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Lessons From Hurricane Irene: How Flood Vents Could Have Protected Your Property from Structural Damage

Lessons From Hurricane Irene: How Flood Vents Could Have Protected Your Property from Structural Damage

Does FEMA approve flood vents?

Although Hurricane Irene produced winds and storm surge, it fell short of the doomsday predictions, it did a lot of damage to states up and down the Eastern seaboard, from the Carolinas to Maine. Even in landlocked areas like Vermont, torrential rains turned tranquil streams into raging rivers that damaged homes and businesses. High winds and tides flooded many other areas. In fact, Irene may go down as one of the costliest Category 1 hurricanes in U.S. history.

Many homeowners and business owners sustained tremendous damage due to flood waters and storm surge from Hurricane Irene. Those who had installed flood vents were certainly at an advantage.

Reducing the Potential Impact of a Flood

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cites flood vents as one of their "best practice" recommendations for reducing structural damage due to flooding. The purpose of flood vents (also called "flood gates") is to reduce structural damage from flooding.

These permanent openings accomplish this objective by allowing water to pass into or out of a building's exterior foundation walls. In a flood situation, if the water pressure inside and outside your home can't equalize rapidly enough, the foundation walls could blow out. In addition, this pressure can compromise the foundation and make your home unsafe to live in. Studies have shown that houses with proper flood vent openings survive a flood; homes without such openings collapse.Flood Protection Flood Vents

Cost Savings Can Add Up

Properly installed and situated flood vents allow you to save in two ways. First, they can significantly lower your flood insurance premiums. Secondly, should floodwaters rise to your home, flood vents can reduce the risk of costly structural damage.

Requirements: the Basics

Openings must be installed in foundation walls so that water can flow, unimpeded, in and out of the crawl space without damaging the walls' integrity. The regulation is easy to remember: one square inch of opening in the foundation wall for every square foot of the area of your house. For example, a 2,000-square-foot crawl space would need 2,000 square inches of opening.

Each enclosed area must have a minimum of two openings. If there are multiple enclosed areas within the foundation walls, each area must have at least two openings in its exterior walls.

Flood vents must be below flood level to work. The bottom of each opening must be no more than 1 foot above whichever of these is higher: the interior or exterior grade immediately under the opening.

Any screens, grates, grilles, fixed louvers, or other covers or devices you install must not block or hinder the automatic flow of floodwaters into and out of the enclosed area.

Who Can Benefit From Flood Vents?

According to FEMA, everyone in the United States who lives in a flood zone can benefit from flood vents.

Everyone in the United States lives in a floodplain. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, defines floodplain as any land area susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters from any source.

In 1968, Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as a program of FEMA. The program's goal was to reduce future flood damage through wise community floodplain management and to protect property owners against the possibility of loss through an insurance mechanism requiring a premium.

When a community agrees to follow a specific floodplain management ordinance designed to reduce future flood risks in Special Flood Hazard Areas ordinance, the federal government will make flood insurance available to every property owner in that community.

One of the requirements for property owners to buy flood insurance is having properly installed flood vents.

Thus, only people who live in a community that participates in the federal program can buy flood insurance.

What Type of Flood Vent Should I Buy?

First, be sure to purchase only FEMA-compliant flood vents.

There are many different flood vents in the market. Some open and close automatically, some stay open, some have vermin screens, some are easier to install than others, some are very expensive, and some are made of stainless steel, some plastic and some wood. The right flood vent for your home is determined by weather conditions, ventilation requirements, durability, critter control, ease of installation, and affordability.

FEMA Compliant Engineered Flood Vents, flood vents, crawl space flood vents, Engineered flood vents, crawl space door systems, flood vents in virginia beach, flood vents in hampton roads, flood vents in virginiaThere are two types of flood vents on the market: non-engineered and engineered. Engineered vents have been designed in such a way that they provide a more efficient flood relief system, and thus fewer vents will need to be installed. The number of flood vents you need to install depends on the size and type of vent you buy.

How Much Do Flood Vents Cost?

Typically, the non-engineered flood vents range from $19 to $39, and the engineered flood vents range from $79 to $299. Keep in mind that you need fewer engineered flood vents than non-engineered flood vents.

Can I Install Them Myself?
Yes, if you're handy with tools. Many manufacturers provide installation instructions that ship with their flood vents.

Don't Wait for the Next Hurricane Irene.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30, so make sure you have properly installed flood vents in place before the next storm hits.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for FEMA's comprehensive guidelines. For more information, visit

Crawl Space Door Systems is the leader in crawl space door and hurricane solutions for your home. By using our products, you will safeguard your foundation by eliminating humidity, pests, and termites. Our hurricane and crawl space door solutions will save you thousands of dollars in repairs and eliminate heartache.

Call Crawl Space Door Systems at 757-363-0005, or email us at to find out more! You can also find out more information on our engineered flood vents at, or our sandbag solutions at, or our sump pump kits at  For overall hurricane solutions and tools, go to

Published 10/4/2011 by William G. Sykes

William G. Sykes is an inventor, product designer, member of the International Code Council, engineer and patent attorney. He specializes in crawl space and foundation protection products for flood protection, ventilation and encapsulation (flood vents, air vents, doors and fans). Learn more about crawl space and foundation protection and how to save money on your flood insurance premiums by visiting our website.


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