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    My Lot Has A Floodplain – Now What?

    My Lot Has A Floodplain - Now What?

    We have a saying around here. There are no “easy” lots anymore. Even lots that would have been easy 10 years ago are no longer “easy” due to increased regulations and requirements. So when someone comes to us with a lot that has a floodplain, we say, bring it.

    What Is A Floodplain?

    The short answer is a floodplain is an area of land next to a stream that is highly likely to flood. Fairfax County’s website defines a floodplain as the flat area located adjacent to the main stream channel. When stream banks overflow during or after a storm, the floodplain provides natural storage for the excess water. In Fairfax County, the 100-year frequency storm is used to determine the limits of the floodplain. 

    How Can It Impact Building?

    The biggest impact on building a new home in a floodplain is determining what can be built. For example, floodplain regulations dictate vertical and horizontal setbacks (meaning the house must sit so far away from the floodplain, and it must also be so far above the floodplain).

    We’re finishing up a new home in Falls Church that has a floodplain on the lot. The owners were not permitted to have a basement (we built the house on a crawlspace) because the elevation of the basement floor would have been below the vertical setback requirement.

    Is that ideal? Well no. But we can work around it. There is always a work around…

    Customizing A Home On A Floodplain

    The crawlspace client decided to customize our Buckingham model so that they would be able to maximize the square footage of their home. I think it turned out just beautifully! But before I show you their home, let me first show you the standard Buckingham.

    The standard Buckingham model has 3,030 square feet.


    The Living Room on the 1st Floor has a beautiful 2-story ceiling.



    The Dining Room in the standard plan is on the back of the house, right off the kitchen.





    The Custom Buckingham we built for the client on the floodplain shifted the Dining Room to the front of the house (eliminating the Living Room). The Kitchen is now where the old Dining Room was located. They also bumped out the back of the house so it is flush (maximizing their finished square footage).


    I love this customized layout. It completely opens up the main living area.

    Main Level-Kitchen-_DSC3616

    Main Level-Family Room-_DSC3640

    Main Level-Kitchen-_DSC3613

    And look at this beautiful Dining Room!

    Main Level-Living Room-_DSC3595

    Main Level-Foyer-_DSC3592

    Love love love that light fixture.

    Upper Level 1-Open To Below-_DSC3763

    In fact, Paul and I were researching restaurants for our recent trip to Charleston, and I stumbled across this picture. It looks like the same fixture!

    tweddle light fixture

    So you see, by moving things around a bit, this client was able to retain the square footage of the Standard Buckingham (and then some!).

    No Basement? No Problem.

    It was a big disappointment when we found out a full basement would not be possible on this project. But I think what we ended up doing instead will actually benefit them more.

    We built them a loft!


    They gained almost 800 additional square feet in the Loft. Not only do they have more space but they also have another bedroom and another full bath.

    Upper Level 2-Bedroom-_DSC3769

    Upper Level 2-Office-_DSC3781

    Upper Level 2-Bath-_DSC3778

    In terms of return on investment, adding the loft space will directly impact the value of their home. Perhaps even more so than finished basement space. Why is that?

    Because home values are based on the taxable square footage. The only “taxable” square footage is above grade. So the more square footage you have above grade, the better (in terms of home value). Win!

    There is no reason to be discouraged if you find out your lot has a floodplain. With careful planning and a little patience, it can usually be done!

    Look at this beautiful home. Would you ever know it was built on a floodplain?

    Exterior-Front Elevation-_DSC3798

    Dream Big. Build Smart.

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