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Water damage advice

What should you do if your heritage property or listed building suffers from water damage and what can you do to avoid the amount of damage it can cause? Take a look at our tips and advice below

What can you do to reduce the amount of damage water may cause?

  • Check the roof

    Ensure all roofs are in good order and any missing or slipped slates and tiles are replaced. Ridge tiles should be checked to ensure they have not become loose and are allowing water ingress
  • Rainwater fittings and disposal

    Roof valleys, gutters, hoppers and downpipes need to be cleared of leaves, plant growth and other debris to ensure a free-flow of storm water and prevent overflowing, which will cause damage to the fabric of the building. In cold weather, water which is unable to drain away will freeze, causing damage to the fabric of the building by expansion. Storm drains and soakaways need to be checked to ensure water is satisfactorily carried away
  • Routine repairs

    In addition to the routine maintenance outlined above, minor repairs should be undertaken on a regular basis. Remember that only experienced builders using the correct materials should be employed
  • Heating and electrics

    Poorly maintained heating systems and electrical installations can cause damage to historic buildings. Gas fired central heating systems should be subject to an annual maintenance contract with a Gas Safe Register™ registered installer. The annual maintenance check should include all radiators and pipes as well as the boiler itself to ensure there are no leaks
  • Pipes

    Old pipework can leak and cause water damage. All water installations including pipes and tanks should be adequately lagged to protect them from freezing. You may wish to consider installing a water leak detection system
  • Storage

    Storage in areas such as basements which can be susceptible to water damage should be kept on racking at least 150mm above the floor

What should you do if a flood happens?

When an unexpected event occurs, you don’t have is the luxury of time. That’s why it’s important to establish a plan in which everyone involved knows exactly what to do, so recovery can begin without delay.

The overriding priority in an emergency is to ensure the safety of everyone on the premises. The next challenge is to contain damage to the building and the contents. Then it’s important to account for all objects and fully document the damage sustained.

When affected areas have been made safe and secure, removal, sorting, protection and treatment of objects can begin. The work of removing precious objects to secure, pre-designated salvage areas should be carried out by trained personnel. The sooner any essential restoration work can begin the greater the chances of limiting the damage and any potential losses.

  • Moving items


    1. Move items closest to the flood followed by those which are in danger from collapsing ceilings

    2. Decide which items are the most valuable to be rescued and which are portable, e.g. you may not have time to unscrew large mirrors

    3. Be selective, e.g. try to rescue at least one example from a set of chairs, tapestries etc.

    4. Depending on the size of your collection, consider photographing and referencing against an existing inventory of collection items, in order to catalogue how much has been retrieved and how serious the initial damage is

  • How and where to move them


    1. If there is any likelihood of the disaster spreading valuable items should be removed from harm’s way

    2. If items cannot be moved they should be covered with polythene sheeting to protect them from water

    3. When moving antique furniture it is important to lift the items as pulling them can cause legs to break or table tops to become loose. Most furniture will require at least two people to move it safely

    4. Pictures should be carried by the frame, with one hand underneath and one hand at the side. Larger, heavier pictures should be carried by two or more people to ensure safety. Paintings should be carried facing away from you, avoiding contact with the surface

    5. Safe rooms within the property should be used initially to store items which are in danger from the flood. If there are no adequate facilities at the property local storage warehouses should be used

  • Arranging treatment

    While much salvage work can be carried out by suitably briefed non-professionals, it cannot be stressed too highly that the treatment of damaged objects is a matter for trained professionals only! If you are in any doubt about the condition of a damaged work, seek the advice of a conservator as quickly as possible
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.