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Is standard (untreated), solid dimension lumber flood damage-resistant as defined by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?

The use of standard, solid dimension lumber is acceptable for structural use below the base flood elevation (BFE) per FEMA’s NFIP. Table 2 of NFIP Technical Bulletin (TB) 2, Flood Damage-Resistant Materials Requirements for Buildings Located in Special Flood Hazard Areas in accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program (FEMA, 2008, revised 2010), lists solid, standard dimension lumber as an “acceptable” flood damage-resistant material. However, the same table classifies solid, standard lumber as unacceptable when applied as finish or trim material below the BFE. Before using standard, dimension lumber below the BFE though, it is critical to ensure that this application is acceptable per local regulations and the locally adopted codes. Codes and standards may have more stringent regulations (e.g., only using decay-resistant or preservative treated wood below the BFE) than those in TB 2. This is reiterated in the footnote that was added in 2010 below Table 2 in TB 2 which reads:

“In addition to the requirements of TB 2 for flood damage resistance, building materials must also comply with any additional requirements of applicable building codes. For example, for wood products such as solid 2x4s and plywood, applicable building code requirements typically include protection against decay and termites and will specify use of preservative-treated or decay-resistant wood for certain applications. Applications that require preservative-treated or decay-resistant species include wood in contact with the ground, wood exposed to weather, wood on exterior foundation walls, or wood members close to the exposed ground. In some cases, applicable building code requirements (such as those in ASCE 24-05 and IRC 2006) do not reflect updated guidance in TB 2 and specify that all wood used below the design flood elevation be preservative-treated or naturally decay-resistant regardless of proximity to ground or exposure to weather. (Revision made in October 2010)”

After Hurricane Katrina, it was observed that untreated wood materials seemed to perform acceptably as long as they had the chance to air dry before mold growth began. To facilitate the restoration of flooded buildings, FEMA 549, Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast: Mitigation Assessment Team Report (FEMA, 2006), recommends that building owners:

  • Open windows and doors to maximize air flow
  • Remove contents for restoration or disposal
  • Remove porous wall materials, fibrous wall insulation, carpeting, vinyl flooring, and electrical components that were damaged by floodwaters
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize interior surfaces
  • Allow sufficient time for drying prior to initiating reconstruction activities

Please consult a local building official to determine the applicable code requirements for your location.