Five Flood-Resistant Building Materials

Accord­ing to the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA), there have been at least 26 sig­nif­i­cant flood events that have impact­ed Texas in the past 40 years, not includ­ing the high num­ber of flash and riv­er floods. To help com­bat these dis­as­ters, Texas builders are fol­low­ing FEMA’s guid­ance by cre­at­ing flood-resis­tant struc­tures when­ev­er pos­si­ble.

FEMA has issued a rec­om­men­da­tion to build with flood dam­age resis­tant mate­ri­als to min­i­mize the time-con­sum­ing and cost­ly process of rebuild­ing after flood dam­age. Build­ing mate­ri­als are con­sid­ered flood-resis­tant if they can with­stand direct con­tact with flood waters for at least 72 hours with­out being sig­nif­i­cant­ly dam­aged.

Recommended Flood-Resistant Building Materials

These five flood-resis­tant build­ing mate­ri­als are rec­om­mend­ed by The Asso­ci­a­tion of State Flood­plain Man­agers to pro­tect your next project and the peo­ple who live or work there.

1. Naturally Decay-Resistant Lumber

Pho­to: Wind­sor Ply­wood

The most com­mon build­ing mate­r­i­al is, of course, lum­ber. While you may think wood and water don’t mix, there are actu­al­ly sev­er­al types of wood that are nat­u­ral­ly resis­tant to decay.

For instance, west­ern red cedar and red­wood are nat­u­ral­ly decay-resis­tant. Both types of wood, how­ev­er, can split when dri­ving fas­ten­ers into the wood. Also, both can bleed tan­nins that appear as stains around fas­ten­ers which can show through paint­ed sur­faces. To com­bat this, make sure to fol­low prop­er prep­ping pro­ce­dures to ensure the wood will accept wood stains and clear fin­ish­es.

Cypress is anoth­er decay-resis­tant option that grows in swamps and accepts stains and clear fin­ish­es.

White oak is much less porous, decay-resis­tant and very strong. How­ev­er, it does split eas­i­ly like red­wood and cedar, so you should predrill screw holes for fas­ten­ers.

Com­pos­ites offer anoth­er option if you want the look of wood with­out the splin­ter­ing issues wood can bring. Made from ther­mo­plas­tic resins, wood flour and wood fiber, com­pos­ites have no defects and do not com­press like wood. It also doesn’t warp, crack or rot. Although com­pos­ites come in a vari­ety of col­ors, com­pos­ite wood does­n’t absorb paint and stain, so it can’t be as cus­tomized as wood.

2. Marine-Grade Plywood

Pho­to: J. Gib­son McIl­vain Com­pa­ny

Marine-grade ply­wood is hard­wood ply­wood made with water­proof glue, which allows the wood to retain its integri­ty, so, if exposed to mois­ture, the glue won’t fail and the wood lay­ers won’t fall apart.

Stan­dard ply­wood prod­ucts can be found at hard­ware stores, but even the best-rat­ed ply­wood at a hard­ware store isn’t as high qual­i­ty as marine-grade. Stan­dard pan­els are gen­er­al­ly made with thick­er lay­ers of soft­wood, which can cre­ate voids or holes in the cen­ter of the wood which is unde­tectable until you cut into the pan­el.

Marine ply­wood, on the oth­er hand, is made from hard­woods. It’s cre­at­ed with thin lay­ers of 100 per­cent hard­wood to make it stronger, hard­er and with a fin­er grain. How­ev­er, the wood itself is not nat­u­ral­ly water­proof unlike the glue used to cre­ate it. When used in a flood­ing area, it must be pro­tect­ed by a strong water-resis­tant fin­ish.

3. Closed-Cell Foam Insulation

Pho­to: Cer­tain Teed

Spray foam insu­la­tion is com­mon­ly used to increase a home’s ener­gy effi­cien­cy and main­tain year-round com­fort – all while offer­ing quick appli­ca­tion and ease of use in hard to reach spots. How­ev­er, not all spray foam is cre­at­ed equal.

Closed cell foam is denser and offers high­er R‑values than oth­er types of foam — around 6.0 per inch, although some high­er per­form­ing for­mu­la­tions have R‑values of 7.14 per inch and high­er. Because of its increased resis­tance, closed cell foams fea­ture bet­ter insu­la­tion and are more resis­tant to water degra­da­tion or pen­e­tra­tion.

4. Metal Roofing

Pho­to: Drex­el Met­als, Inc

Heavy rains are often accom­pa­nied by strong winds. Water pen­e­tra­tion through or around oth­er­wise intact open­ings from wind-dri­ven rain can do a sig­nif­i­cant amount of phys­i­cal dam­age, cause occu­pant dis­place­ment and busi­ness inter­rup­tions, and lead to exten­sive restora­tion expens­es,” cau­tions Dean Lewis, Amer­i­can Archi­tec­tur­al Man­u­fac­tur­ers Asso­ci­a­tion. It can also cre­ate a mold-friend­ly envi­ron­ment in unseen wall cav­i­ties and in spaces between exte­ri­or sheath­ing and cladding.”

For­tu­nate­ly, accord­ing to Mark Hen­ry, a senior research engi­neer at But­ler Man­u­fac­tur­ing, wind-dri­ven rain is usu­al­ly not an issue for met­al roof sys­tems. They are designed to be weath­er­tight,” he says. The long inter­lock­ing roof pan­els do not pro­vide a gap through which wind could dri­ve rain into the build­ing inte­ri­or.”

5. Concrete

Pho­to: Bau­tex

What’s more sol­id than con­crete? With a sin­gle mate­r­i­al, we can accom­plish many things: ener­gy effi­cien­cy, strength, dura­bil­i­ty, resilience, and safe­ty,” explains Dr. Jere­my Gre­go­ry, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Con­crete Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Hub. Anoth­er ben­e­fit? Because of its chem­i­cal nature, con­crete actu­al­ly gets stronger over time, not weak­er. There are four main types of con­crete build­ing sys­tems used in the US:

Concrete Blocks: The tra­di­tion­al rec­tan­gu­lar blocks are the most wide­ly used con­crete build­ing sys­tem as they pro­vide an afford­able defense against hur­ri­canes.

Removable Forms: Insu­la­tion and rein­forc­ing steel are placed inside remov­able wall forms, made of alu­minum, wood or steel, before con­crete is poured into the forms. Once the con­crete has cured, the forms are removed, leav­ing con­crete walls filled with insu­la­tion and steel. This makes them espe­cial­ly resis­tant to high winds, as well as flood­ing.

Panel Systems: There are two types of pan­el sys­tem: pre­cast con­crete and site-cast con­crete. With pre­cast, the walls are made off-site, filled with steel, insu­la­tion and elec­tri­cal wiring, before being moved to the project site and put into place with cranes. With site-cast con­crete, the walls are cre­at­ed on site by pour­ing into a cast, but this method requires a very open area so the walls can be tilt­ed into place once they are fin­ished.

Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs): ICFs are build­ing blocks made of foam plas­tic or EPS-cement com­pos­ite (a mix­ture of cement and expand­ed poly­styrene) which makes a durable, ener­gy effi­cient con­crete block. The blocks are stacked and then filled with con­crete. Some ICFs, such as Bau­tex Blocks, are FEMA rat­ed against floods and hur­ri­canes, as well as being ener­gy effi­cient and fire rat­ed (four-hour).

When you work in areas that see sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing, such as Texas, you need to be able to cre­ate build­ings that will be able to sur­vive water dam­age.

To learn more about how the right build­ing sys­tem can pro­tect against floods, con­tact the experts at Bau­tex at [email protected]​bautexsystems.​com or sign up for updates on how Bau­tex Sys­tems is trans­form­ing the built envi­ron­ment.