt near the base of your home. This is called “regrading.”
  • When adding the dirt, make sure you are not blocking things like vents, pipes, or drains.
  • If you are renting, you likely will need approval from your landlord before regrading.

Install downspout extenders or splash blocks.

  • Downspout extenders and splash blocks redirect the rainwater collected by your gutters even further away from the foundation of your home. They are low-cost and can be found at home improvement stores.
  • Make sure you are not directing water directly toward a neighbor’s home. It is best to talk to your neighbors before adding the extender.
  • Concrete splash blocks also prevent a hole in the soil that can be created by water flowing out of the downspout.

Add a rain barrel.

Rain barrels are placed at the bottom of downspouts to collect water. This is another way to keep the water away from your home’s foundation. A rain barrel also has other benefits:

  • By storing some of the rainwater, you help reduce flash flooding on neighborhood streets and yards. This impact is greater when many households are using rain barrels, so encourage your neighbors to use them too.
  • Rain barrels can reduce your water bill. That’s because you can use the water you collect to wash your car and water your lawn and garden.

Some cities and towns offer rain barrels for free or at a discount. Check with your local government before you buy one from an online retailer or a home or garden supply store. Be sure to ask an expert for instructions on the best way to install them.

Anchor fuel tanks.

Floodwaters can easily move and rupture outdoor fuel tanks such as propane and heating oil tanks. This can pose serious threats to people, property, and the environment. There are two options for anchoring them in place:

  • Attach the tanks to a large concrete slab that weighs enough to resist the force of floodwaters.
  • Install inexpensive ground anchors that are connected across the top of the tank with metal straps.

You also should anchor indoor fuel tanks using a concrete slab.

Seal cracks.

  • Plug holes and cracks in your gutters, downspouts, and downspout extensions. You can seal them with silicone caulk.
  • You can identify these holes by taking a look at your gutters, downspouts, and downspout extensions when it is raining. You also can check when it is not raining by using a hose to pour water into the end of the gutter farthest from the downspout.
  • Look for and fill cracks inside and outside the house in the foundation walls. You can use mortar and masonry caulk or hydraulic cement, which expands and fills gaps completely.
  • Also seal cracks and holes in the portions of driveways, sidewalks, and patios that are next to the foundation wall.