Is Your Property in a Flood Zone? How to Find Out and What to do About it

Flooding is one of the most occurring natural disasters facing homeowners in the Hampton Roads area and many other areas in the United States. As a homeowner, your property may be at risk of water damage. Two things you can do to evaluate your risk are look at the flood zone map, and determine the elevation of your home (if it’s in a flood zone).

The Federal Flood Insurance Reform recently led to the increase in flood insurance premiums where, for instance, some who previously paid a premium of $2500 a year are now paying $9500. The hikes in premiums are dependent on your location and flood zone; therefore it is imperative to be aware whether your home is in a flood zone. First, you need to know what is considered a flood zone. According to FEMA, a flood zone is an area next to a body of water or a confirmed flood plain. Property located in a flood zone also has serious implications on the cost of the property ownership. For instance, when purchasing a property on a flood zone, the lender will require the borrower to pay for the flood insurance since their collateral is at risk which needs to be mitigated. As I have mentioned, flood insurance is now costly, and it is a cost to be paid on an ongoing basis. Even during sales, the flood zone location could prove to be an obstacle since most buyers don’t want to incur any additional costs.

Is your property located in a flood zone? Here is how you can find out in a quick and free way. Just for starters, search your property address on the website, You will immediately get instant access to the nearest or most relevant flood map in your area of residence, and be able to tell whether your property lies in or within proximity of a flood zone. The website is a bit cumbersome- but it does work.

If you find that your property is located in/near a flood zone, you may want or need to get an elevation certificate.  This will establish the elevation of the living floors relative to the water risk- which will help you with getting homeowner’s insurance.  You can also visit the website where they will research an estimate of how much flood insurance will cost you as well as local insurance agents who will potentially cover for your property. This is a great thing to do before purchasing any property to avoid future inconveniences.  You will also need the elevation certificate for your mortgage approval.

If you already own a property and find out it is located in a flood zone, don’t panic. One of the rational steps you can take is contacting a qualified agent who will verify this fact as well as advise you whether it will be an issue. If it is, then you will have to buy the FEMA flood insurance which is usually separate from your homeowner’s policy. However, in some instances, your property might be in a special flood hazard area but in a higher elevated environment with no risk of flooding. If this is the case, you can apply for a re-zoning of your property through FEMA.

Flood Resistance

If your home is in a flood risk area, there are several measures you could take to ensure it is flood resistant. Flood resistance would help reduce the damage of your home by limiting the amount of water which will enter your home:

  1. Elevate your house to a required Flood Protection Elevation (FPE). When properly elevated, your home will be above the most severe floods. In elevation, you could lift your house and build an extending foundation below or add a new upper story.
  2. Adding air brick covers to prevent water from entering via the ventilation holes. Automatic covers will be activated by water while the manual covers can be fitted during a flood expectation.
  3. Installing temporary flood barriers which include interlocking units which will be resistant to the flood waters.
  4. Add a supply of modern water absorbing sandbag which will prevent water from entering the home by blocking or soaking up the flood water.
  5. Modify your water valves by installing the FEMA recommended gate valves in all pipes within the house. This will prevent a flooded sewer system from going back up into your home.

Caution: you should avoid using products which create an impermeable barrier on the external walls of your home such as coatings and tanking.  These products can dampen the building materials and can increase long term damages.