Tag Archives: flood vents

Insurance Costs Remain High post House Elevation

OUR HOUSE IS “SPECIAL”: We live in a flood zone that has been deemed “special” by FEMA, and not in a good way. It’s rated in the highest category of flood insurance, beat out only by those who have ocean front views. The guilty party in our instance is not the Atlantic Ocean, but a gentle brook whose size is disarmingly small. Yet, it provides, under the right circumstances, significant flooding around the entire perimeter of our house. For all kinds of obvious reasons, we no longer wanted to have the brook entering our house like an uninvited guest who crashes the party and trashes your house.

RAISE THE ROOF: or the whole house, as we did. That’s right. Ripped it from its foundation, jacked it up about 5 feet, built some new access stairs and endured a few months of costly construction. All in the name of decreasing our flood risk and ever-climbing flood insurance rates.

Our updated information was sent to FEMA complete with our required new flood elevation certificate. We weren’t looking for a gold star for our foreheads, just a decrease in our flood insurance rates.

FEMA’S RESPONSE: No rate change – same as  BEFORE the lift. Why? Two words – Flood Vents.

Flood Savvy.com

Interior view of flood vent

WHAT IS A FLOOD VENT? Simply put, a flood vent allows for a free flow of flood water in and out of a home’s foundation walls. They serve to equalize the pressure on both sides of the foundation walls, decreasing the chance of significant damage. (see earlier post on flood vents)


FEMA accepted flood vents

Not only do you need to have them, you need to have the right number of them based on the square footage of your house. The correct number of vents were on our plans, but our builder missed two of them. FEMA is a stickler that all criteria be met. Our house is out of harm’s way, but because we have seven instead of the required nine flood vents, they offered no reduction. A true all or none philosophy.  They have no competition, you can only get flood insurance through FEMA so they get to make all the rules. Once installed, we’ll resubmit our data to FEMA and hope for a better outcome.


Flood vents cut into the foundation near the ground


Elevated House Lowered onto Newly Built Foundation

Week 10: The much anticipated, but considerably less dramatic act of lowering the house back down onto the new foundation took place yesterday. Our lift company, Payne,  was able to swing into town for two days to complete the job. When lowering the house they have to make certain that the house will sit atop the foundation, flush and square. Ideally they would be able to just lower the house straight down, but sometimes they have to adjust (“shim” in construction speak) all the little places where the house does not meet the foundation wall. For unlike a traditional house build, where you would build the house from the ground up, a lift has to merge two separate projects: house + new foundation.

Our house fully elevated  with no foundation

Our house fully elevated with no foundation

Payne, as well as my construction team, were notably surprised by the extent our house did not square up with the foundation. Any place where the two failed to meet up had to be shored up with wood. This unevenness is most likely attributed to an old house settling and less than stellar construction when the back addition was added by a previous owner.

Foundation walls built up to meet the elevated house.

Foundation walls built up to meet the elevated house.

In the photo above, you can see where space has been intensionally left to allow for the removal of the steel beams that had been supporting the house during the construction of the foundation. Recently I witnessed a house undergoing this same flood prevention measure with a less experienced construction crew. They did not leave any room in the foundation wall to remove the steel beams and so had to carve out space as an afterthought. Not exactly an ideal formula.

Elevated house lowered back down to meet the new foundation.

Safe and sound: House is set back down onto the newly built foundation

Now for the big finish … The photo above shows the house lowered back down, safe and sound, to meet with the newly built foundation walls. All in all, this was a fairly typical lift, according to Sean Payne, the owner of the lifting company we used.

THINGS COULD ALWAYS BE WORSRE: Lately I’ve been bemoaning the fact that the lowering of our house was delayed. By comparison, Sean mentioned a house he was currently working on where the construction team completing that house elevation (recall that the lift team and construction team are not the same) were new to this type of project. The result in that scenario is extensive delays as they struggle to figure out what to do next. That house has been elevated with steel beam supports for 5 months and counting. By comparison, our house was able to be lowered back down in only six weeks, and that includes one week where the site sat untouched.

Until the construction crew returns tomorrow to continue its magic, our house is held to the foundation primarily by gravity. Hope we don’t get a big wind storm any time soon.

Flood Vents on an Elevated House

FLOOD VENTS: If you’re considering elevating your house, chances are pretty good that you live in a special flood hazard area (SFHA). By “special” they (FEMA) mean that your house gets rocked by a flood every now and again and therefore requires a homeowner to adhere to strict FEMA building codes. Once your house is elevated, the foundation will continue to be subjected to an occasional pummeling by floodwater. In effort to eliminate the destructive force from a flood, flood vents will be added to the foundation walls.

Flood vent tucked into the landscaping

Flood vents tucked behind the landscaping

WHAT IS A FLOOD VENT? Simply put, a flood vent allows for a free flow of flood water in and out of a home’s foundation walls. They serve to equalize the pressure on both sides of the foundation walls, decreasing the chance of significant damage.

So while it may seem counterintuitive to welcome the flood water in, it’s the best way to protect your foundation in the long run. These vents are placed around the perimeter of the house near the ground, but can easily be blended into the surrounding landscape.

Interior view of flood vent

Interior view of flood vent

This style of flood vent is only appropriate for hydrostatic pressure resulting from slow moving/rising water. Homes located near the ocean or a fast moving river would be subjected to hydrodynamic forces and would therefore require an entirely different foundation system (break-away walls or an open foundation with the house built up on pylons).

As the new foundation wall is completed, space is allocated for a flood vent.

As the new foundation wall is completed, space is allocated for a flood vent.

These vents are an important part of the National Flood Insurance Program regulations that apply to all new build, repair of substantially damaged homes and substantial improvement of existing homes in SFHA’s. Flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) put together by the NFIP determine which properties are located in a SFHA based on base flood elevations. Confused? Let’s try an acronym you may be more familiar with instead …

SUMMARY: Install flood vents around the perimeter of your elevated home or your foundation walls may by S.O.L. with subsequent flooding events.