Flooded streetOnce again, heavy rain has led to flooding in many parts of the UK, including Bristol, Somerset and Northumbria.

And while it took just hours to arrive, the resulting clean up operation for many of the households affected will take months rather than weeks.



Here, we look at five of the worst ways that floods could damage your property, and how to protect yourself.

Structural damage
While not always immediately obvious, structural damage is probably one of the worst - and most expensive to repair - effects of flooding.

Signs that a property has suffered structural damage include changes in the line of the roof ridge, horizontal or vertical cracks in the walls an bulging sections. You should therefore contact a structural engineer or surveyor if you notice any such signs.

To protect yourself financially, meanwhile, don't forget to keep the receipts for any emergency repairs that need carrying out to prevent damage getting worse, as these will be needed for your insurance claim.

Finally, check whether your policy will cover the cost of alternative accommodation should you need to move out of your home while the flood damage is being repaired.

Flooded cellars
In many instances, the cellar is the first place to be submerged when flood waters arrive.

If this happens to you, call your insurer's 24-hour emergency flood helpline as soon as possible to find out how to minimise the chances of further damage.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance said: "The typical cost of repairing and refurbishing a flooded property is around £20,000, but you can reduce damage by acting quickly."

Looking to the future, meanwhile, it is a good idea to consider insurer-approved flood prevention products that could protect your home and slice 10% or more off the cost of your policy.

You can get more information on the options, as well as other ways you can prepare for flooding, by calling the Environment Agency on 0845 988 1188.

Floating cars
More than 5 million people in the UK live in areas that are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea, according to the Environment Agency. For many, their cars are one of the first items to suffer from flood damage.

Potential dangers include cars becoming stranded by rising water, getting carried away by flood waters or simply being waterlogged.

Direct Line advises its customers to move cars to higher ground and to leave cars affected by flood water to drive out completely before attempting to start the engine.

It is also important to check your car insurance if you expect floods to hit your local area.

Internal damage
Internal damage, including the ruining of furniture and damage to the floors and walls of the house, can be one of the most heartbreaking effects of severe flooding.

Even if there is no other damage, sediments often mean that the interior of buildings usually get covered with a thick layer of stream-deposited mud.

However, it is possible that water levels may rise and fall for a short period after the rain has ended, so no cleaning or repairs should be attempted until you are sure the flooding has ended.

Flooded gardens
For keen gardeners, seeing their plants and flowers submerged in brown water is nothing short of a disaster.

There is no point in embarking on any repairs until you are sure the floods are over, though. Some plants will survive under water, but it is generally inadvisable to eat vegetables that have been submerged in flood water.

When it comes to reducing damage, tips include using sandbags and floorboards to protect greenhouse and patio doors.

As hard surfaces cause water to run-off and build up in valleys and roads rather than allowing water to soak into the soil, like a lawn, sticking with traditional grass rather than patios and decking may also be a better choice.