How Freeboarding could save you 15% or more on Flood insurance premiums

I know, I borrowed that slogan from that famous gecko commercial, but the fact that freeboarding could save you a significant amount of money and prevent flooding and flood related damages to your house is undeniable.

First, let’s talk about what freeboarding actually is. Freeboard is the elevation of a building’s lowest floor to a height above the minimum Base Flood Elevation (BFE) during the initial construction process. Typical requirements call for an additional 1-3 ft. above BFE. A freeboard mandate can be added in a locality’s ordinances, with height requirements based on zone or level of risk.

In the State of Hawai'i, only two counties have a freeboard requirement in their floodplain management ordinances. Those two counties are Maui County and Hawai'i County. Both of these counties require special flood hazard area development to be built 1 foot above the base flood elevation. By doing this the benefits as explained in the article could be realized. One of the benefits of most interest to property owners are reduced flood insurance premiums. See the calculated estimated cost below, based on 3 elevation scenarios, using the most current rating tables. An equally important benefit is the reduced risk from flooding by elevating a structure above the BFE.

While paying less for insurance premiums is certainly a huge incentive, adding just 1 or two feet of additional elevation to your home prevents thousands of dollars in future flood related damages for structures built in flood zones.

Headaches from damages, heartaches from loss of property and raise in insurance premiums can be all easily prevented or averted by thinking ahead and getting your house above base flood elevation.

The fact is that flood damage increases rapidly once the elevation of the flood extends above the lowest floor of a building, especially in areas subject to coastal waves. In V Zones, a coastal flood with a wave crest 3 to 4 feet above the bottom of the floor beam (approximately 1 to 2 feet above the walking surface of the floor) will be sufficient to substantially damage or destroy most light-frame residential and commercial constructions.

There are design and construction practices that can eliminate or minimize damage to buildings when flood levels exceed the BFE. The most common approach is to add freeboard to the design (i.e., to elevate the building higher than required by the FIRM). This practice is outlined in American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 24- 05, Flood Resistant Design and Construction.

This is something people living in our state, especially those living near or directly at ocean’s front should not only think about, but actively work on. The reality of sea level rising each year, sea shore deteriorating and receding is a hard fact that we have to come to terms with.

The experts have been pointing out these facts for years, but only in the past few years we have seen unprecedented amount of rain, flash floods, increasing amounts of hurricanes and hurricane related flooding , king tides and the receding of oceanfront properties.

Being prepared and think ahead to the future has never been more important than now. Prices of real estate keep soaring around the world. Climate change is no longer a phrase out of a sci-fi novel or a fringe science magazine. To keep your home safe and keep it intact for generations to come is not only a legacy we should want to leave to our children and grandchildren. It is something all homeowner should aspire to, regardless how close to the ocean you live.

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