Many of us in the Philadelphia area have been recuperating from Hurricane Sandy although we did not get hit as hard as our neighboring state, New Jersey. Some of our co-workers do have family members with shore homes so I have had a chance to look at the building codes and other guidelines for rebuilding in flood prone areas. I wanted to share some information about rebuilding and the things you need to keep in mind.
Many of the houses have damage to the first floor and what we are seeing it is not the ‘business as usual’ building codes that have previously been acceptable in New Jersey. There are new building codes that are in effect that follow more closely the FEMA guidelines. For example, the guideline requires that you:
- Remove the drywall and insulation to two feet above the high water mark.
- Dry out and treat the entire cavity.
- Following the gutting of the cavity – remove all the drywall and insulation exposing all the studs to the back side of wood sheathing or house-wrap – this area must be treated with a mold inhibitor.
- When you reconstruct the wall you can only us certain insulations: either closed spray foam insulation or extruded polystyrene foam boards foamed into placed. While anyone can install the extruded foam panels (if they can find the right thickness- remember you need to be an R13 in New Jersey now so that will be an XPS board at least 2.6” thick). Spray foams need to be installed by a certified contractor.
- The wall needs to be finished with a paperless drywall – it can’t be the mold and moisture resistant drywall – and the drywall needs to be stopped with a ½ inch space between the new and old drywall to create a capillary break. The gap can then be finished off with a chair rail or other element to hide the wallboard gap. I think the reason they are requiring a gap is so that in the event that a flood happens again, the water can’t wick up the wall and affect the old wall structure.
When I saw this I thought ‘this is not normal.’ Because it isn’t normal – it is an exceptional code being applied to flood prone areas as designated by FEMA. These are what townships are putting into place to minimize the damage if another storm hits.
It is clearly not business as usual for East Coast communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.