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WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE HURRICANE SEASON, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE PREPARE FOR ALL POTENTIAL CHALLENGES AHEAD OF US.
We all saw the devastation that Hurricane María left behind in 2017, and that experience taught us that we need to prepare for the worst. To do this, we need to make sure our homes are safe and secure, especially from flooding. Not only can it be dangerous to live in a home that is not floodproof during hurricane season, but fixing flood damages can cost you thousands of dollars.
By floodproofing your home, you will save money from future damages and increase the resale value of your home. Many floodproofing measures are inexpensive and although they may not make it safe for you to stay at home during a flood, it will decrease your level of stress, cause less of a mess, and make it easier, quicker, and cheaper to recover in the long run. Here are 4 ways to correctly floodproof your home.
WHAT IS FLOODPROOFING?
Floodproofing are a variety of different structural and non-structural methods that prevent and reduce flood damages to a property. It means to rebuild a structure using approaches that avoid future flooding by preventing water from entering and damaging the home, as well as protecting important infrastructure such as electrical and plumbing systems inside the home.
To correctly floodproof your home, it’s important that you always consult a licensed design and/or building professional–an architect or engineer–and that you hire a qualified contractor to determine and build the best floodproofing approach for your home. It’s also imperative that you comply with your area’s floodplain regulations and that you obtain the necessary permits (building permit, elevation certificate, engineering certificate, etc.) to mitigate the potential flood risks in your home.
1. EVALUATE THE RISK
First, you need to find out if your home is located within a 100-year floodplain and check the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) of your home, which determines the elevation of a potential flood in an area. If you have not lived in your home for long, talk to your neighbors about whether you are at risk for flooding and what they have done to prevent flooding in their homes. It’s important that you know whether your home is at risk, so that you can take the correct measures to protect yourself, your home, and your loved ones.
Apart from this, inspect your house to evaluate what type of protection you will need. Inspect your outdoor fixtures for signs of rust and corrosion and move out items used or stored in flood-prone areas of your home such as basements or ground-floor spaces.
2. CHECK IF YOUR HOME IS BELOW THE BFE
Once you have outlined the risks of your home, you need to choose what you will do to protect it. One of the most dependable flood mitigation measures that people take is structural elevation, which elevates the foundation of your home so that the lowest floor is at or above the BFE. This method can be the most effective measure to reduce flood risk in many homes, especially for homes that are subject to coastal or deep flooding. However, this flood mitigation method may not always be a plausible option for certain homes that cannot be structurally elevated.
According to FEMA’s publication on Reducing Flood Risk to Residential Buildings That Cannot Be Elevated, homes that are, “attached dwelling units; connected row houses, townhomes, or brownstones; mid- rise multi-family buildings; older dwellings; and homes with construction types and/or building materials that are not suitable for elevation” may not be elevated as a form of flood mitigation. Nevertheless, if your home has any of these characteristics, there are still many other ways you can mitigate your home from flood damage which will be described below.
Apart from elevating structures, you may also elevate systems that can be prone to flood damage either inside or outside of the structure. Air handling, electrical, or plumbing systems must be elevated at least one foot above the BFE to make sure they are not at risk for damage.
3. TRY WET FLOODPROOFING
If you are not able to elevate your home above the BFE, you can use a mitigation method called wet floodproofing, which prevents flood damage by allowing water to go in and out of the structure. It works by installing wall openings that allow flood water to enter and exit the structure in certain areas of the home. This is why it’s important to choose practical spaces in the house to install these openings like basements, crawlspaces, or garages. It’s not recommended that they are installed in living spaces such as bedrooms or living rooms where furniture and appliances are kept, since they are easily damaged and can be costly to repair and clean.
It’s also important that these wall openings are not higher than the lowest floor in order to allow water to enter and exit freely. Not only that, but it’s important to make sure that the hydrostatic pressures inside and outside are equalized, meaning that the water levels inside the house have to fall more or less at the same time as the water levels outside. To do this, we recommend that you consult a design professional to figure out how big the openings should be and how many are adequate for your home depending on the size of your home and the rate of the rise and fall and the size of the designated flooding area.
4. GET FLOOD INSURANCE
One of the best ways to mitigate flood damage is by getting flood insurance. It’s important to get flood insurance even if you are not in a flood-prone area because all homes can flood, and homeowner’s insurance doesn’t usually cover damage from flooding. Flood insurance can provide up to $250,000 in property coverage. Even if you have strong structural floodproofing protection, you are still at risk for flood damage, especially if your mitigation system includes wet floodproofing, is under the BFE, and is in a floodplain. It’s important that you are protected if your furniture, utilities, appliances, and other belongings get damaged during a flood.
Your safety is the most important thing, and taking these preventative measures to protect your home from flooding during hurricane season is essential to ensuring your well-being and security during these uncertain times, and all the time.