FAQs

General

Codes and Certifications

Product Features

Installation

Flood Insurance

General

What is a Flood Vent?

Flood Vents protect houses and buildings in floodplains by preventing water pressure buildup that can destroy walls and foundations.

When are Flood Vents required?

The NFIP Regulations and Building Codes require that any residential building constructed in Flood Zone Type A have the lowest floor, including basements, elevated to or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Enclosed areas (enclosures) are permitted under elevated buildings provided that they meet certain use restrictions and construction requirements such as the installation of flood vents to allow for the automatic entry and exit of flood waters. This wet floodproofing technique is required for residential buildings. Commercial buildings have the option to wet floodproof, which can be more cost-effective compared to dry floodproofing.

What is the Base Flood Elevation (BFE)?

The Base Flood Elevation, or BFE, is the height of the base (1-percent annual chance) flood, usually in feet, in relation to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929, the North American Vertical Datum of 1988, or other datum referenced in the Flood Insurance Study report, or average depth of the base flood, usually in feet, above the ground surface. The BFE was adopted by the National Flood Insurance Program as the basis for floodplain management and flood insurance regulations.

What is a “100-yr flood”, “1%-annual-chance flood”, and “base flood”?

The term “100-year flood” can be confusing. It is not the flood that will occur once every 100 years. Rather, it is the flood that has a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded each year. Thus, the 100-year flood could occur more than once in a relatively short period of time or even within the same month. Because this term can be confusing, FEMA has also defined it as the “1-percent-annual-chance flood”. The “1-percent-annual-chance flood” is the term now used by most Federal and State agencies and by the National Flood Insurance Program.

What is an Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE)?

Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) provide a better picture of current flood risk than the existing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), which in some cases are more than 25 years old. The new ABFEs are the recommended elevation of the lowest floor of a building. Some communities may require that the lowest floor be built above the ABFE.

The ABFEs are based on FEMA coastal studies that were completed before Hurricane Sandy. The studies include data that has been collected and analyzed over a number of years. Though advisory now, eventually information used to develop the ABFEs will be incorporated into official FIRMs.

FEMA Region II created this website with a tool to help you find the ABFE for your property. It is at www.region2coastal.com/sandy/table.

What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

The land area covered by the floodwaters of the base flood is the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on NFIP maps. The SFHA is the area where the NFIP's floodplain management regulations must be enforced and the area where the mandatory purchase of flood insurance applies. The SFHA includes Zones A, AO, AH, A1-30, AE, A99, AR, AR/A1-30, AR/AE, AR/AO, AR/AH, AR/A, VO, V1-30, VE, and V.

The floor of my basement/crawlspace is lower than the ground level; what do I do?

What you do is pay extremely high flood insurance premiums. According to FEMA guidelines in Technical Bulletin 1-08, if all four sides of the structure are below grade by even one inch, the structure has a basement. In a flood zone, having a basement almost guarantees very high flood insurance rates. To lower your premium, you need to equalize the interior and exterior grade on at least one side of the house. The easiest way to do this is to either add fill to the inside of the basement until at least one wall is at or above exterior grade, or to dig-out the ground outside until it is at or below the interior grade (floor) level. This will turn your basement into a crawlspace, which (if properly vented) should have drastically lower flood insurance rates.

Codes and Certifications

How do SMART VENTS provide so much flood coverage?

You may have heard that FEMA requires a vent with “1 square inch of opening per 1 square foot of enclosed area”, referring to vent dimensions in proportion to the space to be vented. This is only partially correct. FEMA Guidelines (as outlined in Technical Bulletin 1-08) do state that a non-engineered flood vent solution must (among other requirements) provide 1 sq. in. of opening per 1 sq. ft. of space vented. This is only in reference to non-engineered openings, however; all of our flood vent products are certified engineered openings. In accordance with the further guidelines of TB 1-08, our vents have been tested, rated, and certified for their coverage of 200 square feet per 16” x 8” unit by the International Code Council’s Evaluation Service (ICC-ES).

What is the difference between Engineered Openings and non-engineered openings?

Engineered openings have been designed and tested as flood vents and are given a flood coverage rating based on performance. For example, SMART VENTS are ICC-ES Certified for 200 sq. feet of flood protection per 16” x 8” vent.

Non-engineered openings have not gone through any of the required testing, or any sort of flood testing for that matter, to qualify as an engineered flood vent and typically are solely intended for use as an air vent. Therefore, they are rated at the assumptive method of 1 net sq. inch of opening per 1 foot of enclosed area.

What types of certifications are accepted for Engineered Openings?

In addition to your Code Official and Surveyor requiring a certification, Insurance agents will request that property owners provide documentation as part of applications for NFIP flood insurance. The documentation should be attached to the Elevation Certificate.

The following are acceptable forms of documentation for engineered openings:

For ICC-ES Evaluated Flood Vents, simply attach a copy of the Evaluation Report to the Elevation Certificate and highlight the model or models used in the home. Liability of the vent falls on the manufacturer.

Without an ICC-ES Evaluation an individual certification is required for each home that the vents are installed in. The certification needs to be an original certification with the signature and raised or electronic seal of the designer who is licensed in the state where the building is located. This option is for a licensed architect or engineer to design a unique opening for use in one particular home. Liability of the vent falls on the individual architect or engineer certifying the product.

What are some examples of Non-Acceptable Flood Openings as defined by FEMA?

• Standard foundation air ventilation devices that can be closed manually, because they do not allow for the automatic entry and exit of floodwaters unless they are permanently disabled (broken) in the open position.

• Standard foundation air ventilation devices that have detachable solid covers that are intended to be manually installed over the opening in cold weather, because they do not allow for the automatic entry and exit of floodwaters when the cover is in place.

• Standard foundation air ventilation devices that are designed to open and close based on temperature (unless they also are designed to allow for the automatic entry and exit of floodwaters).

• Windows below the BFE, because the automatic entry and exit of floodwaters cannot be satisfied by the expectation that windows will break under rising floodwaters.

• Garage doors without openings installed in them, because human intervention is required to open the doors when flooding is expected. Gaps between the garage door and the doorjamb or walls do not count towards the net open area requirement.

• Standard exterior doors without openings installed in them.

For further information see the Unacceptable Measures Section on Page 19 of FEMA TB 1-08.

What is FEMA?

FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. FEMA employees work all over the country – at FEMA Headquarters, the ten regional offices, the National Emergency Training Center, Center for Domestic Preparedness/Noble Training Center, and other locations – to support the larger emergency management team.

What is the International Code Council (ICC)?

The International Code Council, a membership association dedicated to building safety and fire prevention, develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools. Most U.S. cities, counties and states that adopt codes choose the International Codes developed by the International Code Council.

Our ICC Certification Evaluation Service Report (ESR-2074) states that one 16" x 8" SMART VENT unit is certified to provide 200 sq. ft. of flood protection and should be attached to the Elevation Certificate.

Product Features

How do the models differ? Do they come in custom sizes? What sizes do you have?

We have two primary models: The dual function model (SMART VENT) provides 51 square inches of air ventilation opening in addition to 200 square feet of certified flood ventilation coverage. These vents would be almost exclusively used in unconditioned crawlspaces, where air ventilation is required in addition to any flood ventilation. The insulated flood-only model (FLOOD VENT) is appropriate for most other applications. It provides only flood protection for garages, storage areas, walkout basements, conditioned crawlspaces, etc.

Our vents are the size of a standard concrete masonry unit (CMU), 16” wide x 8” tall. They can be stacked as many high* (although two is typical) and arrayed as many side-by-side as needed. For large commercial applications, we are able to design and manufacture custom mounting frames to contain various arrangements of vents in a single steel frame. We also make a Wood Wall FLOOD VENT that is designed to fit between wood studs spaced on 16” centers that measures 14 ½ “ wide x 8 ½“ tall.

What can I do to finish the inside of the opening?

There are a variety of options for trimming the interior of the opening. We offer a stainless steel trim flange & inner sleeve kit to line the hole that you as the customer can paint without voiding the warranty. (Please do not attempt to paint the vent units themselves; this can void the warranty.) This option is adaptable to fit any wall depth from three to fifteen inches. Additionally, any variety of trim designs could be fabricated by a homeowner or contractor for the interior: for instance, a wood frame similar to those used for framing windows.

Do they come in different colors?

Yes. We have four standard colors, and can (for an additional fee, plus an approximately three week lead time) match almost any color needed for your application. We use enamel powder coatings designed for use in harsh environments. Our standard colors are: white, black, wheat and gray. Contact an Authorized SMART VENT Dealer for pricing and availability.

Do the vents keep the cold air out?

The insulated flood-only model (FLOOD VENT) has a styrofoam core (two inches thick, equivalent to a 8.34 R factor), and weather-stripping between the door and the frame. The air-ventilated model (SMART VENT) contains louvers that rotate open in warm weather, and close as the weather cools. The SMART VENT lacks any weather-stripping. However, we have never had a vent returned for reasons of poor insulative quality. If you are in an area such as Alaska or parts of New England where winter temperatures are especially low, you may want to use the insulated FLOOD VENT model, even if it is an unconditioned crawlspace (an approved vapor barrier is optimal for this solution).

Do the vents have insect screening?

On the Insulated Models, the only space through which insects could theoretically pass is the extremely narrow space between the vent door and frame. In these models, this space is lined with a thick weather-stripping, which should prevent any insects from entering. The air-ventilated SMART VENT model, meanwhile, has a set of internal louvers behind a rodent screen. The purpose of a rodent screen is to protect the opening from vermin without preventing the natural flow of air; as such, openings in the screen must fit a very narrow set of dimensions (between 1/4 and 3/8 inch). Our SMART VENT screen has 1/4-in. openings, the largest allowed by code to maximize airflow necessary to prevent undue mold, mildew, and other threats to the wellbeing of the residents of a building.

Does the vent require any electricity?

No. The air-ventilation louvers on the dual function SMART VENT operate by means of a bimetallic coil, and the flood mechanism on all models works via rising flood water.

Do the vents open only during a flood?

For the most part, yes. The dual function SMART VENT model also opens for air ventilation, but the door itself remains closed; louvers inside the door rotate open or closed in response to temperature changes. The insulated FLOOD VENT model is designed to open only in response to rising flood waters. The vents can be opened manually by inserting a credit card into the upper portion of each of the two slots on the front of the door, if inspection is necessary.

Do you know of any other company that makes a similar product?

No. There are certainly other companies that make foundation vents, and some that claim that their vents are usable as foundation flood vents, but our vents are the only FEMA Accepted & ICC-ES evaluated engineered opening for flood venting. In fact, many of the vents that claim to be foundation flood vents do not comply with flood ventilation codes and FEMA guidelines, let alone having a certification.

Are the vents more expensive than other flood solutions?

Our vents are made from stainless steel, and are manufactured and assembled entirely in the United States. Additionally (and perhaps more importantly), each of our vents is an engineered flood opening certified for 200 square feet of flood protection. It is physically impossible for a non-engineered opening of comparable dimensions to provide as much coverage within FEMA guidelines; most air vents, in fact, provide less than 20% of that (overlooking that they do not fulfill other requirements of the flood code). Where a house may require 30-35 air vents to provide enough flood protection, about 8 of our vents would provide more than necessary. Our vents are cost-competitive with anything else we have seen on the market.

Installation

What are the FEMA, NFIP & Building Code Requirements for installing flood vents?

Enough flood vents are required to protect the enclosed space below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The entire portion of the flood vent must be below the BFE. The bottom of each flood vent is to be located no higher than 1 foot above the highest interior or exterior adjacent grade below the vent. There must be at least 2 openings on different walls per each enclosed area below the Base Flood Elevation. View our Certifications & Codes for more information.

How do the vents attach?

One can attach the vents using any of several methods. The vents were designed to install with four stainless steel straps, included in each package. These straps bend around the back of a wall, and fasten into the vent frame. The exterior flange holds the vent against the front of the wall. If an even more secure hold is desired, a concrete adhesive (Lexel, Liquid Nails, etc.) can be applied to the inside surface of the flange. Be careful to avoid getting any of this adhesive onto any part of the frame but the back surface of this flange; you do not want to accidentally prevent the vent door from opening in case of flood.

Can I install the vent in an entry door?

Yes. For overhead (garage) doors, we have developed specific models that install easily and contain a mechanism to prevent the vent from opening when the door is lifted overhead. For standard personnel doors, we recommend using Model 1540-570. Be sure to only use stainless steel screws when fastening the flood vent to the door.

My grade changes (slopes/dips), or my house is built on a hill. How do I place my vents?

Regardless of changes in grade, vents must be placed on a minimum of two different walls, with each vent no more than twelve inches (or less, depending on local code) of adjacent grade or inside slab. The adjacent grade for each vent is the grade (essentially, ground) level closest to that specific vent. Vents should, if possible, be arranged so that more are placed near the lowest possible grade, to allow easiest drainage when a flood recedes.

Flood Insurance

What is the NFIP?

The Flood Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA), a component of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The three components of the NFIP are:

Nearly 20,000 communities across the United States and its territories participate in the NFIP by adopting and enforcing floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. In exchange, the NFIP makes Federally backed flood insurance available to homeowners, renters, and business owners in these communities. Community participation in the NFIP is voluntary.

Flood insurance is designed to provide an alternative to disaster assistance to reduce the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods. Flood damage is reduced by nearly $1 billion a year through communities implementing sound floodplain management requirements and property owners purchasing of flood insurance. Additionally, buildings constructed in compliance with NFIP building standards suffer approximately 80 percent less damage annually than those not built in compliance.

In addition to providing flood insurance and reducing flood damages through floodplain management regulations, the NFIP identifies and maps the Nation's floodplains. Mapping flood hazards creates broad-based awareness of the flood hazards and provides the data needed for floodplain management programs and to actuarially rate new construction for flood insurance.

My house is in Flood Zone AE. How can I reduce my Flood Insurance bill?

If you have Flood Insurance, your Insurance Agent should have your Elevation Certificate (EC) for your home on file. The data on the EC will directly reflect your Flood Insurance Premium. Compliant homeowners will receive the lowest premium available. If your premium seems high, your home is most likely non-compliant. A frequent red flag for structure compliance is proper flood openings.

On your EC, Section A8/A9 will tell you the square footage of your crawlspace/garage/etc., the number of flood openings you have, and the flood coverage they provide. If your coverage does not meet or exceed the square footage, this is deemed as non-complaint and will result in a high premium. Installing proper flood openings or “flood vents” will correct this issue. Contact your Insurance Agent for information on some other factors such as elevation of machinery, elevation of first livable floor, and Building Diagram type.

Where can I learn more about purchasing flood insurance?

Many flood insurance related questions may be answered by visiting the official site of the NFIP FloodSmart.gov. You may use the tools under the Insurance Center to determine policy coverage, estimate rates, and find an agent in your area. Be sure to check out the SMART VENT Insurance Agent Locator to get in touch with an Insurance Agent in your area that is already knowledgable on the SMART VENT product line.