Homeowner How To: Raising your home? Here’s the Scoop
To raise or not to raise... that is the question most Long Islanders are asking after Superstorm Sandy devastated thousands of homes on our shores.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of Long Island residents are now considering their options with regard to repairing or raising their homes after having their homes destroyed by the flood waters of Superstorm Sandy.
Residents are being urged to either raise their home to an appropriate height to avoid damages by potential future flooding or to knock down severely damaged homes and re-build at a height that will most likely escape the wrath of future floods.
Raising your home is no small feat. Each home will need to be evaluated individually to assess the conditions and cost.
To consider this option you will need to have an architect and/or engineer evaluate the following on your home:
- The structural integrity of your home’s existing foundation. If your home was built on poor quality soil or your foundation walls were cracked or damaged, chances are the foundation will have to be re-built or extensively repaired. You may need to strengthen your existing structure by driving pilings into the ground and fortifying the foundation. Either solution can be quite expensive.
- The way your home was built. If your home was built on a slab, the prospect of raising your home will be more involved, difficult and expensive. If it was built at one level with a sufficient crawlspace underneath, the task will be decidedly easier to evaluate and most likely be less costly. The size and condition of your home’s structure will have the greatest bearing on cost.
- Zoning laws for your property. Bring a copy of your property’s survey to consult with an architect who will be able to tell you what your options are. They will ascertain the height of your home’s existing structure and determine how much it will have to be raised to be in compliance. Zoning is necessary to fully evaluate raising your home. Your architect will consult with engineers who will evaluate the quality of the soil on your land and your home’s structure and prepare appropriate building plans to submit to your local building department for approval.
There are various programs available to homeowners to assist with the cost of raising your home if you are in a flood zone and currently have flood insurance. One is called the Increased Cost of Compliance coverage (ICC). This coverage is generally part of your flood insurance if it is issued through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and is issued through your insurance company.
According to Floodsmart.gov, “ICC COVERAGE CAN HELP PAY FOR FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF MITIGATION ACTIVITIES TO BRING A BUILDING INTO COMPLIANCE WITH THE COMMUNITY’S FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT REGULATIONS. THESE ACTIVITIES INCLUDE ELEVATION, FLOODPROOFING, RELOCATION AND DEMOLITION.” More on this can be found here.
A local non-profit organization, Adopt-A-House, which was instituted by Lindenhurst, NY residents after Hurricane Sandy, has organized town-hall meetings with panels that include representatives from local building departments, engineers and professional house raising companies. The informational seminars are free of charge for residents in Babylon, Lindenhurst and neighboring towns who are victims of Hurricane Sandy, and were put together to help inform them with regard to their options for raising their homes and what funds are available to them. You can find more on these informational seminars or register for upcoming events here.
There is a catch 22 of course. If you do submit the paperwork required to apply for the ICC funding to raise your home, you will be required to do so, whether you get financing and financial assistance or not. If you do not proceed with bringing your home into compliance with the new flood zoning heights, you could potentially be disqualified from any future insurance compensation or lose your flood insurance coverage.
Additionally, raising your home may cause some interior damages if your homes interior is completely finished. This could include relatively minor cracks in your floor tile, damages to your flooring and fixtures, to large cracks in your sheetrock or damage to sensitive interior components, such as built in cabinetry. If you are considering raising your home, but have already repaired and finished the interior you will want to consider the potential costs to repair these damages if they occur.
Another program available to flood victims is called the Hazardous Mitigation Program. This is a federal grant program through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). This program is available to homeowners who have faced documented, repetitive flood damages, and it must be applied for by the town or village where you reside on your behalf.
The amount reimbursed could be as much as 75% of the cost of preventative flood measures, such as raising, demolition, relocation or flood proofing. Upon approval, you are required to pay for the completion of the work and submit checks to FEMA in order to be reimbursed. You CANNOT elevate your home first and then apply. You must be approved PRIOR to completing the necessary work in order to be considered for reimbursement.
Additionally, federal grant money must be used with certain builders and engineers. Your project would be contracted through your town or village and must be subject to competitive bidding and New York State wage rates. As of now, the federal government and our representatives in Albany have yet to receive or make available any money for victims of Hurricane Sandy within this program.
Obviously, these programs are decidedly long-term and are NOT recovery efforts, but instead have specifically been set in place in an effort to mitigate future flood damages. It is notable that grant money awards have nothing to do with income and will not need to be paid back. However, hazard mitigation grant money is very hard to get awarded and does take a long time to process.
FEMA is supposedly re-drawing the flood zone maps, but has yet to release the revised heights at which you would need to re-build your home to avoid future flooding. So be sure to consult with a local architect and engineer to confirm that your building plans will meet the new guidelines when they are issued.
More information regarding this subject can be found by clicking here, speaking with your local town officials or state representatives, or by contacting FEMA directly at 1-800-621-FEMA.
Photo by Robert Byrne of Lindenhurst