A Quick Guide to Base Flood Elevation

Base Flood Elevation can be a tricky subject. From analyzing all the data to doing geological surveys, finding the BFE is important for your home so you know if you live in a flood zone. Once you know if you are or not, there are precautions that can be taken. Especially when first building your home.

What, though, is BFE? How does FEMA calculate it, and what are the different types of flood zones? Read on for the basics you need to know!

What Is Base Flood Elevation?

Base flood elevation (BFE) is the elevation of land that FEMA decides is a regular flood zone. Flooding above this level is rare and is what is considered a one-hundred-year flood zone. When building a house, it’s best to build above the BFE as when insurers look to decide if a property needs flood insurance, they look at the BFE.

When doing their BFE surveys to find out what it is, FEMA takes into account things like geological and historical weather data. Even with the best scientific tools and data at the time, it is not guaranteed that no flooding occurs above the BFE. One-hundred-year floods historically taken place only one or two years apart.

Types of Flood Zones

When FEMA does their flood hazard analysis for flood insurance use, they divide the areas into four different zones. Each zone has specific criteria that insurers use if a property is under the BFE. Let’s take a look at each zone.

V Zone is the most hazardous zone. They are first-row beach-front properties. Flood insurance is mandatory for these properties.

A Zone is also high-risk, due to proximity to lakes, rivers, or wetlands. Flood insurance here is also mandatory.

X Zone has a small risk of flooding. This is a property that is above the BFE. Flood insurance is not mandatory in these zones.

D Zone is a wild card. These zones have not yet been studied for flood risk. Flooding in these areas is possible, so flood insurance is recommended, but not mandatory.

Ways to Protect Your Home

There are a few strategies you can use to help protect your home from flood damage. The first, and best, is structural elevation. Structural elevation means building your home on top of stilts to make room for the floodwaters to pass underneath.

Next, you can raise the elevation of your property using fill. Placing the additional soil down in order to raise it above the BFE is riskier due to erosion, but if done right, gives your home the safety it needs.

Lastly, you can actually flood-proof your home. You can build up your home’s foundation in order to have it slope downward about one inch per foot. This allows the floodwaters to drain away from the house instead of building up.

Base Flood Elevation and You

The Base Flood Elevation can tell you when you need to take precautions to protect your home from flooding. While staying above the BFE is the best strategy, there are a few ways to protect your home. Do that, and your home will be flood-free.

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