Category Archives: Flood Savvy Tips

Private Insurance vs. FEMA

JULY 2014:  Flood insurance is a hot topic at the moment, the product is in flux. When the  Biggert-Waters Act was signed into law  in 2012, it was met with criticism and concern. This law set to remedy the long standing subsidized flood insurance rates that had subsequently bankrupted FEMA to the tune of 20 BILLION dollars.

PRIVATE INSURANCE VS. FEMA:  Home owners cried foul and pleaded for mercy as their rates were about to spiral out of control. Stepping in to combat the rate hikes was the introduction of private insurance, first in Florida and then spanning out across the country to include 15 states (as of this time).

Private insurance is written by Lloyd’s of London. Although they offer an alternative, with very competitive rates, my concern would be what happens if a catastrophic storm hits, àla Super Storm Sandy? If a private insurance company goes bankrupt – you could be out of luck in terms of receiving reimbursements. If FEMA backed insurance accumulates too many losses, they dig into the money bags of the USA government. Whose likely to run out of money first?

The entire goal of flood insurance, any insurance, is to make it self-sustaining. For that to happen, the rates must reflect the true risk involved.

PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS INTO LAW A FLOOD INSURANCE RELEIF ACT: In March of 2014, after much outcry from the constituents of flood weary states, the government backed down from it’s initial aggressive stance on curbing subsidized flood insurance rates. Essentially this law caps flood insurance premium rate hikes and passes on subsided rates to people buying homes in flood zones.

Flood insurance rates still need to be adjusted to better reflect the true risk of the home in a flood zone. Without it, people will continue to build, buy and live in a flood risk area, exposing the taxpayer to a significant burden. With the ever increasing rise in ocean levels, this is a real concern – for everybody. 

BEST SOLUTION  that I’m a big fan of: house elevation for flood mitigation. Your house is protected, your insurance rates drop dramatically, and you move from being a part of the problem to a part of the solution. Without a doubt, that is much easier said then done. Researchers, economists and lawmakers alike all favor this idea. The problem is implementing this expensive notion on a grand scale.

Just starting to rain ...

Just starting to rain …

A few hours later ... House across the street is deluged with flood water.

A few hours later …
House across the street is deluged with flood water.

If the above house were elevated, the only thing the home owner would need to do is move their car.

 

 

 

Just a Mess

Week 22: What happens when a crew of sheet rock workers run amok in your house? Someone’s going to be very unhappy. That someone was me this week.  The first day this crew started, they made a huge mess. Dust was everywhere. The kind of dust that can find its way into closed cabinets. I was not happy. I let them know. I asked them what their wives would say if they made this kind of mess in their home, hoping to appeal to their spirit of treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

Fuel for the fire was that I had covered anything that may be in harm’s way, and someone had UNCOVERED everything. Seriously.

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Drywall goes up in new room

I thought they were really inconsiderate, but assumed they had heard my concerns. Well, they may have heard them, but they sure didn’t heed them. The next day’s mess was even bigger. They had come back to tape and mud the drywall and just let the spackling paste fly.

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This piece had been covered.

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Spackling mud on the stairs

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On a table

They also had it on a curtain rod in an adjoining room, door handles, the kitchen floor and the mat in our foyer. Guess they didn’t like my suggestion to treat our home with more respect.

Where was my contractor during all of this? Good question. I encouraged my contractor to refrain from sending pig-like animals to work on my home. He apologized.

What other fun treat did we have happen this week? Our contractor’s electrician broke through a sealed off bathroom to take a dump and clogged the toilet. Clogged it. Are you kidding me?

I’ve heard that construction can be really messy, but his week was over the top. If this we’re a cheesy 1970’s commercial I’d be encouraging Calgon to take me away. If this were a Rolling Stones song, I’d be reaching for mother’s little helper.

Top 7 Tips to Handle Basement Flooding

On the heels of extensive flash flooding occurring in parts of Boulder, Colorado today, I wanted to offer some useful tips to those facing basement flooding. As someone who has dealt with this issue on numerous occasions, and much worse (hey, that’s why we’re elevating our house), I’ve learned a few things.  *if your house has endured flooding higher than your basement, you’ve come to the right place.

Dumpster needed to dispose of flood damaged walls, floors, insulation, etc.

Dumpster needed to dispose of flood damaged walls, floors, insulation, etc.

USEFUL TIPS TO HANDLE BASEMENT FLOODING:

1. TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY: The longer water sits, the more damage it is going to cause to everything that it touches.

2.  FLOOD WATER VS. GROUND WATER:  Whenever there is excessive water with no where else to go, it will find its way in – it’s sneaky that way. Determine if the water in your basement is floodwater or ground water. The former is a much bigger problem. Floodwater is composed of pesticides, chemical run off, animal waste, etc. It’s nasty. Ground water that seeps into your basement through the foundation is usually clean, hence a much easier clean up process.

3. SAFETY FIRST: Water is a phenomenal conductor of electricity – ever wonder why they insist on emptying the swimming pool at the first clap of thunder? Use caution when entering an area where the floor is covered with water. If the water is covering any electrical outlets, don’t go in  – unless you are confident that you know how to shut of the electricity  to this area first.

4. CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY: This is an area they should be well versed in as flooding happens everywhere. They can advise you on how to file a claim, let you know what is covered and what is not, and possibly provide some names of service providers to assist you with the clean-up. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover this. If you have flood insurance, the link below will help you determine what is covered in a basement and what is not:

www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/faqs/what-is-covered-in-my-basement.jsp

5. TAKE PICTURES OF EVERYTHING: If you plan to submit a claim to your insurance company, document everything before you start your clean up efforts. The more pictures you have, the better odds of getting reimbursed. Everything from your carpets, to shoes, to toppled over furniture, etc. If you have them, gather receipts for everything that you want to claim, it will expedite the insurance process.

6. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT: Only after you have taken many pictures should you begin to clean up the area. If you are dealing with floodwater, it’s easy – almost everything should be thrown into a pile to be thrown out. If you have content insurance as part of your flood insurance policy, an insurance adjuster may want to see all of the damaged items – so don’t throw them away just yet. Keep the items in a heap pile outside, if you are able.

If it’s ground water that has flooded your basement, you can safely keep almost everything that was not destroyed by the water. Water is surprisingly destructive. Area rugs should be rolled up and sent out to be professionally cleaned. Wall-to-wall carpeting may or may not be able to be salvaged, depending upon how badly it was saturated. The main problem you are going to need to mitigate against is mold.

7. CONTACT SERVICE PROFESSIONALS: There are many service providers who are experts at dealing with basement flooding. Let them help you. They cover everything from pumping out the water to sanitizing the space to throughly drying it out. The methods they may employ to dry out the space generally comes in the form of heat and/or industrial fans.

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Basement flooded in 2004

Drying equipment to dry out basement that had been flooded.

Drying equipment to dry out basement that had been flooded.

The photo above shows several drying equipment pieces that were used to provide 24 hours of a high-heat blast to the basement in an effort to dry it out.  This was after a flood event in 2011.  We’ve used this technique as well as industrial fans to accomplish the same outcome. In my opinion, the fans do a better job.

If you have repeated basement flooding there are techniques you can use to mitigate against suffering through this problem again – provided the flooding is minimal. Any number of “Dry Basement” type companies should be able to help you moving forward.

Ultimately for us, we moved all of the mechanicals out of the basement and relocated them to an attic space above our garage.  A few years later, we began this current project of elevating the entire house to mitigate against any kind of the flooding.

Top 7 Reasons Why an Elevation Project Drags On and on and on …

WEEK 14: There’s a chill to the air, my children are back in school, and I’m starting to see Halloween candy for sale in the grocery store, yet too little progress on my house. When we moved into our temporary apartment in June, we had hoped to move home by the end of September. Our builder, who had experience with these types of projects, felt that time frame was more than adequate. Here’s a surprise, our builder was wrong (insert sarcasm). But experience had already taught us that lesson – it always takes longer than expected. The question is  – why?

Every project will have deviations from the list below, but if you’re planning to elevate your house, take note. Top 7 Reasons why an Elevation Project Drags On and on and on …

1. THE BLUEPRINTS ARE LACKING IN DETAIL: If there’s one aspect of my project that I’d love to do over again, it would be the hiring of my architect. It’s not that he was unable to create blueprints with sufficient details, it’s that he was unwilling. It took him a year to deliver blueprints with barely sufficient detail for a builder to bid on the job and to get the proper permits from our building department. The kiss of death is anywhere on the blueprints that states, “to be verified in the field.”  I would encourage anyone with a need for an architect to build into the contract specific deadlines for work to be completed as well as having a frank discussion about the level of details required. It’s likely to cost a bit more up front but pay for itself in avoiding time delays and conflicts with the builder later.

2. LACK OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE LIFTING COMPANY AND THE BUILDER: The lifting company in our case worked for us, they were not sub-contracted by the builder. As such, the communication was lacking between these two specialists resulting in weeks of time delays. In our case, this occurred despite the fact that the builder and lifting company had recently worked together on several other elevation projects.

3. THE CONTRACTOR HAS POOR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS: None of them will admit this adage applies to them, but a fair number of contractors are unable to see the big picture and anticipate the needs of the job two, three, four weeks in advance. I’ve never seen a giant calendar on site identifying everything that has to happen in a day, a week, a month. It appears to me they think about the job only a week at a time, in very general terms. They seem immune to the concept of a time crunch, except for the contractors you see on television.

4. SECURING PROPER PERMITS: A house elevation project will require building permits and very likely height variances from your local building department. Additionally, as your property floods (or you wouldn’t be going to the trouble of lifting it), you are likely to run into wetland permit requirements that can often trigger the local county or even the state in which you live to get involved. These permits can often be secured with minimal disputes, but do take time.

5. THE UTILITY COMPANY GETS INVOLVED: When you lift a house, the gas lines need to be cut and locked for safety reasons. No one’s looking to blow up a neighborhood, just elevate a house. However, this necessity brings the utility company to the party. As most of them are huge corporations with a monopoly on the market, it’s going to be on their terms. They’ll tell you when they plan to show up and when it fits into their schedule. They care little about yours. This element is one of the trickiest facets of the job as it is almost entirely out of your hands.

6. THE WATER COMPANY GETS INVOLVED: Before you can lift your house, you’ll need to cut and cap the sewer lines and most water lines (one water line was kept for construction needs in our case). Before they can be turned back on, the water company, at least in our case, needs to cut all the water from the street. This requires the water company to send an employee to your house. This should have minimal impact on your project.

7. UNFORESEEN COMPLICATIONS: Many big projects, such as elevating an old house, are going to run into problems that could not be anticipated. In our case, the original foundation was unsalvageable and the house was remarkably out of square. These two conditions prompted a much lengthier time frame to build up the new foundation. Your project is likely to run into it’s own unforeseen peculiar quirks.

The above list does not touch on change-orders as those are a given that you’ll endure time delays. The list varies with items from those entirely within your control to those that are onerous and require *buttloads of patience. Although it is not entirely possible to dictate the unfolding of your elevation project, armed with the information above, you can avoid some known time traps and possibly finish before you wish you’d never started.

*buttloads is an actual measurement. See the link below that differentiates buttload, from boatload or shitload. It includes a terrific graphic.

blog.andrewallingham.info/2011/06/the-difference-between-a-buttload-boatload-and-shitload/