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Retrofitting Saves Money, Prevents Damage

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November 25, 1998
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SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Since 1990, more than 30,000 houses nationwide have been flooded more than once, accounting for more than a billion dollars in damages.

Retrofitting is a way to keep from joining those ranks. Basically it means making changes to protect your home or business building from flooding - and from less frequent hazards like high winds.

There are six ways to retrofit. Whichever way you choose, the goal is to provide the best protection so your residence will be spared or suffer only minimal damage the next time a flood or other disaster strikes, say the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (DEM).

Whatever you decide to do, check with local officials before you start any work rebuilding. Local ordinances and codes determine in large part what you can and cannot do - and what you should do.

Evaluating your own situation will help you decide which works best for you. Here are the six ways to retrofit:

Elevation - Raising your house so the lowest floor is above the base flood level.

Wet floodproofing - Allowing floodwater to enter the uninhabited parts of the house. This equalizes the water pressure inside and outside the house and greatly reduces the chance of structural damage.

Relocating - Moving your house out of the floodplain to higher ground.

Dry floodproofing - Sealing your house to keep floodwaters from entering.

Levees and floodwalls - Building a floodwall or levee around your house to keep out floodwaters.

Demolition - Tearing down your house and either rebuilding - with appropriate floodproofing - on the same property, or building a house somewhere else.

The list of options leaves a lot of choices up to you, the homeowner. Here's a four-step method to determine what's right for your house.

  1. Determine the hazards to your house. Should you be concerned only about flooding, or about wildfire or windstorms as well?

  2. Inspect your home. Learn everything you can about your house and its present condition.

  3. Check with local officials. Local ordinances and codes determine in large part what you can and cannot do - and what you should do.

  4. Consult a design professional and a retrofitting contractor. Even if you plan to do much of the work yourself, a professional can point out things you might overlook. Do it right the first time.

If you have questions about retrofitting measures, call 1-800-628-5769 and ask to speak to a FEMA mitigation counselor. For detailed instruction on the entire process, FEMA has a free publication, "Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your House from Flooding," which is available from the FEMA distribution center. Call 1-800-480-2520 and ask for FEMA publication #312. The publication also can be found on FEMA's Internet homepage, . The homeowner's guide is posted in Adobe Acrobat format.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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