There is excitement associated with ownership of a piece of paradise. Ensure that you have a good understanding of all its associated costs, your personal risk tolerance, and insure your property adequately, so that you can continue to sleep at night and enjoy it for years to come.
Even if there hasn't been rain in
Federal Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM or digital: DFIRM) delineate flood hazard zones for coastal communities.
Zones determine insurance rates, and home design.
FIRM maps are used by your Banker, Designer and Builder, Municipality, Insurance Agent, Land Surveyor, and Engineer, all assisting with definition of a home’s position and elevation relative to the shoreline.
Seaside Home Design provides residential design for those pursuing our alternative lifestyle; that of Life on the Coast! More often than not, clients are not familiar with the peculiarities of building on the island. Part of my calling entails educating prospective residents about building and construction issues unique to the island. I often consult with clients who are unfamiliar with the topic, so worth revisiting is the requirement for Flood and Windstorm Insurance in addition to conventional Homeowners' Insurance policy.
Whether buying or building, be aware that Galveston Island falls into FEMA Flood Hazard Zones, and is governed by Texas Department of Insurance for Windstorm coverage. Texas Homeowners Policies EXCLUDE flood loss, and federal grants are available only if the community is declared a disaster area by the President. Our lives here on the coast seem priceless most days of the year. Once or twice a year, when the insurance bill arrives, we wonder whether it is enough, or too much - coverage, not price! The appearance of a tropical storm in the gulf is another day we question our home's insurance coverage! By then it may be too late to change.
Federal Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM or digital: DFIRM) delineate flood hazard zones for coastal communities. Zones determine insurance rates, and home design. FIRM maps are used by your Banker, Designer and Builder, Municipality, Insurance Agent, Land Surveyor, and Engineer, all assisting with definition of a home’s position and elevation relative to the shoreline and mean sea level. Flooding can occur inland, as we’ve seen in other counties and states. However, flood levels, velocity, and wave action in coastal areas tend to be more damaging than inland flooding. Homes in coastal areas must be designed and constructed to withstand higher wind loads and more extreme conditions, therefore, will cost more to design, build, repair, maintain, and insure, due to exposure to this environment.
Engineering requirements, applicable to coastal flood and wind zones, assist in ensuring that construction and repairs are a success, and that a building resists damage over its lifetime. FEMA construction guidelines identify that flat or low-sloped roofs are subject to increased uplift, which can result in damage to interiors. In Galveston, flat roofed buildings demonstrated some of Ike's worst affects. Moderately sloping hip roofs are most desirable to combat this effect.
Base Flood Elevation
Base Flood Elevation (BFE) defines the expected elevation of floodwater and wave effects during that 1% chance in any given year, of a 100-year flood. Residences must be built above the BFE, and habitable use of enclosed areas below is prohibited, and can lead to additional damage and loss. Your boathouse structure, and below the BFE, your garage and contents, or enclosed foyer, is constructed to be “break-away” and is uninsured.
Flood Zones are generally referred to as “V” or “A”. Maps of coastal Texas were last updated in 2002. In simplest terms, zones are defined as:
“V” and “VE” zone: Closest to shore or floodway, and subject to wave action and high-velocity flow and erosion during a 100-year flood.
“A” and “AE” zone: Subject to flooding during a 100-year flood, with conditions less severe than the V zone.
“X” zone: areas not expected to flood during a 100-year flood.
Current A and V zone definitions include the suffix “E” (e.g. AE, or VE), and a numeric value, defining the BFE actual Elevation of risk, above mean sea level.
Flood insurance requirements are most stringent in V zones. Comparing equivalent houses constructed to current windstorm and flood code: a home or property owner in A zone may pay $500 annually, and the owner across the street in V zone may pay close to $5000, for the same coverage.
The result of an intensive study after hurricane Ike, Galveston county, Texas is currently previewing changes to its FEMA Flood Maps due to Ike’s damage from extreme high water and wave action. The preliminary maps indicate some areas historically zoned as “AE” or “A” zone will be demoted to “VE” zone due to the damages suffered during Ike. Alternatively, other areas previously identified as “VE” zone will be upgraded to “AE” zone once the maps are approved. You can preview the proposed changes at the Flood Information Portal – Galveston County; http://maps.riskmap6.com/TX/Galveston/. The timeline has been up in the air, and is not currently available as to a date when these maps will become effective.
If considering a home or lot, and all other factors are similar, it may pay to spend more for property that possesses AE zone over VE zone. Evaluate your long-term costs associated with higher rates and risk. Over time, owners of the riskiest sites may additionally spend thousands more on maintenance and erosion control. Beachfront views are fabulous; though this location will have you paying a premium for flood insurance and protection.
BFE is the MINIMUM elevation the lowest horizontal member of the structural may be set and be insurable. FEMA 499 recommends “freeboard”; that the lowest horizontal structural member should be elevated above the BFE by another 2 feet, and IRC requires a minimum of 1 foot above BFE. FEMA has adopted a new term: Design Flood Elevation, or DFE, to describe this higher elevation. Insurance costs can be reduced by exceeding design and construction practices. An Elevation Certificate or Natural Ground Letter, provided by a registered public land surveyor (RPLS), defining the Flood Zone and BFE, is required prior to construction, and again after completion of construction, prior to receipt of occupancy permit. Ask to see the Elevation Certificate or Natural Ground Letter when considering your purchase.