FEMA Zone Changes – More Useful Notes about Foundation & Elevation Options – Activity at the Shore –
Greetings NJ –
Hope today’s blog finds you well and getting back in the swing of things after the 4th of July weekend. There were celebrations all over the shore and some fantastic fireworks displays – hope you were able to enjoy it somehow! The majority of the shore businesses are up and running and we had some great traffic at the shore over the holiday weekend. Each week, more and more people have started rebuilding and many come down to the shore just to see the progress on their homes and stay excited. You can finally feel some serious energy on the streets…activity has been steadily growing and should keep doing so for the foreseeable future. Good news for NJ.
Reminder – Free Rebuilding Seminar Next Week: Our next Free Rebuilding after Sandy Seminar will be held at the Lacey Branch of the Ocean County Library on July 17, 2013 at 6 pm. It is called “Confused about Rebuilding & Frustrated with Flood Zones? If you haven’t been to a seminar yet, try and make it. No one walks out without feeling like they received additional good information and it promises to be another great seminar. Our panel of professionals: Scott Lepley, architect, Steve Brasslett from Ivy First Mortgage, Tracey Giery, realtor, and Sandra Gauge, insurance attorney. I will be moderating and it’ll be an open forum for discussion to get your specific questions answered. Remember to bring your surveys and flood elevation certificates. Seating is limited and refreshments will be served. Call 732 300 5619 to reserve your space.
Today we have some more good information to help our rebuilding efforts. Most importantly, we’ll further explore the effects of the changing flood zones, foundation options and costs.
Flood vents: Flood vents are different from screens, louvers or covers: Approved or architect/engineer designed flood vents open and remain open when the water rises, allowing the water to flow in and out of the house. If you have existing vents on your home that aren’t flood vents, they will not open and relieve the hydrostatic pressure of water trapped inside the foundation, which can lead to structural failure (IE: the house falls down and you topple into the lagoon). Many people are under the impression that since they already have (other types of) vents in their foundations, they don’t need flood vents. That is incorrect.
Changes in FEMA zones on the Working Flood Maps –More detail We’ve now all been working with the new FEMA working maps for Ocean and Atlantic County for the last few weeks. The zone change is good news if you are rebuilding but as a repeated reminder, the FEMA maps are working maps, which are subject to change over the next 2 years. As a note, it is in your best interests, as far as the power of choice goes, to be able to use the current base flood elevation when deciding how high you want to go since you can now choose to raise to a lower elevation. However, elevating to a lower height may not be the correct choice for other reasons.
Caveat – Author’s Note – Repeated: I do not recommend construction at less than BFE + 4 to finished floor in A or AE zones, regardless of the minimum zone requirements. In my opinion, with the recent changes in the FEMA working maps, many of the elevations were set too low and should (and may) be increased. That may not be a particularly popular opinion for me to have, but it is a valid concern.
Options in an AE zone – Important Note: In a Coastal A (AE) zone, with many aspects of rebuilding, you have the option of building to V zone recommendations, which although more stringent are potentially much safer (one example is Base Flood Elevation being measured to the bottom of the girder, as opposed to finished floor). That may be the wise choice for a number of reasons (real flood risk is one extremely important one) and additionally offers the option of setting the house high enough to allow for parking underneath the house. As an important note, in a Coastal A (AE) zone, building to V zone standards is recommended as best practice by FEMA.
Useful notes on raising in A and Coastal A (AE) zones with pilings versus concrete foundations:
Currently, in an A and a Coastal A (AE) zone, as you probably are aware, you can raise your home on a concrete block and pier foundation, as opposed to being forced to use a piling foundation. This can cost less money but there are many other considerations.
- If your home is on a concrete block foundation, the bottom of the footing, which is the part of the foundation that everything else rests upon, is very likely about 3’ – 4’ below grade. That means that in a significant flood event, with associated wind and wave movement, scour can become an issue. Scour is when the waves and flood tides moves back and forth and move the sand or fill dirt around your home away from the foundation, leaving it exposed. That is not good. At that point, the entire structure becomes subject to wind & wave action, as opposed to your foundation being safely anchored in the ground. You do not have this issue to worry about with pilings.
- With a piling foundation, there is no issue with scour because a piling foundation is a direct load bearing structure that goes from 10’ – 20’ below grade to 7’-9’ above where it attaches directly to the house. Unlike a concrete foundation, there is no footing or grade beam, with concrete block on top, with a house resting on top of that. Pilings have one single point of contact (point of potential failure) at the house other than the end of the piling, 15 feet in the ground. Pilings are installed until the bearing strength at each piling is between 8 and 20 tons and then the pilings are attached together with girders. Assuming a proper designed piling and girder plan, there is no issue with scour or lateral movement because of wind or wave action.
- Costs with concrete foundations depend directly on how high of a foundation is being built, as well as soil composition, need for additional concrete piers, as well as double fire protecting on the ceiling whenever you can park underneath or the ceiling height is high enough to be considered a third living level. That height is generally above 6’ of clear headroom and depends also on how much of the foundation (if any) is below grade. Costs are averaging between $4,000 & $7,000 per course of block, when all costs are included, so moving an average size house up 5-6 courses of block is generally costing in the $25,000 range.
Reminder – Additional options for the elevation of your home: As we mentioned earlier, you can now also choose to raise your home to a lower elevation, if that is your preference. In an A or an AE zone, elevation is measured to the finished floor, not the lowest structural girder. This means you can generally raise the house 2’ – 4’ less than you would be able to in a V zone. Accessibility to your home is the primary advantage, with fewer steps from the house to the grade, and/or shorter ramps. If accessibility is not an issue or concern, often it is prudent to consider raising a few extra feet to allow for FEMA elevation changes, potential real flood risk and parking underneath the house. The additional cost of a garage door, double sheetrock pn the ceiling, and several more feet of concrete (with a real concrete floor if you want it) is a relatively modest increase in price in the overall budget. However if the additional investment yields you height, garage and storage space, and peace of mind, it has a definable value.
Hope this information helped you today. As always, if you have question, comments or just need some assistance, please don’t hesitate to call me directly at 732 300 5619.
On another note, we have been actively purchasing building lots and existing properties and have done so for many years. If you have property to sell, give me a call and I will evaluate it for you.
Stay well NJ. Keep up!
Dream Homes, Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy
Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…
Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ
314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731
609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619
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