Does FEMA have existing guidelines for elevating a home in a flood zone?

Yes, FEMA has several publications for homeowners, design professionals, and builders that illustrate important concepts and best practices for constructing stronger, safer residential buildings in flood-prone areas in accordance with building codes and standards. All of these publications can be downloaded for free from FEMA’s Building Science Publications web site.

  • FEMA P-55, Coastal Construction Manual (FEMA, 2011) is a 2-volume publication that provides a comprehensive approach to planning, siting, designing, constructing, and maintaining homes in the coastal environment. Chapter 15 discusses retrofitting buildings for natural hazards.
  • FEMA P-259, Engineering Principles and Practices of Retrofitting Floodprone Residential Structures (FEMA, 2012) provides guidance for elevating an existing home. Chapter 5E provides guidance to determine the appropriate parameters for elevation and includes procedures and alternatives that apply to elevating buildings with a variety of foundation types. Chapter 3 includes a checklist (Figure 3-1) to help determine homeowner preferences for retrofitting options and a checklist (Figure 3-10) that a design professional may use to assess the initial building condition and determine whether the house is a good candidate for elevation.
  • FEMA P-312, Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting(FEMA, 2014) is a guide for homeowners to help them make decisions when retrofitting their homes and it introduces flood protection methods and building construction techniques. Chapter 5, Elevating Your Home, includes important elevation considerations and techniques. Please refer to Section 5.2.3, Elevating on an Open Foundation.
  •  FEMA P-499, Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction (FEMA, 2010) is a series of 37 fact sheets that provide technical guidance and recommendations concerning the construction of coastal residential buildings. Fact Sheet 9.1, Repairs, Remodeling, Additions, and Retrofitting – Flood, discusses requirements and recommendations when rebuilding or remodeling a property damaged by flood.

FEMA also produces a series of Technical Bulletins to provide guidance on the building performance requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). All of these publications can be downloaded for free from FEMA’s NFIP Technical Bulletins web site here.

In addition, FEMA offers several free publications that provide information on how to complete an Elevation Certificate. Although these publications are written for local building officials, surveyors, architects, and engineers who are authorized by law to certify elevation information on the certificate, the information can help homeowners understand the requirements for elevating buildings. Fore more information, visit National Flood Insurance Program Elevation Certificate and Instructions.

Please check with a local building official regarding the requirements for different flood zones and elevation in your area. Note that some communities may have more stringent requirements than the NFIP.

References: None.

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