What is an Elevation Survey and How Do Builders Use It?

There are a number of different types of surveys, and they all serve a particular purpose. In areas that have been identified as SFHAs (Special Flood Hazard Areas) buildings are required to be properly elevated.

This means that a community’s permit must have a record on file proving compliance with floodplain management ordinances. The record used is generally an Elevation Certificate, which was developed by FEMA to prove compliances and fulfil the ordinance requirement.

What is an Elevation Survey?

To obtain an Elevation Certificate one must submit to an Elevation Survey. This is required in the event of purchasing flood insurance, as well as by lenders.

Finding a land surveyor or engineer in the local area should be your first step. If you are facing difficulties in finding an appropriate professional most states have professional groups or associations for land surveyors. Additionally, you can contact your local government office to see if there an elevation survey has already been filed for the location. These certificates require certification by a governmental entity, so it’s entirely possible they have a record of this document. However, if you make a request ensure you have the APN number, or tax parcel ID number. If they do have the certificate on file, they will likely apply a charge for a copy of it.

Provided all of the information on the certificate is accurate you do not need a new elevation survey completed.

How Do Builders Use Elevation Surveys?

When you approach a bank for financing, or attempt to purchase flood insurance you will be asked for a “Builder’s Package”. There are some items contained within this package, which include property lines, no work affidavit, and an elevation certificate.

The builders use this information to ensure they build only within your property lies, and lay the foundation in the correct area. If your foundation happens to be a slab on grade, then the surveyor will provide you with a finished floor elevation after the concrete has been poured.

The elevation survey also assists the builder in making decisions such as where to lay ductwork, install heat pumps, water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, or even an elevator. It indicates the lowest elevation possible for each item of equipment.

It’s this elevation certificate that will be sent to the insurance agent, and it will be used in order to determine your risk of a flood, and thus the cost of your flood insurance.

If your foundation is raised, then the surveyor will wait until construction of the piers and installation of the wooden floor system before finishing the floor elevation.

Additionally, code requirements can change over time and maps are updated as flood risks change. If you are rebuilding or remodeling you may discuss with your builder whether or not elevating will lower your flood risk, thus reduce the cost of your flood insurance.

Elevation surveys are important for builders to ensure they get the build right the first time, to prevent additional costs from serious mistakes.

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