Drowning in Flood Insurance

I just want to preface this particular post with, as much as I try to put a positive slant on my posts, because I need to stay positive, in this post you will hear how frustrating some of the hurdles have been and I am neither positive or happy.  But that will end in this post and I will move-on in tomorrow’s post.

If you live in a flood plane anywhere in the United States and have a mortgage, you probably had to purchase flood insurance.  Well we live in a flood plane and have flood insurance on the home we are living in.  Plus the Dream House is also in a flood plane as it is about 500 feet from the home we now live in.  We knew this when we started that project.  We had the acreage and it is in a beautiful town, so we decided that we would build our house so that it would survive in the event of a flood.

We had no idea that that would be tested so soon.  We had to contact a survey company and get the elevation that our new home needed to be built to to withstand a flood, plus comply with FEMA.  That survey cost us almost $2000. at that time.  They put a marker out and that is how we determined the height of our stem wall.  One of the things that we did do at the time of excavation, was to dig down so that the crawl space wouldn’t be so confining.  We dug it down to where the footings needed to be  and built the stem walls about 4 1/2 feet – to the top of the stem wall.  The stem wall was 1 foot above the flood level and then we built the floor on top which added another foot.  This gave us 2 ft above the flood level.

Dream Home - framing the stem walls

Dream Home Stem Wall

Dream Home Stem Wall 2

That stem wall was finished in July/August 1995, we had a flood in February 1996.  We had a false since of security when the levy behind our house broke up stream.  We didn’t anticipate this because we had not lived here the 30 years prior when the last flood hit Waitsburg in in the 60’s.  Although we had the flood, we saw first hand that the stem wall was built well above the flood plane.  It was more than a foot above the water.  The flood did not go over the wall.  The water did pert up inside the foundation as the water table rose.  There were area photos that made it look like an odd shaped swimming pool.  That was a very difficult year.  We had sheep and we were in the middle of lambing.  We lost all our lambs and one Ram.  All our fences were downed, but the home that we lived in did not get any water inside the house.  So we were dry and didn’t have any damage to the home.  It came as high as the top step.  This was February and we lost our electricity for 3 days.

1996 flood - water receding

1996 flood - silt & mud left behind

Our journey in building this home has taken us almost 20 years.  We tried to do everything by the book and how we were supposed to.  In 1999 the flood rules changed.  They no long measured by the top of the stem wall, but by the top of the lowest floor.  They described the lowest floor as the crawl space or basement.  Do you see where I am going with this?  We dug our foundation down, remember?  Though the house was now built, the floors, walls, and roof, it is not considered built until it is finished.

We had the same surveyor come out and check the elevation and issue us a Certificate of Elevation which is when we found that we were no longer in compliance.  We don’t get a break on our flood insurance because we are considered to have a basement (even though we don’t) because it is more that 2 ft down.  Now our insurance (just flood) costs us $2000. a year and rising each year.

That made for a trying week, but that is just the breaks.  I am going to try and find the photos I took (before I had a digital camera) and show you how we dug it down.  On the plus side, the electrical, heating and plumbing contractors love that they can almost stand in the crawl space.  Someone benefits anyway.  No mechanical down there but duct work and plumbing.

Tomorrow’s post will be on the brighter side.

Annie, Treading Water


I was looking back at some old photos that I took when we first started the adventure.  Giving up what little social life we had to get up close and personal with Home Depot.

1995 we had a big hole dug in the middle pasture of our 7 acres.  We wanted to be at  least 200 feet from the highway.  We saw house plans in a plan book off the shelf in a grocery store and our dream started to get a little real.  Lynn was sure that he could build this dream house for me.  I was a little hesitant as the roof line on a 2 story house looked daunting along with all the bay windows.  Which meant angles, lots and lots of angles.  We had picked a Queen Ann Victorian house with a wrap-around porch.

We are talking about us doing most of the work but sub-contracting the foundation and roof, as Lynn doesn’t bounce anymore.  He insisted that he could do it, but that is where I drew the line.

In the summer of 1995 we watched the beginning of the dream come to life.  The footings and stem walls went up.  We had one large ‘cement pond’.  We had to get an elevation certificate as we were located in a flood plane.  This meant that we had to build it above the 100 year flood plane.  So we decided to dig a very large crawl space.  Appx. 4 feet and almost 5 feet when we put the floor joists in.  We built a solid concrete footing, electing to enter from the inside of the house.  We have a problem with critters finding a place to get under the house.  Not happening here.  The reason for the large crawl space is Lynn is claustrophobic.  He can almost stand his 6’2″ body up in there.  The only problem we did no anticipate was the vents being lower than the elevation certificate.  That would become an issue in 1996.

Now the building inspector stated that we had to put reinforcing re-bar every 16 inches for earthquake purposes.  Hmm we did it but reluctantly.  Added expense.  I guarantee the stem wall will remain standing even if the house is shakes off the foundation.

I have attached a few pictures of what we finished in 1995.  The 1996 came in like a lion.  On February 1996 we flooded.  More on that in the next post.  Stay tuned.  I continues to get better.