Restore for MORE than Before -- with Flood-hardy Home Improvements

If your home was flooded, the tremendous work, expense and stress can mean a daunting and difficult ordeal ahead. But it is possible to extract a silver lining from this disaster. If you restore for more than before, you can return to a better home -- a more resilient, efficient, comfortable, and healthy home to enjoy with peace of mind. This is one of a series of articles about ways to do that.

Take control of your future by making your home more resilient for the next flood with these flood-hardy restoration improvements. It’s a great investment to upgrade when replacing damaged materials and equipment, even if your insurance won’t cover the incremental cost.

Making your home flood-hardy and resilient means you can clean-up and move back in quickly, with minimal tear-out, replacement, cost and ordeal. It's not an all-or-nothing approach! Any of the following you can do will reduce future flood damage and the resulting health hazards, ordeal and expenses.

Backflow Prevention: Have a licensed plumber install sewage backflow valves in the drain line to protect your home and health. Even minor flash floods in the vicinity can cause sewage back-up.

Damage-resistant materials: Restore with flood-resistant replacement materials, which also tend to be less vulnerable to mold. FEMA evaluates and publishes detailed information about flood damage-resistant materials (see Examples include:

  • Floorings (Note: Types that allow slab/subfloor drying are most advantageous)
    • decorative concrete (overlay or stain), terrazzo, stone, brick;
    • porcelain or ceramic tile (unglazed and unsealed mortar may offer greater slab or subfloor drying capacity);
    • interlocking solid vinyl tiles that don’t need adhesive (can be easily removed to allow slab to dry, then re-installed);
    • solid vinyl tiles or inlaid sheet vinyl with no paper backing and water-proof adhesives;
    • solid hardwood planks installed to allow easy removal of some or all planks (with water base polyurethane or other vapor-permeable finish);
    • for raised homes, exterior grade plywood subflooring (may swell but can dry and recover).
  • Interior wall finishes: Paperless (fiberglass mat-faced) gypsum drywall with a moisture resistant core, or removable wainscoting. (Note: Finish with latex paint only, and NEVER use vinyl wallpaper since it can trap moisture in walls and lead to hidden mold.)
  • Insulations: Closed-cell, high-density spray foam and closed-cell rigid foam boards (extruded polystyrene [XPS], isocyanate) don't absorb water; semi-rigid mineral fiber board can be used for exterior insulating sheathing if able to drain and dry,
  • Exterior finishes: Brick veneer; fiber-cement, vinyl, aluminum, some moisture-resistant composite sidings and trim. Be sure to provide a drainage gap behind siding, and prime back side and ends of siding that will be painted.
  • Openings: Metal or fiberglass-skin doors with closed cell foam insulation inside and composite framing; windows with aluminum, fiberglass or vinyl frames (note some have metal components that could rust, or insulated glass spacers that might leak).

Mechanicals: Elevate appliances, equipment, outlets and switches above the potential flood level as feasible. Secure water heaters and A/C compressors on sturdy platforms. Wall ovens and front-loading laundry equipment on platforms are good options for shallow floods.

Foundations: If you find new or widened slab cracks or diagonal cracks in your home’s walls, hire a qualified professional to evaluate and repair the ffoundation. It may require anchors, shoring, or underpinning. Seek an engineered system and installation firm with a solid track record of success.

  • In flood hazard zones, flood vents are required by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in raised-home and crawl space foundation walls. They must be within one foot of the ground to prevent failure from the pressure of rising floodwater, and meet placement and area requirements. See FEMA’s Requirements for Flood Openings in Foundation Walls.
  • In a warm, humid climate, insulate raised floors with either closed cell spray foam insulation between joists under the subfloor, or with closed cell rigid foam boards across the floor joists, taped and sealed airtight. These methods prevent subfloor moisture problems common in air conditioned homes. (See Insulating Raised Floors in a Hot Humid Climate)
  • Relocate any ductwork and equipment out of the crawlspace and above flood risk.
  • When possible, the best solution is to elevate the entire house above flood risk. Homeowner flood insurance policies and some communities that receive disaster mitigation grants provide financial resources to elevate homes that have flooded. Check with your county government’s floodplain or emergency management office and your flood insurance policy.

Walls: If walls were gutted and are open or you will rebuild a new home, consider creating a “washable, drainable, dryable wall” assembly to above the possible flood level (higher than the required base building elevation)..

  • Partially fill wall cavities with closed cell spray foam insulation (2 lb. density) or rigid XPS foam board cut to fit; or, insulate walls with only exterior foam sheathing and leave the wall cavity empty. Leave some empty space in the wall cavity to allow flushing, drainage and drying.
  • Install paperless drywall with gaps or gaskets between panels to block wicking across panels.
  • Leave gaps at the top and bottom, covered by moldings that can be removed after a flood to allow the wall cavities to be flushed with cleaner then sanitizing rinse, drained and ventilated for drying (with dehumidified air for faster drying).

See more fact sheets, articles, and illustrations about flood recovery and resilient restoration., particularly the FAQ’s: After Gutting Your Flooded Home. If planning to rebuild a new home, explore the many articles in the LaHouse Resource Center website's My House/My Home content or order a print copy of Building Your High Performance Home: Gulf Region Homeowners Guide..

10/1/2020 3:48:32 PM
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