Flooding may not be a seasonal occurrence in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, but the prospect of a very serious flood is more likely than most people realize. During a serious storm or severe flood, sudden surges of water can exert huge pressure on any structure that they encounter. In fact, storm surges can cause a property’s foundation wall to cave in or collapse entirely.
This poses a real risk to the health, safety, and life of anyone on the property at the time but also exposes the rest of the structure to further damage as a result of the exposure and instability that it causes. There are many things that you as a homeowner can do to protect your property from the worst effects and strains of flooding. Flood vents are just one tool in a large and effective arsenal.
What Are Flood Vents?
It is important to note that flood vents are different from crawl space vents in a number of key ways—primarily, in their main function. Because flood vents are designed to let storm surges and floodwaters pass through a property safely, they must meet certain requirements.
While a traditional crawl space vent may serve the same purpose to a limited extent, they have some drawbacks that flood vents are designed to mitigate, namely the likelihood that the screen will become clogged with debris and stop allowing floodwaters to pass. Flood vents, by contrast, tend to open when water reaches a certain level and will stay that way until it drops once again.
FEMA Flood Vent Regulations
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the agency responsible for leading the nation’s efforts to prepare for, mitigate, and recover from natural disasters (among other troubles). Because of the effects of various severe floods, FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) stipulated some regulations for flood vents. Flood vents are required for homes below the base flood elevation level.
Flood vent requirements are:
- Flood vents should offer a net opening of one inch per enclosed square foot.
- There should be two vents per enclosed area and each should be on two different sides of the exterior walls.
- The bottom of flood vents should be no more than 12 inches above the adjacent grade.
- The top of the flood vent should be below the base flood elevation.
- The opening in the wall (not the vent) should be at least three inches in diameter or more.
These requirements are in line with the current best understanding of what can protect properties that lie below the BFE or sit in special flood hazard areas. The goal is to ensure that they stay standing in even the most violent of storms.
The Benefits Offered by Flood Vents
There are some obvious benefits to having flood vents installed into your home, but the benefits that flood vents offer can be complex and varied. Here are the basics:
Lower Flood Insurance
Because most home insurance policies do not cover flood damage, we recommend that homeowners invest in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to protect their homes (and wallets). After all, even one inch of flood water can cause up to $25,000 of damage to the average property. Available in 23,000 participating communities across the country, NFIP helps homeowners and businesses to recover more quickly when floodwaters recede.
Having the right flood vents, as well as other protective measures, can lower the cost of your NFIP insurance quite dramatically. In fact, if you get the right model of flood vent it could reduce your insurance payments by up to 85 percent.
Increased Energy Efficiency
These days, flood vents come with high-quality insulation and weather stripping to make sure they do not start letting dampness into your property. As such, having them installed, especially in an unfinished basement, could contribute to your home’s energy efficiency. This will only be increased by the addition of further waterproofing measures.
Better energy efficiency means a lower carbon footprint, lower energy consumption, lower bills in the long run.
Better Foundation Drainage
Whether you have a crawl space or basement, your foundation drainage options are of paramount importance when it comes to maintaining your home. This is especially key in areas that are already damp or wet. Preventing total foundation saturation could stave off serious issues like subsidence and foundation movement.
While flood vents are designed to be useful in the most extreme cases, they will also function as an effective method of foundation protection and drainage during serious rainstorms or when the local river bursts its banks. They don’t need a storm surge to activate.
Increased Safety During Periods of Flooding
The real nightmare scenario during a hurricane or storm is that a big storm surge hits your home and causes the foundation to move or crack, or even causes the collapse of certain walls due to the force of the impact. Flood vents are specially designed to reduce the risk of this happening by reducing the pressure that your home must cope with.
This means that your property is more likely to weather the storm with nothing more than some cosmetic damage to worry about.
Even the very best flood vents cannot do all the work on their own. Protecting your home from flooding is an involved and complicated process that should be overseen by a foundation expert.
How To Protect Your Home from Flooding
The right flood vents can make all the difference to your home’s chances of surviving a serious flood in your area, but if you want to really make sure that you and your home are prepared for the worst there are a few other steps that you should take.
Here are the flood-proofing best practices for homes in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio:
Use the High Ground
First and foremost, you should plan for the worst case (even when the aim is to avoid it). Make sure none of your most valuable or sentimental items are kept at the lowest parts of your property. Likewise, make sure that all important documentation is kept in a safe, dry, preferably elevated position.
This will decrease the chances of water creeping into your home and destroying your valuable items.
Maintain Your Gutters and Drains
While it may seem like a very small, or even silly, thing to say, maintaining your gutters and drains is important to flood preparation. Certainly, your perimeter drains and rooftop gutters will not do anything to stop flooding, but they will increase the speed at which water drains away from your home when the waters recede. Perimeter drains may also minimize the damage to your home by preventing large amounts of water from pooling directly next to your foundation once the waters recede again.
Consider the benefits of an underground downspout as they are more effective than their above-ground cousins and can be connected to your interior drainage and waterproofing measures for increased effect.
Install Backflow Drain Valves
One of the most dangerous occurrences during any period of flooding is sewage overflow. This can happen during even mild floods and is seriously damaging to the health and well-being of both you and your property. Installing a backflow drain valve can really make a difference and prevent sewage overflow from being redirected into your pipes.
These valves can be installed onto your drains for as little as $300, which is a small price to pay considering they can preserve your family’s health and well-being, as well as your home.
Use Smart Water Sensors
Smart water sensors are really a long-term solution to the issue of flooding and dampness in your basement. Used to detect leaks, these sensors will help you to identify where the weaknesses are in your basement or crawl space and notify you via an app.
You can share this data with a contractor to show them where your property is most vulnerable so they can plan to counteract these issues and improve your property’s flood protection over time.
Invest in a Sump Pump
Many properties in and around Ohio already have sump pumps in place to help with water drainage, and for good reason. These are the single most effective flood-proofing measures that you can deploy in your home. Capable of removing up to 2,000 gallons of water from a home every hour, sump pumps are the heavyweights of the drainage world.
However, they do need a power supply to function properly. We recommend that you also install a battery backup sump pump into your home. These backups have their own power supply, which means that they will continue to protect your home even if there is a blackout during a serious storm or flood. This will minimize the damage to your property and ensure that your home drains quickly when the water starts to drop again.
As you can see, it is important to take a varied and comprehensive approach to flood protection for your home in Toledo or Cleveland, Ohio. Investing in more than one protective or preventative measure can increase your chances of weathering a serious storm and will contribute to generally lower levels of damage throughout your property when a storm does hit. As such, finding a professional to help you waterproof and flood-proof your home should be high on your list of priorities. Thankfully there are many local firms with decades of experience on hand to help you do just that.
To put it simply, flood vents are like old-fashioned crawl space vents, but they serve a different purpose and are often designed to be closed until they are needed these days. With that said, there are times when crawl space vents can be converted into flood vents.
In the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, it was very common for properties that had crawl spaces to have vents installed as a matter of practice. These vents were open to the air at all times and were designed to increase internal airflow. This was thought to prevent issues with dampness and humidity in the property. These vents would allow water to pass through them in the event of flooding, which is why they are partially effective in the event of a storm surge.
Flood vents, by contrast, are not designed to ventilate a crawl space. Their only purpose is to give way to water when there is a serious flood. We now know that exterior crawl space ventilation is more likely to cause damage to a property, and can be the root cause of issues with dampness, humidity, and condensation in a home.
Pressure Relief and Equalization
Flood vents are also precisely designed and placed to give the best possible effect. This may seem like a very small difference, but it is important. When a storm surge roars through any area, the margin between endurance and catastrophe can be incredibly slim. This is why FEMA has very specific requirements for the size and placement of flood vents; they know what works best.
In the end, the purpose of a flood vent is to equalize the pressure inside and outside of your property to prevent the flooding and storm surge from causing your property to shift, crack, or even experience localized collapse. This is why flood vents come in many different forms. They need to be functional for whichever home they are being installed in.
For homeowners in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, storm surges are one of the most pressing reasons to consider flood vent installation. While flood vents are useful for any flooding situation, they can really save lives when a storm surge hits.
The Face of the Storm
The storm surge is really the face of any hurricane or large storm. While most people think of high winds and falling debris, the storm surge presents the single greatest risk to life in a hurricane or storm. This phenomenon sees water rising by as much as 30 feet in an alarmingly short period of time, often with frightening force. This is because the storm surge combines with the tidal energy of the ocean to supercharge itself.
This sudden surge in water is primarily caused by the force and intensity of the winds that come with a storm. This is why larger, more serious hurricanes bring bigger storm surges. This occurs because the winds that are associated with the storm push excess water toward the coast and drive it inland. There is nothing that we can do to prevent storm surges, but most coastal areas have reliable warning systems in place now.
Coastal vs. Inland Locations
Coastal locations are most likely to be seriously affected by a serious storm surge in the event of even a small hurricane, but locations further inland can still be impacted too. This is partly due to the lay of the land and the placement of waterways in an area. Areas that sit at a higher elevation, for example, are far less likely to be impacted, while areas that sit at or below sea level are more likely to feel the effects of a storm surge.
Properties that are further inland are most likely to be impacted if they are near a river. A strong storm surge can easily move tens of miles inland, but it loses much of its power as it moves unless you are near a major river. A storm surge can traverse a river easily and pick up more water on the way. As such, riverside properties 10 or 15 miles inland can suffer as much damage as coastal properties, in some cases.
We recommend that you contact a professional when trying to install flood vents in your home. There are multiple reasons why you should do this, and they are almost all to do with the safety of your home and your family.
This Is a Structural Alteration
If your property does not already have flood vents in place, installing them will require intensive alterations to the structure of your home. While it is possible to take this on as an avid DIY enthusiast, the danger may not be worth it. You will be cutting into your property’s foundation, which is a high-stakes undertaking even for professionals who know just what they are doing.
You could install vents in the wrong place and do damage to utility lines into or out of your property, or you could damage your property’s foundation. If this happens, you will need to call in a professional to repair the damage anyway. Starting with a professional can save you lots of heartache and cash.
Professionals Have Skills, Tools, and Training
The biggest benefits of hiring a professional to install your flood vents are convenience, quality, and safety. We’re trained to do the job the right way, the first time—and work with you to find a solution that fits your unique situation and budget.
Call the experts at Ohio Basement Authority today.
Contact Ohio Basement Systems for Flood Vent Installation
Reach out to us at Ohio Basement Systems today to have your home assessed by the experts. We can help you set your Toledo or Cleveland home up for success against the elements. We offer free inspection appointments, complete with written estimates—no obligation involved.