Ask the Architect

This week, no questions necessary


With so many inquiries regarding flood-damaged-home repair or replacement, I’ve been working around the clock, viewing and assessing damage, climbing into crawl spaces with filtered masks, goggles and protective gloves, wiping wall studs and floor joists, examining mold and answering a barrage of homeowners’ questions. The heartbreak of disaster was followed, for so many, with stages of bewilderment, then feelings of desperation, followed by a spirit of survival and rebuilding.

The toughest questions relate to money and insurance. Unfortunately, only insurance companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have the answers, and for many those answers just aren’t coming fast enough.

In the first week after the storm, most of us sat in the dark, cursing LIPA, so to collectively answer the question about where to put home generators, I recommend doing your homework. Check your jurisdiction’s regulations on where they’re allowed and how high they must be off the ground. I’m planning to install a natural-gas unit outside my house, elevated on a platform close to a door where I can reach it without risk. To do this, I need, just like you, to verify that the sound won’t be a problem for neighbors, and that it has proper fire separation.

Do you need a permit just to re-install insulation and sheetrock? Yes, most municipalities require one, at no fee, and even if you already did the repairs, get the permit anyway. Years from now, if your buyer’s bank asks for the certificate from the “year of the flood,” you won’t be hit with fees and time problems trying to get it.

Smart homeowners flagged me down, and I went door to door examining their insulation. Every house had inadequately installed insulation, put back by hired workers who swooped in from places unknown for the fast buck. I told each homeowner that gaps behind sheetrock, that I asked to be removed, were the equivalent of leaving a window open all winter. Don’t make this mistake just to get your house repaired, or you’ll spend continuously wasted utility money and wonder why you’re cold this winter.

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