Flooding and historic buildings

Historic buildings and flooding: Ten things you need to know

Recent flooding has badly affected historic properties in the borough of Allerdale. We want to help residents and business get back on their feet as quickly as possible. 

Older building fabric, particularly historic stone, wood and plaster tends to survive flooding much better than modern materials (and has survived many previous floods).  For Listed Buildings you should not remove historic fabric without getting advice from the council’s conservation officer. 

Any restoration work needs to take account of the age and special character of their fabric and so may need consent. If your property is not a listed building, like-for-like repairs will not usually require planning permission. If you have experienced flooding you might need to consider the following:

  1. If your building is listed tell your loss adjuster (they may not know)! Photograph every part that has been flooded and especially any features. If your insurance company or building contractor wants to remove any fabric from your listed building that you think might be historic or it isn’t damaged, contact the conservation officer who will try to intervene;

  2. Natural ventilation, possibly supplemented by heavy duty mechanical fans, is generally better than the use of high powered dehumidifiers. Open all doors and windows when possible to increase air movement. Clear any air bricks;

  3. Only use dehumidifiers if ventilation clearly isn’t sufficient, but never use to excess, as rapid drying can fatigue or warp timber features and plasters;

  4. Don’t heat the building while it’s sodden, and then no more than normal as it begins to dry out, as excessive air vapour can cause further damage;

  5. Lime based wall plaster should generally remain in situ, if it hasn’t become distorted or detached, as this is breathable and will aid drying of the masonry beneath;

  6. Modern plasters are hygroscopic and this can encourage bacterial growth, and so may need to be removed to at least 500mm above the flooding height;

  7. Wet board floors and any enclosed timber spaces need to be ventilated by removing every fifth to sixth floorboard or occasional panels to increase air flow, but tongue and groove boards should be lifted by a skilled joiner;

  8. Stone flag floors will usually dry out eventually without needing to be lifted but concrete floors will possibly need replacing; 

  9. Solid panelled doors usually survive very well, but leave them open whenever you can. If paint work blisters it may need to be removed to increase evaporation;

  10. Iron features such as fireplaces need to be dried out more quickly via local heat sources, but do not light open fires as this could greatly increase humidity in the room or cause damage to flues.

Detailed advice on flooding and Listed Buildings can be found in Historic England Guidance

If you need more specific advice about your listed building, please contact the council’s conservation officer at the email shown.

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Contact us

0303 123 1702

Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ