Why You Should Never Build a Home in a Flood Plain

Why You Should Never Build a Home in a Flood Plain

December 6, 2021

Do you know how to pick a lot to build a house? One of the first things to consider is whether your home is in a flood zone. If you’re considering property on a flood plain, you should reconsider. Not only is your home at increased risk of flooding, but your insurance costs will be higher and it may even be more difficult to secure a mortgage.

Here’s why you should avoid building a home in a flood zone.

Flood zones and flood zone types

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designates certain geographical areas as flood zones, based on the level of flooding risk they present. There are four main categories of flood zones, with several subcategories in each:

  • V zones: This is the most hazardous type of flood zone. For example, building your home directly on a beach would place it in a V zone. They have a 26 percent chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage, and require mandatory flood insurance.
  • A zones: A zones are considered high risk, like homes near lakes, rivers, wetlands and streams. A zone homes also require flood insurance.
  • X zones: X zones have minimal to moderate risk of flooding, depending on the exact location and subcategory. Flood insurance isn’t mandatory.
  • B zones: B zones are base flood plains for lesser hazards, such as when a levee protects homes from 100-year flood plains or shallow flooding. Flood insurance is also not mandatory for these homes.

You may also see homes in C and X zones (minimal hazard) and D zones (unknown risk). Keep in mind that flood insurance usually costs at least $700 per year, which will add to your overall housing costs. There are both public and private insurance options available. The public residential plan usually covers up to $100,000 in damage.

Eliminating flood risk

The best way to eliminate flood risk is to pick a lot outside of a flood zone. Flooding is expensive and inconvenient, and can destroy your sentimental belongings—things that flood insurance can never replace.

However, some people choose to build in flood plains anyway. If you have to build on a flood plain, know that your home’s structure will need to be elevated above the base flood elevation (BFE). This usually involves moving earth from one area to another, in order to raise the home above the BFE. Then you can work with your builder and insurance contractor to remove the mandatory flood insurance requirement from your lot.

Remember that moving earth to raise your home above the BFE means you’ll add significant cost to your home design—and there’s no guarantee that a particularly bad flood wouldn’t affect your home, regardless. In the end, it’s much safer and cheaper to avoid building on a flood plain.

If you need advice on how to pick a lot to build a house, contact the engineers at High Plains Engineering & Design, LLC. We’re ready to help ensure your building project goes smoothly, from start to finish.

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