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High-performing homes should be comfortable, energy-efficient, healthy, safe, smart — and resilient. Resilient homes incorporate extra protection measures and features against extreme weather, wildfires, and other natural disasters, which have become increasingly prevalent in recent times.

In our Resilient Home Series, we’ve explored how to protect your home against fire, storms, and drought. Now let’s cover safeguarding your home against floods.

Am I at Risk of Floods?

“Floods can happen anywhere — just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage,” reports the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA determines the flood risk by the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), which measures the expected floodwater level during a flood event that has a one in 100 chance of occurring in any given year. The BFE is often referred to as the 100-year flood elevation, but for some, that’s not cautious enough. Some municipalities particularly prone to flooding now require new construction to be built at a 500-year flood elevation.

That said, of course desert dwellers don’t need to take the same precautions as seaside settlers, so how do you determine your flood risk? You could visit the FEMA Flood Map Service Center and search for your address, but the results are delivered in cryptic categories with the mystic BFE left unidentified.

OR save yourself a headache and login to Pearl Certification’s award-winning Green Door app to download your free ClimateCheck® report. ClimateCheck calculates the projected flood risk of your specific address by assessing four types of potential floods:

  • Coastal: High tides and sea level rise

  • Storm surge: A rise in ocean water, higher than normal tide, generated by a storm

  • Fluvial: Flooding from bodies of water overflowing

  • Pluvial: Surface-water flooding

Flood risk scores are expressed on a scale of one to 100 as it relates in comparison to the contiguous U.S.

Reinforce Your Residence

Your ClimateCheck flood risk score will help determine what lengths you should go to protect your abode from high waters. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides building standards for flood-resilient homes, and houses that meet these standards experience nearly 80% less damage annually than homes without these fortifications. Read on to learn your options for guarding your domicile against trespassing liquid.

Insure Your Assets

Just because you have homeowners insurance does not mean you're protected against floods. "Standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding,” said Kerry Harp, Senior Sustainability Analyst at Pearl Certification. Although 99% of U.S. counties suffered flood damage between 1996 and 2019, only 15% of homeowners have flood insurance. “If your home is in a location that is at risk of flooding, get flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)," says Harp.

Not only should you get flood insurance, but you should purchase it now. Most flood insurance policies go into effect 30 days after purchase, so if you’re standing in knee-deep water in your home when you make the call, you’re too late.

Floods Water Detector

Danger! Danger!

Smoke detector? Check. Carbon monoxide detector? Check. Water detector? Yes, they exist too! This electronic device often uses a small cable that lies flat on the floor and relies on the electrical conductivity of water to detect the presence of unwanted irrigation. The device sounds an alarm with the intent of alerting the homeowner in time to take action against damage.

Come Prepared

For homes in high-risk flood zones, purchase doorway flood barriers to keep on hand. Doorway flood barriers contain absorbent polymer that swells when it comes in contact with water to form a solid barrier to divert water away from your home.

Fortify Your Foundation

Your foundation literally holds everything together, so make it strong. Apply coatings and sealants to your foundation, as well as walls, windows, and doorways. Then help keep water away from the foundation by installing rain barrels at the downspouts and keeping your gutters clean. You can set up a Maintenance Reminder in Pearl’s Green Door app to help you remember.

All Downhill From Here

If constructing a new home, consider grading your yard to divert water away from your home. “Existing homes have the option of land grading too,” says Harp, “but execution tends to be more complicated. Strategic landscaping can also provide an effective diversion method, as well as help reduce erosion caused by flood events.”

Look, Mom, No Pores!

Carpet, hardwood, and laminate flooring endure the most damage during floods and typically require complete replacement. For levels of your home below BFE, choose nonporous options, such as ceramic and porcelain tile and vinyl flooring for waterproof alternatives.

Floods Sump Pump

Pump It Up

Sump pumps are like guard dogs for water; they safely discharge water away from the property that would otherwise flood it. After creating a hole or “sump” in your basement or crawl space, a pump is then inserted inside. The pump automatically detects rising water and collects it from the sump and expels it through a discharge line.

Open Sesame

All protection methods thus far qualify as “dry floodproofing,” meaning the measure intends to prevent the entry of water entirely. On the other hand, “wet floodproofing” allows flood waters to enter and flow through the enclosed areas of a house in effort to relieve water pressure that could otherwise lead to substantial structural damage. “Placing flood vents in foundation walls, garages, and other susceptible areas prevents hydrostatic pressure buildup, allowing floodwater to freely flow through,” says Harp.

Prepare for a Moat

Exterior floodwalls serve as dams to your utilities, window wells, stairs, and other outdoor structures during times of flood. Floodwalls constructed from concrete or masonry can even add a stylish touch to your yard, but be sure to properly secure the walls’s footing. Install a backflow check valve on your sewer or storm drain connection to prevent backflow and be sure to keep it clean.

Floods House on Stilts

Get a Boost

Your most expensive flood protection methods include raising everything above BFE. Utilities, such as electrical panels and outlets, wiring, propane tanks, appliances, and HVAC system would all benefit from placement above BFE, though such a task tends to be easier said than done. Or take your flood precautions to the next level — literally — by elevating your lowest floor above the BFE using stilts or concrete blocks. “Though costly, these measures can help reduce repair costs, keep operations functioning during floods, and even lower flood insurance premiums,” says Harp.

Don’t count on Noah’s Ark to save you. Login to Pearl’s free Green Door app today to obtain your ClimateCheck report and determine your home’s risk of flood. Then begin actioning preventative measures to improve your home’s resilience and protect it against vicious aquatic attacks.

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