Why does a flooded house need to be torn down?

After Demolition of a Flooded House

After the demolition of your home, you have a few options. For one, you could decide to stay put and rebuild your home on your property's newly clean slate. Another option is to simply pick up and move out of a flood-prone area. Each choice has its own pros and cons.

The decision to rebuild on the same site rehashes some of the problems associated with repairing a flooded home. This includes floodproofing the home and local regulations that might require you to forego building a basement. You'll also have to build the structure at the proper elevation. One term to look out for when rebuilding is the base flood ele­vation (BFE). The BFE is the elevation that a 100-year flood is expected to reach (see sidebar). The first floor of your home should lie at or above the BFE to anticipate and curtail flood damage. You can accomplish this by planting the house on posts or columns, or you could build it on extended walls (of concrete, usually) with designated holes cut out to allow floodwater through [source: FEMA].

One inherent disadvantage to rebuilding, though, is that you will need a temporary place to live during construction. Another obstacle is that you'll need to obtain yet another permit from the local authorities (in addition to the demolition permit) for rebuilding. Despite the disadvantages of rebuilding, it will allow you to design a house according to your preferences (as long as they fall within regulation). It will also avoid the problem of uprooting your family to a new area.

This brings us to your other option: moving. If you move to a different home in a new area, preferably out of the floodplain, you can leave behind all the stresses and building regulations of the old area. But, as appealing as this may sound, it also comes with some significant disadvantages. Most importantly, you'll have to consider what to do with the land you're leaving behind. If it's situated in a floodplain, selling it will be difficult. After all, not many people will be anxious to take on the problems that have driven you out. This is why federal, state or local programs may offer to help take the land off your hands [source: FEMA].

Most importantly, however, you can't abandon the land and wash your hands of it that easily. Although aid may be available to relieve you of your flood-damaged property, local regulations usually stipulate that you restore the old site before you leave. Restoration may include taking out any hardscaping, such as patios or driveways, and planting grass. The requirements also often stipulate that you restore the landscape that was damaged during demolition of the house. You should also check to see if you need a permit for restoration of a flooded site.

If you're lucky enough to have a large property with a portion that falls outside of the floodplain, you could take the middle road and rebuild your home there without the complicated floodproofing and regulatory requirements. However, you'll still need to find a place to live while you rebuild, and you'll have to restore the old site according to local regulations.

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  • American Red Cross, FEMA. "Repairing Your Flooded Home." American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1992. (Dec. 9, 2008). https://americanredcross.com/static/file_cont333_lang0_150.pdf
  • CDC. "Flood: A Prevention Guide." Centers for Disease Control. Jan. 1, 1994. (Dec. 10, 2008). http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/p0000371/p0000371.asp
  • EPA. "Planning for Disaster Debris." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Updated Dec. 11, 2008. (Dec. 16, 2008). http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/imr/cdm/pubs/disaster.htm
  • FEMA. "Other Ways to Make Your House Floodproof." Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nov. 20, 1998. (Dec. 10, 2008). http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=10678
  • FEMA. "Resource Record Details: Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting." Federal Emergency Management Agency. June 1998. (Dec. 10, 2008). http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1420
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