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Avoiding Flood Damage and Protecting Your Property

Are You At Risk?
If you aren’t sure whether your house is at risk from flooding, check with your local floodplain manager, building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator. They can tell you whether you are in a flood hazard area. Also, they usually can tell you how to protect yourself and your house and property from flooding.

Anchor Fuel Tanks


Unanchored fuel tanks can be easily moved by flood waters. These tanks pose serious threats not only to you, your family, and your house, but also to public safety and the environment. An unanchored tank outside your house can be driven into your walls, and it can be swept downstream, where it can damage other houses. When an unanchored tank in your basement is moved by flood waters, the supply line can tear free and your basement can be contaminated by oil. Even a buried tank can be pushed to the surface by the buoyant effect of soil saturated by water.

As shown in the figure, one way to anchor a tank is to attach it to a large concrete slab whose weight is great enough to resist the force of flood waters. This method can be used for all tanks, both inside and outside your house. You can also anchor an outside tank by running straps over it and attaching them to ground anchors.

Anchoring a 1,000-gallon fuel tank to a concrete base will cost you about $300 to $500. Using straps and ground anchors will cost about $300.

Raise Electrical System Components


Electrical system components, including service panels (fuse and circuit breaker boxes), meters, switches, and outlets, are easily damaged by flood water. If they are inundated for even short periods, they will probably have to be replaced. Another serious problem is the potential for fires caused by short circuits in flooded systems. Raising electrical system components helps you avoid those problems. Also, having an undamaged, operating electrical system after a flood will help you clean up, make repairs, and return to your home with fewer delays.

As shown in the figure, all components of the electrical system, including the wiring, should be raised at least 1 foot above the 100-year flood level. In an existing house, this work will require the removal of some interior wall sheathing (drywall, for example). If you are repairing a flood-damaged house or building a new house, elevating the electrical system will be easier.
Estimated Cost

Raising the electrical service panel, meter, and all of the outlets, switches, and wiring in a 1,000-square-foot, single-floor house will cost about $1,500 to $2,000. If this work is performed during the repair of a damaged house or construction of a new house, the cost may be much lower.

Raise or Floodproof HVAC Equipment


Heating, ventilating, and cooling (HVAC) equipment, such as a furnace or hot water heater, can be damaged extensively if it is inundated by flood waters. The amount of damage will depend partly on the depth of flooding and the amount of time the equipment remains under water. Often, the damage is so great that the only solution is replacement.

In floodprone houses, a good way to protect HVAC equipment is to move it from the basement or lower level of the house to an upper floor or even to the attic. A less desirable method is to leave the equipment where it is and build a concrete or masonry block floodwall around it. Both of these methods require the skills of a professional contractor. Relocation can involve plumbing and electrical changes, and floodwalls must be adequately designed and constructed so that they are strong enough and high enough to provide the necessary level of protection.

Having your furnace and hot water heater moved to a higher floor or to the attic will cost about $ 1,500. The cost of a floodwall will depend partly on its height and length. A 3-foot-high wall with a perimeter length of 35 feet would cost about $1,000.

Install Sewer Backflow Valves


In some floodprone areas, flooding can cause sewage from sanitary sewer lines to back up into houses through drain pipes. These backups not only cause damage that is difficult to repair but also create health hazards.

A good way to protect your house from sewage backups is to install backflow valves, which are designed to block drain pipes temporarily and prevent flow into the house. Backflow valves are available in a variety of designs that range from the simple to the complex. The figure shows a gate valve, one of the more complex designs. It provides a strong seal, but must be operated by hand. So the effectiveness of a gate valve will depend on how much warning you have of impending flooding. Among the simpler valves are a flap or check valves, which open to allow flow out of the house but close when the flow reverses. These valves operate automatically but do not provide as strong a seal as a gate valve.

Having a plumber or contractor install one backflow valve will cost you about $525 for a combined gate/flap valve or about $375 for a flap valve. These figures include the cost of excavation and back-filling.

Add Waterproof Veneer to Exterior Walls


Even in areas where flood waters are less than 2 feet deep, a house can be severely damaged if water reaches the interior. The damage to walls and floors can be expensive to repair, and the house may be uninhabitable while repairs are underway.

One way to protect a house from shallow flooding is to add a waterproof veneer to the exterior walls and seal all openings, including doors, to prevent the entry of water. As shown in the figure, the veneer can consist of a layer of brick backed by a waterproof membrane. Before the veneer is applied, the siding is removed and replaced with exterior grade plywood sheathing. If necessary, the existing foundation footing is extended to support the brick. Also, because the wall will be exposed to flood water, changes are made to the interior walls as well so that they will resist moisture damage. In the area below the flood level, standard batt insulation is replaced with washable closed-cell foam insulation, and any wood blocking added inside the wall cavity is made of exterior grade lumber.

If you have a contractor add a waterproof brick veneer to your house, you can expect to pay about $10 per square foot of exterior wall. For example, a 3-foot-high brick veneer on a house measuring 60 feet by 30 feet would cover about 540 square feet and would cost about $5,400. This figure does not in-clude the cost of sealing doors and other openings or extending the foundation.

Credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency