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What You Need to Know When Building a Home Near Florida Coastal Water

Regardless of climate change, storms or changing tides, one thing is for sure; people will always want to live near the water, particularly the coastal waters of Florida. What can beat the views from a waterfront home? Nothing is more satisfying than watching sunrise or sunset from your own deck.

Not even the brutal winds and dangers of flooding deter people from building their dream home on the water. In recent years, here in Tampa Bay and all of Florida, we’ve seen sea levels rising; and the expectation is that this trend will continue. Storm surges have become more and more prevalent, hurricanes bigger and more frequent. The sea level is rising, so the cost of building waterfront homes has risen as well.

But people are resilient, and houses can be too. It just means careful planning and hiring the right people for the job. Florida often experiences hurricanes, so your home will need to be able to stand up to the possibility of damage from high winds, flooding, and flying debris. Expert architects and builders can help you parse through the challenges and get your dream home built.

So, what important things should you consider when building a Florida coastal home

How far away from the water should I build?

If you’re building a home near water in Florida, you will first need to look at building codes in the area where you plan to build. Some factors municipalities consider are things like soil conditions, distance from the water, tides, and shifts in shorelines, and effects on the ecosystem of the land you plan to build on.

You’ll need the answers to questions like:

  • Is there any natural protection from wind and rising tides?

  • Has this area experienced flooding in the past?

  • Is the property in or near a flood zone and at what elevation?

When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern seaboard, devastating entire towns, the insurance companies and code enforcement authorities changed many policies including the number of feet off the ground a home needed to be raised to meet standards, especially for homes built within a certain distance from the water.

What type of foundation is best and at what height should I build?

When building a waterfront home, you’ll need a team that includes an architect, a builder, and an engineer. They’ll help you assess the type of foundation you should build based on soil type, particularly the potential for erosion; how the soil will stand up to flood waters over time. In high flood zones where evacuations are common, elevating the property may be the best solution. Raising the home is the most effective way to avoid damage and loss of property due to flood waters. You can utilize the space under the home for storage and parking, so it’s a win-win.

What type of materials work best for homes built on Florida waterways?

The most important thing to consider when choosing building materials for your waterfront home is how will they stand up to high winds. Everything from the nails you choose to the framing hardware needs to meet the requirements for withstanding tough storms.

Exterior materials need to be as tough as the framework. Some materials have withstood the test of time; particularly certain types of natural woods, while some newer synthetic and composite materials are equally strong or stronger. To some degree, this will be a matter of taste. Natural woods can change with age but will give the house that weathered look and may not require painting or staining if treated. However, wood can and will eventually rot or retain mold which synthetic materials will not. Don’t forget that the outside of your home will be subject not only to rain and wind but the salt that comes with those elements from the coastal waters. Whether you build a home on the Tampa Bay or facing the Gulf of Mexico, it’s still salt water, and salt creates corrosion.

Finally, choose top of the line, reinforced windows that can withstand high winds. You should also consider storm shutters. There are several types of shutters that can work to keep your windows safe. Pick the ones that your team thinks will do the best job.

What roofing holds up the best through storms and hurricanes?

When choosing your roofing materials, the first and foremost thing to consider is will it stand up to the pressure of high winds. There are special products and installation techniques that can help. Even the type of nails or sealant you choose matters. You may have a particular aesthetic in mind and may prefer one type of roof over another, such as roll tile or metal, but regardless, top quality materials and knowledgeable installers are a must. These rules also apply to your siding and any exterior features of the house like decks, patios, and porches. They’re all subject to damage from the forces of high winds, so they must be carefully considered and properly built.

The most important take away is to find the right people for the job. Work with an architect, engineer, and builder who have extensive experience in building coastal homes. Look at the work they’re done and learn as much as possible about their reputation in the community. Be sure that not only will they get the aesthetics to match your tastes but that they will build your dream home to last.

Expect the process to take at least three months or more and be sure that you’re working with people that are proactive and interactive. Ultimately, the home should fit your dreams, desires, and budget.

Remember, you’re all part of the team and the process, but you’re the Captain!

If you’re thinking of building a home here in Tampa Bay, Ramos Design Build would be happy to discuss your ideas for your dream home. We have many years of experience in the designing and building of luxury waterfront homes and would love to speak with you.


About James Ramos

Home building isn’t just a tradition in the Ramos family; it’s a legacy. Since 1956, the Ramos family has been a part of thousands of successful commercial and residential construction projects across the United States. James Ramos is currently President and CEO of Ramos Design Build. Ramos Design Build offers a turn-key approach for commercial and residential projects including new construction, renovations, additions, and restoration. The firm has won numerous accolades including seven Aurora Awards and four Best of Houzz Design Awards. An accomplished author, James is passionate about streamlining the steps associated with real estate transactions. In addition to Ramos Design Build, James owns Dakota Kitchen and Bath Cooperative and one of the fastest growing Re/Max franchises in the United States. James holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and an MBA from Emory University.

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