Restoring a Damaged Home

Baker Fred "Gene"  |  1/3/2007 8:47:11 AM

If you have decided to restore your storm-damaged home, you’ve already determined that your neighbors are probably coming back, that public utilities will be restored (or you will provide your own), that you will have police, fire and medical services and that there will be jobs and schools. You may need to time your restoration to coincide with the return of public utilities and services. Hopefully, in making the decision to restore your home, you obtained a good assessment of the damage to your home and know that it is repairable – that for the most part, the damage is cosmetic, not structural.

Learn about the local, state and federal regulations and building requirements

The storms brought changes in regulations and requirements – not just to the coast but to the entire state. The changes in building requirements will affect your rebuilding process and the cost of repairs. You need a basic knowledge of your options so you can make wise decisions.

Your local building official is a good place to start. Tell local officials where you are located, get specific information about your neighborhood and street and your exposure to flood, wind and wildfire hazards. Local officials will give you information that reflects the requirements of all levels of government; they will tell you which work requires a building permit and which work requires you to use a licensed contractor. If you are receiving recovery or mitigation funds, be sure you understand the requirements (permitting, minimum standards, licensing, etc.) for work that’s to be funded through that funding source.

Get a good estimate of work that must be done before you can move back in.

Determine how you will finance the complete restoration, including major required items. Two of the most-costly potential expenses would be 1) having to elevate the structure before you repair it and 2) having to replace materials that did not suffer storm damage but have hidden termite damage. Do all the planning you can to be sure you can restore the building to a livable condition within the limits of your financial resources.

Remove damaged materials with care

When you restore a home you have to deal first with removing damaged materials. Be sure you protect yourself (heavy clothing, gloves, sturdy shoes and mask) and understand proper handling and disposal of mold, asbestos, lead-based paint and any other hazardous materials.

Consider upgrading systems and adding space

Restoring a home gives you some opportunities to upgrade systems and even to add space. Some of the most important upgrades would be better insulation, reducing air exchange between inside and outside, and installing energy-efficient appliances, especially heating and cooling equipment. During restoration you may be able to add anchors and straps for hurricane resistance and replace floor and wall coverings with flood-resistant materials.

If you add space on the side, back for front – no matter how small the addition – it will have to meet the elevation requirement for new construction and all applicable building codes, even if the original structure can be repaired without elevating. If you add space above (i.e., using the original structure as a foundation for the additional space), the entire structure may have to be elevated.

Ask about assistance and incentive programs

Always ask the local official and other design or building professionals you work with if they know about programs that may help you with your restoration. These might be mitigation funding programs (if you must elevate or put hurricane straps or shutters on the building), tax incentives for making energy-efficient improvements, insurance savings for incorporating features that make your home less vulnerable to hazards or some consideration or assistance for preserving historic artifacts, structures or neighborhoods.

Cost is a huge factor. You need know how much it will cost to repair the building to a condition you can accept. Some items that cost more than you’d expect will have paybacks in reduced energy bills or insurance premiums. And some will just give you a greater sense of safety and security. Take the time to plan all options and get as much for your money as you can.

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