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Building Homes on the Chesapeake Bay to Withstand Damaging Storms



On the heels of Tropical Storm Isaias, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center states this Atlantic hurricane season could be one of the busiest since their forecasting began. “This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that NOAA has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We encourage all Americans to do their part by getting prepared, remaining vigilant, and being ready to take action when necessary.”  The Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook released in May predicted an above-average 2020 season, one with 13 to 19 named storms. In the August update to the outlook, NOAA says conditions are primed to fuel storm development, leading to an 85% chance we’ll see an “extremely active” season of 19 to 25 named storms, including three to six major hurricanes with winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.  They expect more, stronger, and longer-lived storms than average.  The current oceanic and atmospheric conditions (warm sea surface, reduced vertical wind shear, weaker trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon) are expected to continue for the next several months.  Hurricane Laura just came ashore in Louisiana with sustained winds of 150 mph, making it a high-end Category 4 storm. It is the strongest hurricane in 160 years.  What does that mean to those of you who live close to or on the Chesapeake Bay?  In recent years, a Chesapeake Bay view has sometimes come at a price.  Mother Nature has been providing more and more evidence that global warming is here and must be dealt with.  From Hurricane Isabel and Tropical Storm Isaias to devastating nor’easter storms, the Annapolis area is definitely seeing the changes in the environment.  High tide flooding hit a record last year when there were 12 flood days in Annapolis, according to the NOAA.  The area has also been hit with a mess made by gale force winds, heavy rainfall and widespread power outages.   


In the Bay area, homes must withstand everything from freezing temps with snow in the winter to above 90 degrees during the summer with high humidity. When a homeowner decides to remodel their house, some of their design choices will be affected by the close proximity of the bay.  With attention to the location, the proper products and an engineering approach, design/build remodelers are developing ever-better ways to help your house withstand all possible natural disasters, so that they endure into the future with resiliency.  Resiliency is the ability of a home to protect its occupants and itself from adverse condition.  It basically means that the structures are smartly designed to withstand the bay water conditions.



Temperature Changes: Depending on the season, the temperatures can swing from 60 to 25 degrees with the arrival of a cold front.  The house needs materials that can expand and contract with the temperature changes. 



Cold and Snow: Snow is very heavy. Light snow weighs about 10-15 pounds per cubic foot. Heavy, wet snow can weigh up to 40-50 pounds per cubic foot. Building codes in some areas of the country require roofs to be designed for as much as 400 pounds per square foot which is the equivalent of 6 feet of water on the roof. Homes must be designed to withstand the weight of the snow to eliminate sagging, cracking, and collapsing roofs.


Heat and Humidity:  Globally, the annual average temperature has been rising since the beginning of the 20th century, and temperatures are expected to continue to rise through the end of this century. Worldwide, 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998.  Searing summer heat waves are among the dangerous consequences of human-caused climate change.  A study published in February 2020 projects that without steps to rein in heat-trapping gas pollution, as many as three-quarters of summer days across much of the Northern Hemisphere could feature nearly around-the-clock extreme heat by 2100.  The hottest, driest national park in California and Nevada recorded a preliminary high temperature of 130°F in August 2020, according to the United States National Weather Service (NWS). This temperature is potentially a record setting temperature this summer.  Japan has been enduring an intense heatwave since the middle of August, with multiple cities and prefectures nearing 104°F for several consecutive days.  The mercury rose to 105.98 degrees F in the central city of Hamamatsu, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, matching the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan, which was set in Kumagaya, a city near Tokyo, in July 2020.  Even locations on the Chesapeake Bay have been dealing with 100-degree F. weather in July and August.  How does a home successfully handle the high heat and humidity?



Roofing:  The heat from the sun is a natural force that builders consider when choosing building materials that are best suited to your climate.  The sun can cause a home to dry out and prematurely age.  Roofing materials can wear significantly faster in warmer climates than in moderate ones.  Installing an attic fan or ridge vents around the attic access door help release the hot air.  Heat in attics can also cause the wood to dry out. With a steady supply of heat and moisture directly under the roof, your shingles can deteriorate faster.  Homeowners should always consider fans and vents when re-roofing an older home. High heat and humidity can also cause the wood in your rooftop to expand, cracking shingles. Any caulk used for rooftop installation can dry out in the sun and cause leaks.  Making sure the air ducts and ventilation in your home are properly maintained can help prevent your attic from getting too hot during the summer. If you live in a hot and humid area, you can also consider coating and sealing your roof to protect against moisture and sunlight. Roof damage won’t occur overnight, but it shouldn’t be ignored. Creative Spaces Remolding suggests and uses stainless steel fasteners for both roof shingles and siding.



Crawlspace:  Most homeowners don’t give much thought to their crawlspace unless a plumbing disaster or summer storm causes it to flood. But did you know high heat and humidity can damage your crawlspace just as much as a leaky pipe?  Air that gets trapped inside your crawlspace can become stagnant, and the humidity level inside can build up over time. If condensation forms because of the hot and humid air, your crawlspace could become vulnerable to mold, mildew, and rot. Both vented and unvented crawlspaces can suffer from humidity issues, so adding vents to help move the stagnant air doesn’t always help.  The best way to prevent crawlspace damage in humid climates is to hire someone to encapsulate the area. By using spray foam and heavy plastic, a contractor can completely cover the foundation of your home and the dirt below it, preventing any moisture from rising from the ground. This prevents humidity-related moisture from damaging your home’s foundation.


Another consideration is the color of a home. Air conditioners will work harder in darker colored homes than in lighter ones because dark colors absorb more heat than lighter colors.  Heat damage tends to occur over time. It’s important to be aware of the potential damages heat can have on your home and know how to protect against them.  High summer temperatures and humidity can affect your home from its foundation to its roof. The effects of heat and humidity might not be overtly apparent at first, but they can cause serious damage to your home over time. Without proper care and protection, a heat wave today could cost you in repair costs down the road.


Issues with Saltwater & Mold:  Chesapeake Bay is partly brackish water.  The water contains salt in concentrations lower than those found in the ocean, but still high enough to cause significant problems.  Salt has the nasty tendency of causing metal and concrete to corrode, which can lead to serious structural damage to your house.  Preventative measures can be taken to help prevent or reduce saltwater damage. For instance, some specially coated and treated flood resistant materials are resistant to water penetration and can lower the chances of water damage occurring.   The biggest item you’ll need to pay attention to is your HVAC system. Since it pulls air in through ducts and filters to heat or cool, you’ll quickly see a buildup of salt and, unless you have it cleaned regularly, corrosion will be on everything made of metal.


Fiberglass windows and doors offer a great way to ensure that your home is better protected from salt air corrosion. Fiberglass windows are a lot more resistant to high salinity than many other comparable materials and especially important for bayfront homes in general. Therefore, it’s a solid idea to consider investing in fiberglass windows and doors if you are planning a remodel.



If your home is the victim of water damage from a storm, it doesn’t matter how handy you are – you need to call in a trained, skilled professional. This is especially important with saltwater as the flooded area needs to be thoroughly flushed out with clean water to remove the salt, then pumped away and dried completely to avoid any mold. Afterwards, the area will need to be inspected to ensure nothing external or internal is still damaged before repairs and renovations can begin.  When a home has been flooded with salty or brackish water, the electrical systems need to be flushed with fresh water and then inspected to determine if any or all of the wiring needs to be replaced. That includes the wiring in the walls, the electrical box, and of course any appliances and electronic devices that may have been left in the home.   Use specially coated and treated materials for the construction of homes in flood zones and hurricane-prone regions. These can resist water penetration and make the chance of damage lower, as well as reducing the extent of damage when it does occur. Many regional building codes actually specify flood-resistant materials for just this reason. So be sure to discuss this with your contractor whether you’re involved in new construction, remodeling, or repairing a damaged structure.  Creative Spaces Remodeling suggests a composite siding like Hardie Siding for the best protection against all elements.



Stronger Rain and Windstorms:  Flooding Damage

As mentioned before, high tide flooding is becoming an issue.  In Annapolis during high tide floods, also called sunny day floods, water comes up through storm drains around City Dock, closing roads, parking lots and businesses.  Recently, with Tropical Storm Melissa out in the Atlantic pushing water into the bay and an extremely high Hunter’s Moon tide, flooding up to 2 feet occurred up and down the bay without even a bad windstorm.  Good design up front can help plan for these new conditions.  Some have decided to jack their houses up on stilts.  Anne Arundel County now requires waterfront homes to have flood openings all along the foundation which will allow flood waters to flow through the bottom of the home and out the front of the home.  Smart design can ensure that your home survives the next major storm.



Hurricane Isabel was the worst hurricane to affect the Chesapeake Bay region since 1933.  Storm surge values of more than 8 feet flooded rivers that flowed into the Bay across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington D.C.  Isabel brought tropical storm force gusts as far north as New York State as it moved inland.  The weather station at Thomas Point, Maryland reported 42 mph sustained winds with a gust to 58 mph on 19 September 2003.  Isabel produced storm surges of 6-8 ft above normal tide levels with 2-4 ft along Maryland.  Storm surges of 3-5 ft above normal tide levels were observed over the central portions of the Chesapeake Bay and 5-6 ft over the southern portion of the Bay in the vicinity of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Surge values of 6-8 ft above normal levels were observed in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Baltimore, and Chesapeake City, Maryland, as well as in most of the main stem rivers draining into the Chesapeake Bay. Raw water levels exceeded previous record levels established in the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933.  Rainfall from Hurricane Isabel averaged 4-7 inches of rain over large portions of east-central Virginia and Maryland. Storm surge damage also occurred along Chesapeake Bay and the associated river estuaries.  The most intense hurricane of the 2003 season directly resulted in 17 deaths and more than 3 billion dollars in damages.  The large wind field toppled trees and cut power to more than four million customers.



Hurricane Isabel was the worst hurricane to affect the Chesapeake Bay region since 1933.  Storm surge values of more than 8 feet flooded rivers that flowed into the Bay across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington D.C.  Isabel brought tropical storm force gusts as far north as New York State as it moved inland.  The weather station at Thomas Point, Maryland reported 42 mph sustained winds with a gust to 58 mph on 19 September 2003.  Isabel produced storm surges of 6-8 ft above normal tide levels with 2-4 ft along Maryland.  Storm surges of 3-5 ft above normal tide levels were observed over the central portions of the Chesapeake Bay and 5-6 ft over the southern portion of the Bay in the vicinity of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Surge values of 6-8 ft above normal levels were observed in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Baltimore, and Chesapeake City, Maryland, as well as in most of the main stem rivers draining into the Chesapeake Bay. Raw water levels exceeded previous record levels established in the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933.  Rainfall from Hurricane Isabel averaged 4-7 inches of rain over large portions of east-central Virginia and Maryland. Storm surge damage also occurred along Chesapeake Bay and the associated river estuaries.  The most intense hurricane of the 2003 season directly resulted in 17 deaths and more than 3 billion dollars in damages.  The large wind field toppled trees and cut power to more than four million customers.



It was reported in August 2020 that Greenland's ice sheet has melted to a point of no return, and efforts to slow global warming will not stop it from disintegrating, according to a new study by researchers at Ohio State University.  Greenland's ice sheet dumps more than 280 billion metric tons of melting ice into the ocean each year, making it the greatest single contributor to global sea level rise. The ice loss has been so massive in recent years, that it has caused a measurable change in the gravitational field over Greenland. Ice melting in Greenland, Antarctica and other locations contribute more than a millimeter rise to sea level every year, and that's likely to get worse. Sea levels are projected to rise by more than 3 feet by the end of the century, wiping away beaches and coastal properties.



1.  Safeguard in-home electrical and climate systems

  • Switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring should be at least a foot above the expected flood level in your area, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

  • If flood water rises enough where it is close to reaching your electric panel, shut it off to prevent electrical damage.

  • Modify your furnace, water heater and any other anchored indoor equipment so that it sits above your property’s flood level.

2.   Anchor and elevate outdoor equipment

  • Fuel and propane tanks, air-conditioning units and generators should be anchored and raised above flood level. Fuel tanks that are not anchored can break free, and severed supply lines will contaminate the ground or cause fires, the IBHS warns.

  • Electrical power units and generators should never sit on the ground.  These backup facilities will be inundated (by water) and become useless.

  • If you own a pier on the Chesapeake Bay, you may have noticed the difference of the very high tides.  Older piers are being covered over with water by the high tides.  Piers may need to be remodeled with a higher landing and walkway.


3.  Modify your water valves

  • A flooded sewer system can cause sewage to back up into your home. The IBHS recommends installing an interior or exterior backflow valve.

  • The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), recommends gate valves. They are more complex, and you operate them by hand. But they provide stronger seals than flap or check valves, which open automatically to allow water to flow out and then close when water tries to get in.  Valves should be installed on all pipes entering the house, FLASH advises.



4.  Determine how water flows around your house.  Investigate flood-proofing retrofitting costs and repairs

  • The grading or slope of the ground can direct water to your house or away from it. Obviously, it’s best if the home was built so that water drains away from it.

  • This can be determined easily by watching how water flows or accumulates during an average rainstorm, says FLASH.  If your street is prone to have standing water after an ordinary rainstorm, consult your design/build remodeling company for suggestions on how to improve the water flow in a storm.

  • Flood-proofing modifications can be major structural changes or small tweaks, from putting the structure on stilts to adding concrete blocks under your water heater.  Raise your home on piers or columns so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. It’s becoming more popular for longer lasting home value for one generation to another.



  • Wet-proof” your home by installing foundation vents that would allow water to flow through the building, instead of rising inside and causing more damage. You need at least two vents on different walls. A 1,000-square-foot house would require 7 square feet of flood vents, according to FLASH.

  • Do some “dry-proofing” by applying coatings and other sealing materials to your walls to keep out water.

  • Make sure downspouts are facing away from the structure. Gutter runoff shouldn’t collect near the house, which could eventually cause leaks in your basement or foundation. Check the pipes and gutters and make sure they’re clean and free of leaves and other debris.  French drains may help move the water away.

5.  If you don’t have flood insurance, then you’ll likely not be covered by your regular homeowner insurance policy.  Most homeowners’ insurance policies will only cover water damage from a burst pipe, but not heavy rain, rising rivers, or a natural disaster.

  • Homes located in high-risk zones require an elevation certificate, or EC. The EC shows what your home’s elevation is in relation to how high floodwaters will reach in the event of a major storm. This gives insurance companies an idea of how much risk is involved, which will help determine your premium.

  • Even if you’re not required to get flood insurance by your lender, you still might want to consider it. For homes that are near high-risk areas, insurance could be a lifesaver.

  • Flood insurance is a bargain when you consider the potential loss. One foot of water in an average home can cause an estimated $72,000 worth of damage.  It is recommended that everyone should have flood coverage.  Only flood insurance, not homeowners insurance policies, covers losses to homes and their contents directly caused by flooding. Remember: Mother Nature does not stick to the lines on a flood map, and ‘low risk’ doesn’t mean ‘no risk.’

  • Tip: Don’t wait for an approaching storm to get insurance. Most flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before coverage is activated.



6.  Power Outages

  • Backup generators and solar home battery systems help the home keep the occupants warm during a power outage with a real focus on the building enclosure. Passive solar gain via window orientation, an air-tight envelope, high performance windows and good insulation is a way to achieve this. These are great forms of resiliency.

  • A permanently installed home backup generator protects your home automatically. It runs on natural gas or liquid propane (LP) fuel and sits outside up on a platform just like a central air conditioning unit and away from any floods. A home backup generator delivers power directly to your home’s electrical system, backing up your entire home or just the most essential items.



Stronger Rain and Windstorms:  Wind Damage

Strong winds are one of the most destructive forces in nature, capable of destroying hundreds of miles of property with violent gusts that can exceed 100 mph. But it’s not just 100-mph winds or hurricane-like conditions that can cause damage – even gusts that are much less severe can knock out power or cause damage. Strong winds also pose a serious threat because they can impact a larger area.


Windows and Doors:  If you are very concerned about hurricane winds, you may want to consider investing in modifications to your home that will help reduce damage from heavy winds, such as pressure-rated windows (window panes that are labeled DP40 or higher). These should withstand wind gusts of up to 150 mph, meaning that they should survive a Category 4 hurricane. If you are expecting winds that exceed what your windows are meant to handle, place Xs made with masking or duct tape on them.   In addition, you may want to purchase storm shutters for your windows. These shutters often contain steel or aluminum and help to protect your windows from flying objects.

Any door leading to outside should be secured with three hinges and anchored to a frame with a deadbolt to ensure the wind does not blow it open.  For double doors or French doors, secure them with sliding bolts that anchor into the top and the bottom of the door frame.  A reinforced garage door is often made of steel and have reinforced struts that are only visible from the inside of your garage. From the outside, they look like any other garage door.



Roofs:  When strong winds flow over the roof of the house, it can cause two conditions:  up-lift or racking.  Up-lift develops when rapidly moving wind creates an area of lower pressure on the leeward roof slope, walls, and inside the house. The home’s inside pressure can push the structural components outward. Homebuilders use special connections to attach the roof to the house in areas that experience extreme conditions such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Racking can occur when the high wind forces do not hit the house squarely. The home’s framing will usually withstand the racking force, but extremely high winds can tear shingles off the roof. The wind can also create major damage by driving rain up under roof shingles, vertical siding, window frames, doors and roofs.


Mother Nature has been providing more and more evidence that global warming is here and must be dealt with.  As you assess your home as to whether it can withstand a damaging storm, use this article to check off what you currently have and what you may need to add in order to continue to live on the Chesapeake Bay and enjoy your life and the beautiful view.



Resiliency is all about preventive care.  It is also about using smartly designed materials and techniques in order to withstand the damaging storms to come.  That is why it is so important to hire a design/build remodeler, such as Creative Spaces Remodeling, who is knowledgeable about how to make your water-front home more resilient to the Chesapeake Bay special conditions.



CONTACT US

3179 BRAVERTON ST. SUITE 101

EDGEWATER, MD 21037

Email: info@remodelthebay.com

Phone: 410-541-1268

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