Are you considering building a beach home so that you can have a relaxing area as your primary residence or a great vacation spot for your family? Beach homes are a great investment and offer stunning views as well as plenty of outdoor activities. However, there are special circumstances that you must consider before building your home. Here at K.E. Braza, we want to help you build the best beach home possible, and that means knowing the coastline building codes, what foundation is best for beach homes, and many other coastal construction factors to consider. Check out the 8 tips we have outlined below that will help you get a better idea of what’s in store for you when building on the coast:
1. Know the Building Codes for Coastline Construction in CT
Coastline construction is regulated under the International Building Code (IBC) and the best practices as defined by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). These codes and regulations are designed to ensure that the new building can withstand high waves, potential flooding, high winds, and soil erosion.
- ASCE 24-05 – Often used in conjunction with IBC Section 1612.4. This regulation states that coastal building foundation must be constructed of materials that are flood-resistant and designed to withstand all flood forces.
- IBC Section 1603.1.6 – Construction documents must list all information regarding flood conditions and proper elevations.
- IBC Section 1612.4 – Homes located in areas of High-Velocity Wave Action (HVWA), which are referred to as V zones, must have information regarding the lowest elevation that can be used for the first horizontal structural component.
- IBC Section 1612.5(2) – Requires specific documentation to be included that states the constructed building can withstand high winds and flooding and will not collapse, float, or move out of its position laterally. Meeting the requirements of this provision can mean that a custom foundation must be built for the home.
2. Important Differences Between Building Inland and on the Coastline
It’s important to understand that building on the coastline is different than building inland. When homes, businesses, and other structures are built away from the coastline, architects, engineers, and general contractors do not have to worry about flooding which could stem from storm surges, high coastal winds, high and low tides, or soils that shift continuously. This means that inland buildings typically do not have to be elevated and do not need deeply anchored foundation piles. In addition, construction documents don’t need to list proposed floodwater heights, and the buildings typically don’t need hurricane braces.
By contrast, coastal homes need:
- Deeply anchored foundation piles.
- To be elevated higher than the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
- To be free of anything that could cause excessive load forces to be transferred to the structure’s foundation and building, causing collapse or significant damage.
It’s also important to note that homes and other structures located in coastal areas cannot be built on traditional inland foundations, including crawlspaces, basements, and slabs. It’s also not recommended to construct coastal buildings on solid wall foundations, even if those foundations are elevated, because the forces of the flood could destroy part or all of the foundation wall.
3. Why Coastal Buildings Need to Be Elevated
Coastal buildings need to be elevated to protect against flooding from storms and wave action. Elevated buildings with deep foundation piles also help prevent damage to the building from soil erosion and shifting soil. Not to mention, it may be required by the National Flood Insurance Program, which mandates that homes in known floodplains must be elevated to at least the BFE, which is the expected water height during a 100-year flood.
4. Understanding Coastal Building Height Restrictions
In addition to ensuring the first floor of the new home is above the BFE, there may be total height considerations. This means that the total height of the building, including the roof, cannot be above the mandated height. Total height restrictions for coastal communities can vary from 28 to 50 feet. The height restriction isn’t necessarily related to protecting the structures in an area from inclement or high winds, however, that may be part of the reason. Instead, height restrictions in coastal communities are designed to prevent excessive areas of darkness caused by the shadows that are cast by extremely tall buildings.
5. Why a Professional Builder Is Essential When You Build on the Coast
To ensure that your new home is solid and ready for inclement weather, high water, and floods, it’s essential to choose a coastal builder that is both professional and experienced. A seasoned builder understands the building codes and regulations for the area, allowing a home to pass all of its inspections during the planning and building phases as well as the final inspection after the home is complete. They also know which materials perform the best, the best types of foundations, and the general BFE. Professional builders also know that getting up-to-date flood maps and having the soil tested is essential for every plot of land, even if they already have a good idea of how the soil is going to perform and where the BFE is located.
Skipping out on a professional and experienced builder for your coastal home can have dire consequences. Imagine having your custom coastal home built only to discover that the wrong foundation pillars were used or an old BFE was used to determine the height of the piling foundations. These types of mistakes can put your family and your home at risk.
6. Identifying Flood Zones
Before you build, it is essential to know the type of flood zone in which your property is located. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identifies four categories of flood zones, including Low to Moderate, High-Risk Areas, High-Risk Coastal Areas, and areas of unknown but suspected flood risk. The categories are further broken down into 12 zones:
- Low to Moderate Risk – Zones B and X are moderate flood areas between the limits of the 100-year and 500-year floods level. Zones C and X are low hazard areas, typically above the 500-year flood level.
- High-Risk Areas – High-risk areas that are not along coastal areas. These can include buildings located along rivers, lakes, and levees. Zones include A, AE, A1-30, AH, AD, AR, and A99.
- High-Risk Coastal Areas – High-risk coastal areas are zoned V, VE, and V1-30. These areas have more than a 1 percent chance of flooding yearly as well as specific considerations from waves. They’ve also been identified as having a 26 percent chance of flooding at least once throughout a 30-year mortgage.
- Unknown Risk – Areas designated as Zone D on flood maps are thought to have some flood risk, but the precise risk has not yet been determined.
7. Determining the Best Foundation for a Beach Home
Once the flood zone has been identified, beach house construction can begin starting with securing the right type of foundation. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “what kind of foundation is best for a beachfront home?” Four types of foundations can be used: bored piles, driven piles, micropiles, and screw piles. The type of pile used for your home will depend on its location and the type of soil beneath the surface. For most applications, driven piles are the go-to solution. However, if you need an extremely deep foundation, micropiles may perform better. The good news is that our foundation experts can help determine the best pile for your new or existing beachfront home.
8. The Importance of Outdoor Living Areas
For coastal homes that must be raised off the ground, outdoor living areas are key. These outdoor living areas can be decks or balconies attached to the home to provide an elevated sanctuary outside. They can be ground-level areas that include gazebos that have been properly anchored using foundation piles, or docks and piers that extend from your land-based property into the water so that you can park your boat and/or jet skis and go swimming. Of course, all of these outdoor spaces also need foundations. Our experienced coastal foundation company can listen to your needs, desires, and the intended use of your space and recommend the best foundations for your outdoor living areas. Here at K.E. Braza, we can even build seawalls to further protect your property against flood damage.
Make Sure Your Beachfront Home Is Safe and Secure with Help from K.E. Braza
K.E. Braza specializes in building foundations for new coastal homes. Our construction professionals can inspect your soil, pull flood maps, determine the BFE, and recommend the best foundation so that you can enjoy your beachfront home with minimal worry about storms and wave action. If you already have a coastal home, we can inspect your foundation and perform beach home maintenance.
When you need professional help to ensure that your new coastal building can withstand storms and other coastal hazards, give us a call at 860-662-0124! At K.E. Braza, we are your professional and experienced coastal construction company in Madison, Guilford, Old Saybrook, and all of coastal CT for high-quality beach home foundations.