It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston, leaving unprecedented devastation in it’s wake and taking the lives of at least 82 people. Before the epic storm—the most powerful to hit Texas in over 50 years— had moved on, the fourth largest city in the country had been pummeled by over 51 inches of rainfall and sustained an estimated $180 billion in property damage. This could make it the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, exceeding both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Adding to the tragedy is the fact that, according to the property analytics firm CoreLogic, approximately 70 percent of the houses damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey won’t be covered by insurance. That’s because homeowners policies don’t reimburse for water damage caused by rain and flooding, and only a small percentage of the affected properties were in a high-risk flood zone, making them eligible for coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program. Consequently, a large number of homeowners face a daunting challenge to make their houses livable once again.
With this urgent need in mind, CBUSA builders in the greater Houston area quickly mobilized to confront the seemingly insurmountable challenge head on.
“We know many people—including some of our employees—who have been impacted by Harvey,” said CBUSA member John Leggett of Houston-based On Point Custom Homes.
“We ended up with two feet of water in our house—and an alligator,” added Brian Foster, principal at Sugar Creek Premier homes. “The mechanical room in my office building was also flooded, so we’ve been in temporary offices for four weeks.”
These contractors are keenly aware that simply returning the damaged homes to their previous condition. Instead, they must recommend upgrades that will make the structures less susceptible to damage if and when another storm of this magnitude hits the area.
“Building houses using elevating slabs can raise your house three to six feet off the ground,” Leggett explained. “This doesn’t guarantee you won’t take in water, but it gives your house a much better chance. [The process] increases home building cost, but it also gives the homeowner greater peace of mind and helps increase resale value.”
“Most of the homes I’ve been in are large custom homes in areas with little wind damage,” added Foster. “They withstood the flooding, and since all of them were built at levels five to seven feet above normal high water fluctuation, this was a partially man-made disaster for many of my customers. As we’ve started to inspect houses, the number one thing I have seen are the numerous roof leaks that homeowners were unaware of that were the result of poor roof flashing in corners and valleys.”
As one can imagine, the urge to begin rebuilding immediately can be overwhelming in the wake of such a devastating storm. But Leggett cautions homeowners to wait until they’ve thought carefully about how they want to proceed with the repair work before hiring a contractor.
“For homeowners who have to make renovation decisions due to Harvey,” Leggett urged, “my advice is to be patient and weigh your options before finalizing your plans.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Foster said. “It’s extremely important that homeowners take the time to select the right contractor before. Poor project planning can result in additional work—and additional costs—down the line. If the work is rushed, portions of the home won’t have time to dry out completely. That can turn a water remediation project into a mold remediation project. There’s also a chance that water supply and drainage lines, and electrical components won’t be covered properly, which could lead to big, expensive problems down the road.”
Thankfully for the affected homeowners, CBUSA member builders are ready to offer expert consultation during this difficult time so their lives can return to normal as soon as possible.
“I’m getting about four hours of sleep a night right now—which is the only time I’m not working,” Foster said. “We have a list of customers waiting for our services. Thankfully, we have the manpower and resources we need to get the work done, but it’s going to be quite a while before any of us are back on a regular schedule.”