We all can agree that living along the shoreline is awesome, but it comes with it’s fair share of building and renovating challenges. So, before you pick up your hammer, or sign that purchase agreement, be sure you have the answers to these 7 questions.

1. What is FEMA / NFIP?

FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s mission is to provide support (both recovery and mitigation) for those that may, or have, encountered hazards. NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) is an agency managed by FEMA and is charged with reducing the overall socio-economic impact of disasters – specifically flooding. Together FEMA and NFIP create the standards which communities need to comply with regarding flood mitigation.

2. How do I know if I’m in a flood zone?

NFIP has created maps used to identify flood zones. You can type in your address in the search bar on FEMA’s website to identify what zone your property falls in.

3. What do all these flood zone letters mean?

If you have determined that your property lies within a flood zone, then the next step is to understand what your specific designation means. There are 4 flood zone designations that we are concerned with along the coast; VE-Zone, Coastal AE-Zone, AE-Zone and the X-Zone.

VE-Zone –  A beach in your back yard! If you find yourself in a V-Zone, you’re likely to get the brunt of the storm when it comes. This zone is predicted to be the most severe with large wave action hitting your home. 

Coastal AE-Zone – Ocean view without all the hassle! In this zone you should expect some moderate wave action (up to 3’ high!) and levels of flooding.

AE-Zone –  Go with the flow! There is no significant wave action expected in the AE-Zone but you’ll still get wet! Flooding water will still affect your property.

X-Zone – You’re free! (for now) The X-Zone lands you in the 500 year flood plain. This zone does not expect much flooding and has limited flood construction standards.

If you’re wondering what wave action means and want more detail about the zones, stay tuned. Look for future posts where we explain this and more. 

4. What is the Base Flood Elevation and how does it apply to me?

The Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is designated on the flood maps as part of the flood zone designation. For example, VE-14, (means 14 feet above mean high tide line) represents the predicted highest water level expected during “the big one.” This elevation becomes a critical element when understanding how you might be able to develop your property.

5. What is an elevation certificate and how do I know if I need one?

An elevation certificate is a document created by FEMA / NFIP that formally establishes the true flood risk of a building. This document requires a licensed professional to certify the elevation of the building, how it is constructed, and its relationship with the ground.

6. What is the 50% Rule and how does it apply to me?

FEMA and NFIP have established rules that affect construction on properties located within a flood zone. According to the rule, the cost of work cannot exceed 50% of the assessed value of the existing structure. If it does, then that structure needs to meet FEMA requirments. In many cases, this means lifting the building.

7. How could it affect my insurance?

Homes built prior to 1974 are ‘grandfathered’ in. Insurance for these homes are subsidized at low rates. However, any significant work (see 50% rule above) will trigger the need for an elevation certificate. This certificate identifies your true risk and is used by insurance providers to establish flood insurance rates. Homes below the base flood elevation will have much higher rates than those above it.

Still wondering what all this means?

Need help answering these questions? That’s what we’re here for! Living, working and enjoying the Connecticut Coastline has made us experts in this field, and we’re here to help! Keep your eyes open for future posts to learn more about building challenges on the coast.

Have an immediate need or project on hand? Give us a ring!


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