Everything You Need to Know About Building in a Flood Zone

By LandCentral

house on stilts


Building in a Flood Zone is not for the faint of heart. In a Flood Zone, you and your dream home are sitting ducks for whatever Mother Nature has in store. And flood damage is no joke. Between property damage, financial ruin and possible loss of life, nothing destroys lives faster than a natural disaster. Yet, 41 million Americans live in Flood Zones. While it may be too late for some of them, it’s not too late for you. Here is Everything You Need to Know About Building in a Flood Zone:


The average flood insurance policy costs $700 per year. The price will vary depending on what you’re hoping to cover. With flood insurance, you can choose to cover just the building, the contents of the building or both. Think you can get away with not purchasing that costly flood insurance? Think again. U.S. law demands all banks and lenders require flood insurance if the property they’re lending to is in a Flood Zone.

How to get that insurance fee waived

If you can prove your property is above the 100 year Base Flood Elevation (BFE), then the bank or lender may waive the required flood insurance. To do this, you need a document from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ever heard of FEMA? Yep, that’s them. But don’t wait until you’re picking out curtains on your newly built home. To opt out of flood insurance, you have to move your property from the Flood Zone BEFORE you build. Follow these steps to move your property from the flood zone.

NOTE: All new construction requires both the land and the home be raised above the 100 year BFE.

What’s the 100 Year Base Flood Elevation?

This refers to the elevation associated with a 1% chance of a flood occurring. Meaning a flood hasn’t occurred in that area or elevation in at least 100 years. Since Mother Nature loves to surprise us, we can’t say it’s a guarantee. But your odds are better than most for your home  staying dry during your lifetime at least.

The Four Flood Zones

FEMA conducts flood hazard analysis throughout the U.S., mapping the results for flood insurance purposes. According to them, there are Four Flood Zones:

  • V Zone – High-risk for flood. These are the most hazardous zones, typically first-row, beach-front property. Mandatory flood insurance.
  • A Zone – High-risk for flood. Properties in this zone have a potential for flooding as they are typically near water such as a lake, river, stream or wetland. Mandatory flood insurance.
  • X Zone – Minimal-risk for flood. Insurance not mandatory.
  • D Zone – Risk unknown. These areas have not been studied for flood risk, so it’s a gamble. Since flooding is possible, flood insurance is highly recommended, but not mandatory.

Find out if you live in a Flood Zone here.


Of course, floods are unpredictable and no area is 100% safe. Even in regions where every precaution has been taken to protect against flooding, floods still happen.

Hurricane Katrina

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably remember Hurricane Katrina. That region had several levees and flood walls in place and yet, 80% of New Orleans and the St. Bernard Parish still flooded, causing massive damage. While the residents and city knew they were in a Flood Zone and had taken the safety measures to protect themselves, most people didn’t have flood insurance.

Hurricane Harvey

Some undesignated areas are still at risk for flooding. Remember Hurricane Harvey, where Houston and its surrounding areas were underwater? Yeah, those weren’t in a high-hazard Flood Zone. Naturally, none of those residents had flood insurance as they were far beyond the 100 Year BFE. Like we said, Mother Nature loves surprises.

Of course, there are ways to flood proof your home against hurricanes and other natural disasters. Check out the Cost of Flood Proofing Your Home.

Building in a Flood Zone

Look, we get it. You found your dream property and it just happens to be in a Flood Zone. You’re determined to build, but you want to do things right. Well, LandCentral is here to help. First, things you’ll need:

  • Property title/deed
  • BFE data
  • Special permit or variance
  • Flood Insurance
  • Architect
  • Builder
  • FEMA Elevation Certificate

Discuss these 3 options with your builder before building in a Flood Zone:


This is your best bet. Building on stilts or pilings will safeguard your home from rushing flood water. You may even have the building built to have the rushing water flow beneath the structure, keeping you and your belongings safe from the storm.


With a permit, you may be able to raise an area above the BFE with additional soil. To do this, apply for a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill from FEMA. Once approved, they’ll revise the community flood map to show your home is no longer in the high-risk flood zone.


Work with your builder to build up the homes foundation to slope downward about 1” per foot. This berm technique causes the water to drain away from the home rather than build up around it.

As you can see, building in a Flood Zone isn’t impossible. With the proper precautions and the right team, you can build your dream home throughout the U.S. Now go forth and find that perfect property for all your building needs.

Additional Resources for Building in a Flood Zone:

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