With the construction season underway, many homeowners in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy are considering the elevation of their home to offset the possibility of future flooding and the huge costs that would incur.
Home elevation is not as laborious or costly as it once was, according to Todd Pulley, president of Lift of New Jersey, and the reduced cost of flood insurance that results from elevation can help offset that cost and provide protection at the same time.
Pulley, who has more than 30 years of experience as the head of one of the region's largest property damage restoration companies, has assembled a team of professionals to handle every aspect of a home elevation.
"Lift of New Jersey works with homeowners from the beginning of the elevation process to the end, including Elevation Certification," he says. "That includes initial site inspection and collection of field data, needs assessment, detailed scope of work and cost analysis, structural engineering and design, and permits.
"Once that's been accomplished, we begin jobsite preparation, shoring and bracing, excavation and demo, followed by elevating the house with a state-of-the-art Unified Jacking System. Our customized foundation solutions include the use of block, grade beams, piers, pilings or helical screws, and utility disconnects and reconnects. The last stage includes construction of new decks, porches and stairs, removal of debris, grading and final inspections. When it's all done, it looks like it was built that way from the very beginning."
Two big factors influencing the elevation decision are the availability of Sandy federal grants and the President's signing of the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, effective May 1.
Lisa Meola of the J. Byrne Agency provides the following examples of the subsidized rate costs of flood insurance:
- The annual cost for a single family Pre-FIRM property with $250,000 insurance coverage on the home and $50,000 on the contents would cost approximately $2,310. Pre-FIRM means built before the effective date of the first Flood Insurance Rate Map for the community when detailed flood hazard data and subsequent community enacted regulations were not in place.
- A single family Pre-FIRM property with the same coverage with a negative elevation and/or subgrade crawl space using the elevation certificate would be $4,500 to $6,000.
- The same property and coverage with a +1 elevation would cost approximately $573 and that property with a +2 elevation would cost approximately $417 annually.
Obviously, a more expensive home and greater coverage will increase the cost of flood insurance, but the savings will be proportional to those noted above.
Meola recommends that owners of Pre-FIRM properties should obtain an elevation certificate. She says owners not willing to pay for the certificate (ranging $250-$500) who then pay the Pre-FIRM rates often find their home was at a positive elevation all along. "Even if an additional investment is needed to add Flood Vents to bring the property up to code," she says, "the cost reduction could easily pay for the investment within 1 to 2 policy terms."