By Patrick Galvan,

It may be essential for life to exist, but water is also the second-highest cause of property loss for storage users. And, unfortunately, it only takes a small amount of water to cause an immense amount of damage to your storage items.

When you’re looking to rent a storage unit in an area that has a high risk for flooding, there are a number of factors you need to consider.

Wetlands, floodplains, and areas of low-lying land are particularly prone to severe flooding. In fact, these regions face a 25% chance of experiencing a flood once every thirty years. According to, moderate to low-risk areas are still subjected to one-third of flood-related disaster assistance; a lower risk is not a guarantee of immunity.

After determining whether or not you will be storing in an area where flooding can happen, your next step is ensuring the storage unit—and the valuables inside—will be able to endure prolonged exposure to floodwater.

Both FEMA and NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) recommend placing your belongings inside of a storage unit composed of flood damage-resistant materials. Such materials include brick, asbestos-cement board, and concrete. A structure with waterproof mortar is also highly recommended. If you live in a coastal area, be sure to check the material charts supplied by NFIP, as certain materials can’t be exposed to seawater.

Kurt Kleindienst, Vice President of Operational Initiatives at Safeguard Self Storage, suggests a climate-controlled, upper-floor unit. “This will protect the stored items from any rising water and also protect them from moisture due to humidity or temperature fluctuations,” he says.

In the event that water should still infiltrate the storage unit, your belongings should be prepared to survive at least 72 hours of floodwater exposure. Properly protecting your items can mean the difference between minimal damage and severe damage, as well as between a resurfacing job and replacing the entire item.

A number of methods for protecting your items from flooding exist. For smaller items, a sturdy shelf against a wall will do the trick. Your belongings will remain above water levels, and the combined weight will prevent the shelf from tipping over. “Shelving also makes it much easier to organize and retrieve items from a storage unit,” adds Kleindienst.

However, some items like furniture are too massive to store on a shelf but still require protection in spite of their size. Placing these items on pallets, where they’re six or seven inches off the ground, will provide elevated protection. “Pallets allow you to keep the stored goods elevated while allowing air to circulate around the items,” says Kleindienst, “which helps to keep them in pristine condition.” In addition, the pallets’ flat sides and cornered edges will curb run-off to the nonabsorbent floor, where it will evaporate more quickly.

Try encasing especially delicate or upholstered belongings with plastic sheets, rubber, and/or furniture blankets (All are available at most home improvement stores). These materials are waterproof, and using them should minimize any resulting damage if floodwater surpasses the pallets and/or shelves.

One more possibility to consider is prolonged exposure to a high concentration of moisture—a practically guaranteed threat in the aftermath of a flood. High moisture content in a contained space  can rust metals, develop mold, and corrode structural alloys.

Unfortunately, most flood insurance policies do not cover moisture-related damage, so protection against the aftermath is up to you. In addition to using waterproof materials to protect your items, you might want to consider the following:

  • ensuring the unit’s humidity level remains below 50% at all times through the use of climate-controlled storage
  • placing bags of charcoal throughout the unit and replacing them every 30-60 days

For more information regarding your area’s risk of flooding, consult FEMA’s flood maps.

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