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Renovating Homes in a Flood Zone: An Interview with Tim Doyle of Klewin Construction, Inc.

By Tim Doyle

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Klewin Construction is a privately held corporation that provides construction management, design-build and general contracting services in a variety of industry sectors that include multi-family residential, retail, hospitality, gaming, educational, municipal, healthcare and our newest division- single family residential.

We look at a home as more than a concrete foundation, wood beams and mechanical systems. We're building the vision of a family by using the passion of an architect to achieve satisfaction to that customer.

Klewin's mission statement is based on the principles of trust, partnership, service, quality and integrity. We instill these principles in our approach to our projects.

What are some of the most common renovating needs for houses in a flood zone?

There are a few common needs for homes that are in a flood zone. The first one is the need to lower their flood insurance to a manageable amount. They would do this by meeting all of FEMA's new regulations for renovations in their flood zone. One of the regulations requires homeowners to raise the home structure above a certain flood elevation that is determined by FEMA. Another regulation is to make sure that all your mechanicals, such as AC, heating systems, electrical panels, etc., are also above the flood elevation. These are the two major requirements from a cost perspective and the remaining regulations are much easier to meet for the homeowner.

Can you briefly describe what FEMA's 50% rule is?

Basically the 50% rule states that if the cost of improvements or cost to repair damage exceeds 50% of the market value of the building, the home must then be brought up to current floodplain management standards. So in simple terms, if just the structure that is on the homeowner's lot is appraised for $200,000, then you could spend up to $100,000 on renovations. If renovations exceed the $100,000, then homeowners must adhere to the new flood standards or cut back on renovations.

Are there any misconceptions about the 50% rule (Substantial Damage Rule) that you've run into?

The biggest misconception about the 50% rule is homeowners presume the rule is 50% of the total value of their home structure and land together. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as it would give the homeowner a vast amount of money in their budget renovation. Additionally, homeowners believe the 50% rule applies to a 1-year period, which it is not. The rule applies to a period of five years.

In general, how does FEMA's Substantial Damage Rule affect building or renovating houses in a flood zone?

In my opinion, this rule has hurt the coastal building industry in a devastating way due to all the new rules and regulations. Homeowners thinking about renovations to their existing homes must go through this process which can be costly and time consuming. If this rule is not fully understood, homeowners often times find themselves disappointed and discouraged to the point where they may just abandon the renovation all together.

Do you have any advice for homeowners in a designated special flood hazard area who are considering a remodeling, renovation or home improvement project?

My advice to a homeowner who is considering any kind of renovations to their home located in a flood plain is to educate themselves by speaking to builders or other homeowners that have already gone through this process. Their best source of information would be a company like Klewin Construction who has staff members that are not only educated in the process but can guide them into a direction that makes sense.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

The best way to contact us is by email at: or Tim Doyle by phone at: 860-912-2740.

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