About a year after I originally purchased my home, FEMA sent me a notice that they had updated their maps and decided I was in a flood zone and needed to pay flood insurance. I've been paying ever since.

I live in Texas. I can't really imagine a vast flood sweeping away my house and causing me to climb on the roof and wait for rescue. The nearby "creek" is bone dry unless it rains. To make things even better, if I recall from when I saw the maps, the flood zone boundary line runs through my back yard. A few of my neighbors and I are included. Homes across the street and those a few houses down the street are completely flood zone free. Certainly the nearby park opposite my back yard fence experiences some slight flooding in heavy rains, simple from water building up and taking time to run off, but that's it.

I've been looking into replacing the fence around my yard, and it occurred to me; a tight, well-made fence, or a retaining wall or something, should be able to keep out any risk of water flooding into the backyard from the park. (Again, the whole thing is ridiculous--in the past eight years, that hasn't happened, and any water high enough to reach my house would go past and spill into the street and run away). So my question is, is there anything I can do to the property that would convince FEMA to say I am no longer at risk of my house being washed away any day now in a flood? I'm aware that I can pay for a surveyor to check my elevation and MIGHT be able to challenge FEMA that way if their map lists incorrect elevation--but is there anything I can do to make the property flood proof in FEMA's eyes?

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    Are we talking 100-year or 500-year floodlines here? Aug 25, 2017 at 1:38
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    Also, what part of TX is this? Aug 25, 2017 at 1:39
  • Flooding doesn't work that way. For instance if the ground is permeable the water will simply flow under your fence. If you somehow make your basement or yard impermeable, now it's a boat. And not a strong enough one, no doubt. Aug 25, 2017 at 16:51
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    FEMA's initial rating is based on the lot rather than the house. If part of the lot is in the flood zone, the property is considered as in the flood zone. Our previous house was located on a high portion of the property backing on a hill and the lower portion of the property was in a flood zone. We sent FEMA a plat showing this and they removed the flood zone designation.
    – fixer1234
    Aug 25, 2017 at 19:48
  • I think it's 500 year, but not certain. San Antonio. And so far it sounds like it's all based on property elevation and no changes can be made to the property that would change FEMA's mind Aug 26, 2017 at 2:39

2 Answers 2


The same thing happened to us. We hired a surveyor who specializes in contesting FEMA flood zone determinations. He handled all of the paperwork, filed it with FEMA, and got our flood zone designation removed.

  • I also have a property that was reclassified we hired a surveyor and our home was removed but our arena is still in the zone so we have to carry flood insurance on a pole building how's that for a laugh.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 25, 2017 at 19:17
  • @mbeckish how did you win? Did the surveyor discover that the house was a higher elevation than FEMA thought it was, or was it something else? Aug 26, 2017 at 2:38
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    @ChadSchultz - I believe the surveyor just made precise measurements to show exactly where our house was on the property. The flood zone designation was pretty silly. We're on the side of a hill, and the top of our neighbor's house right across the street is actually about even with our basement level. So for our house to flood, the two story house next door (and the entire valley that the house sits in) would need to be completely under water.
    – mbeckish
    Oct 3, 2017 at 16:10

Levees are one of the more typical ways to reduce the risk of flooding, but I doubt you'd get one built around your house by itself. Those tend to be larger projects involving a whole neighborhood, HOA, etc. I don't know that it changes the classification to a flood-free zone, but it certainly reduces the risk profile. Levees can, after all, fail or be built too short.

The other typical way to reduce flood risk is to raise your house, usually by putting it on stilts. This is seen often on coastal islands like Galveston, and is usually quite noticeable as the stilts are tall (10', or one story). However, even a little further inland or near bayous, some type of stilts are used, possibly in conjunction with a small hill. Many times these stilts are more concealed, as they are shorter (2-4') so they can more easily be blended into the rest of the house structure. Again, this probably won't eliminate the risk entirely, but will reduce the cost of insurance.

Both of these are major projects, and won't be cheap.

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