How to Build a House in a Flood Plain

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Things You'll Need

  • Property title/deed

  • BFE data

  • Special permit or variance

  • Flood insurance

  • Architect

  • Builder

  • FEMA Elevation Certificate

Depending on the area in which you live, you may be legally able to build a house in a flood plain. Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) map the country's flood plains and administer the flood insurance program, local municipalities also make laws governing the building in floodplains. These construction and building codes vary from location to location, so each property owner must consult the local planning office and submit to its procedures.


Step 1

Interview architects and builders to find one with experience building in flood plains and in the locality where you will construct the home.

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Step 2

Contract with the chosen architect and builder.


Step 3

Visit the planning office of the city or town in which you will build to consult the flood plain map for the flood zone and base flood elevation (BFE) for the property. Take the property title to show ownership and in case it's required for any permit or variance application.

Step 4

Consult with a city planner in the local office to determine what permits and variances are required.


Step 5

Obtain and complete the permit and variance applications. (You may need to consult with the architect on the project for some information.)

Step 6

Build the property with all living areas beginning above the BFE and adhering to any additional locality requirements.


Step 7

Buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Step 8

Apply for and obtain the FEMA Elevation Certificate. The architect for the project will complete and submit this document. An engineer or surveyor may also be able to complete this document depending on state laws or regulations.


–Call the city planning office to ask for recommendations of local architects and builders before beginning your interview process. Its personnel will know who has experience in flood plain construction projects.

–Find out the average processing time for each application or certificate needed, then add two weeks to it for your planning purposes.

–Begin the FEMA Elevation Certificate process as soon as possible. Some states, such as North Carolina, require it before allowing the electricity to be turned on.


Living in high-risk flood zones such as AE or VE presents an increased danger to life and property. Before moving into the new home, learn flood safety procedures and make a family emergency plan.


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