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How to Build a Custom Home in a Houston Floodplain

How to Build a Custom Home on a Houston Floodplain

Building a custom home in Houston requires careful planning and adherence to specific regulations. Since 2018, the City of Houston has set floodplain development requirements to reduce the risk of possible floods in the future. Navigating these regulations can be daunting on your own, which is why working with a custom home-building team that’s knowledgeable and experienced is a priority. 

Here, we’ll give you a concise overview of the regulations and best practices for building a custom home in a Houston floodplain so you can go into design and construction meetings with confidence.

Regulations and Permitting Requirements for Building on a Houston Floodplain

Houston Floodplain Regulations

Building a home in a floodplain requires compliance with specific regulations set forth by local authorities. These regulations aim to minimize flood risks and protect both the homeowners and the community at large. The Floodplain Management Office issues the construction permits for all of the City of Houston’s Special Flood Hazard Area for projects that suit the floodplain ordinance and regulations. 

Because Houston is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System, certain practices are required based on different criteria:

  • All new homes must be at least 2 feet above the 500-year elevation.
  • If developing along a major creek, the builder must submit a flood study to the City showing the 1% annual chance floodplain and water surface elevation based on both current and future land use. 
  • For homes located within the 1% annual chance floodplain, a flood insurance policy may be required by the mortgage lender.

Permitting Requirements

To build in a Houston floodplain, homeowners must obtain the necessary permits from the Floodplain Management Office in accordance with the City of Houston’s floodplain ordinance and regulations set by FEMA. These permits ensure that the construction meets the required standards for floodplain development. Working with a reputable custom home builder and civil engineer experienced in building in floodplains can help navigate the permitting process smoothly, alleviating you from having to navigate this process on your own. 

For example, an experienced builder who works within the flood hazard area will know that typical slab-on-grade foundation construction is no longer allowed and custom homes should be built upon a pier and beam or other elevated foundation types within the 100-year floodplain.  It’s details like these that make it imperative that you choose a builder and engineer who are familiar with these systems and regulations. 


Risks Associated with Building in a Floodplain and Mitigation Strategies

Understanding the Risks

Building in a floodplain comes with inherent risks, including potential property damage and personal safety concerns during flooding events. However, with the right custom home building team, your design can mitigate many of the risks. This includes the risk of investing in a lengthy design process to only be rejected for a permit because it doesn’t suit the requirements. 

Mitigation Strategies

To mitigate flood risks, several strategies should be employed during the design and construction process. These include elevating your custom home above the Base Flood Elevation which is based on its location, implementing flood-resistant materials and construction techniques, and incorporating proper drainage and or detention systems. 

Your engineer will develop drawings that include floodplain notes, a topographical survey, mitigation calculations, and possibly an elevation certificate. Stormwater detention mitigation, fill mitigation, and floodway conveyance offset volume are mitigation strategies now required for custom homes built in the Houston floodplain. 


Design Considerations for a Flood-Resistant Home in Houston

Elevated Home Construction

Designing an elevated home is required when building in the floodplain in Houston. Raising the living spaces above the base flood elevation helps minimize potential flood damage. Your custom home design should include a pier and beam or other elevated foundations and appropriate structural supports to withstand the force a possible flood could bring. Whether your land in Houston is located in a 100-year floodplain, the 500-year floodplain, or the floodway will determine how high your custom home will be constructed. 

Flood-Resistant Materials

Using flood-resistant materials, such as concrete, brick, steel, or treated lumber can enhance the durability of your home in the face of flooding. These materials are less prone to water damage and offer greater resilience, protecting your custom home investment and your family. 

Proper Drainage Systems

Incorporating effective drainage systems, such as underground detention systems, ponds, or rain gardens, can help redirect and manage stormwater runoff. Proper grading and landscaping techniques can also aid in minimizing flood risks. Ask your Houston builder for landscape architect recommendations who have experience designing for optimum rainwater absorption. 


Obtaining Flood Insurance for a Custom Home on a Houston Floodplain

Importance of Flood Insurance

Securing flood insurance is crucial for homeowners in a Houston floodplain. Traditional homeowner's insurance policies typically do not cover flood damage, making flood insurance a necessary safeguard. 

Insurance Options

Houston homeowners can obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program or private insurance providers. It's advisable to consult with insurance experts to determine the appropriate coverage and premiums based on the specific location and design of your custom Houston home.


Obtaining an Elevation Certificate in Houston and Its Impact on Home Design

Elevation Certificate (EC)

An Elevation Certificate (EC) is an official document issued by a professional surveyor, certifying the elevation of a structure in relation to the base flood elevation. Obtaining an EC is a required step in the building process in a Houston floodplain and the custom home builder and Houston architect you choose should be knowledgeable about how to obtain it.

Design Impact

The EC influences the design of the home, as it determines the required elevation above the base flood elevation. Working with an experienced custom home builder who understands the EC requirements ensures compliance and optimal design integration, reducing design revisions and saving both costs and time. 


Your Houston Custom Home Dream Team

You may be overwhelmed by the jargon and requirements, which is completely common. This is why working with an honest, knowledgeable, and solutions-driven custom home-building team is imperative if you’re building your home in Houston. Choose an architect, builder, and engineer who has experience navigating these regulations, so you won’t have to worry about whether your home’s design meets these requirements. 

Southern Green Builders creates not only gorgeous and functional custom homes across the Houston metro area, but homes that are meant to keep you safe and happy. We work with architects and engineers from the beginning of your project to ensure your custom home meets every requirement and remains within your budget. Contact Southern Green Builders to schedule a consultation today. 

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