Flood Protection - Additional Features

Patricia Skinner, Reichel, Claudette Hanks  |  1/9/2007 1:22:15 AM

It's a good idea to design a home so it will be less vulnerable to floods.  In addition to designing for flood-damage reduction, here are a few techniques you can use in building the home to reduce the potential for flood damage.

Design walls and floors to flood: For spaces below anticipated flood levels, always use flood-resistant materials. Since anticipated flood levels can be exceeded, it is a good idea also to use flood-resistant materials above anticipated flood levels and to design walls that are easy to open, flush, disinfect and dry.

Prevent sewer backflow: Keep the sewer system from backing up into the house.

Use flood-resistant materials on the first floor to provide an added measure of protection if flooding ever occurred from either rising water, plumbing leaks or overflows. If it ever happens, you’ll be glad to have a home that needs a “shampoo-and-blow-dry” instead of major repair. Examples include decorative concrete flooring, tile, rubber or solid vinyl or linoleum flooring with water-resistant mortar and adhesives; wainscoting, wallboard and woodwork that can resist short-term flooding (solid wood, water-resistant MDF or fiber-cement panels, paperless drywall, etc.); closed-cell rigid or spray foam insulation.

Choose appliance styles and installation methods that elevate the vulnerable parts. This can minimize damage in shallow floods. Washers, dryers, ranges with a drawer at the bottom and cooktops with wall ovens are examples.

Build with submersible building systems (exterior walls) in levee-protected areas
: Since BFE is determined by a 1 percent probability calculation that depends upon levees providing a given level of protection, it can be far lower than the actual flooding potential in the event of a levee failure or overtopping by an unusual storm. Even though regulations do not require it, it is highly recommended to either elevate above the actual potential flood level from a levee failure (which would be the height of the levee or more) or elevate to the FEMA flood advisory level and use a “submersible” building system – at least on the first level. Examples include:

  • Concrete and rigid foam building systems (ICF, shotcrete, block, cast-in-place, pre-cast)
  • Steel framing, if treated to resist corrosion from salty floodwater, with rigid foam insulating sheathing.
  • Solid wood framing with closed-cell spray insulation partially filling wall cavities or rigid foam sheathing and marine-grade plywood sheathing.
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