Something you've undoubtedly noticed in the media over the last few months is an increase in the number of reports about extreme weather.
It's happening across the globe.
The World Meteorological Organisation have reported that 2014 has started with an unusual number of exceptional weather events on every continent. These range from heatwaves to extreme cold and significantly above average rainfall.
Britain has just experienced the heaviest level of winter rainfall known in 250 years. River flooding has reached very high levels and coastal areas have been ravaged by storms.
In the summer of 2013, Germany experienced record flooding of both the Elbe and Danube rivers. It prompted a debate in which a radical rethink of flood defences was proposed.
Parts of southern France were hit by flooding as a result of heavy rainfall in January 2014
Those are many other examples. But let's look at the UK – a country having to face up to new realities where extreme weather is concerned.
The latest figures suggest that a quarter of British homes are at risk of flooding. At the same time, surveys report that 83% of homeowners believe they are not at risk. That means many thousands of people have got it wrong and are ignoring a very real possibility.
Those who live near rivers are generally aware of the threat posed by rising waters. But that's just one cause of flooding. There are several more possibilities – and they can occur in a a much wider range of places.
In areas with a high water table or low-lying areas with a lot of porous rock beneath the surface, groundwater flooding is a risk during periods of intense rainfall.
Exceptionally heavy rain also creates the possibility of flash surface flooding, in which drainage systems either can't cope or get blocked with debris or hailstones. In these instances, properties at the bottom of gradients are especially at risk.
Coastal flooding can be caused by a combination of high tides and storms. It doesn't just affect buildings directly on the coast: tidal river basins away from the immediate area can also be hit by flooding.
There are other ways in which floods can happen that are not related to the weather: burst water mains can sometimes release a very large amount of water in a short time, causing damage to ground floors and basements.
If you think your property could be at risk, you should get specialist advice and consult expert sources. The Environment Agency has extensive information about preparing for flooding on their website.
Another source of in-depth knowledge is www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk – the site includes a free guide for homeowners. It contains some case studies showing how two homes previously affected by flooding in high risk areas have been adapted to make them better defended, as well as less severely affected should floodwater enter the ground floor.
In terms of stopping water ingress via doors and low-level windows, there are two approaches: temporary or permanent installations.
Temporary defences like watertight doorway guards can be effective, so long as the building is also protected against water ingress in other areas, such as brickwork and vents. However, they do have drawbacks such as the need to store them, the fact specialist tools might be needed to fit them and that most products will still require permanent fixings to be in place on the building.
However, there are less obtrusive permanent options, such as water-resisting external doors and windows. It's certainly much more convenient to have a door or window that is inherently water-resistant. They are not ideal for every situation. There are for example some circumstances in which a flood door can actually be too effective, allowing the water outside the building to reach a level of depth where its mass actually threatens the structure of the building.
But in many cases, these products can form part of a highly-effective flood solution for both domestic and commercial properties.
You might be wondering just how effective a well-sealed door can be. Here's a link to some information from Lister Trade Frames who market a flood door under their Elitis consumer brand.
In a test with a flood level of 600mm (2 feet) their composite door – which has 12 locking points – allowed water ingress at a rate of 3.25 litres of water per hour. By contrast, the rate of leakage for a normal door without any special sealing or locking features is around 800 litres per hour.
At Roto we specify locking systems for both windows and doors that provide a high degree of all-round compression – enough to enable a unit to resist floodwater for a significant period.
For example, the Roto Flood Window specification has been successfully tested to a German standard, IFT Guideline FE-07/1.
If you or anyone you know is considering having a water-resistant door or window fitted, it's worth asking about Roto hardware.