How to flood proof your home: Do products actually work?

Author: Céline McArthur
Published: Updated:

If your home flooded during Hurricane Ian, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do to keep water out during the next storm surge.

If you search “floodproofing products” online, you’ll see thousands of options, but telling what may work for you can be tough.

In Cape Coral, some homes sit lower than both of their neighbors. Low-lying homes were built over a decade before others, when building codes were less stringent. One of these homes was one of the only homes on the street that flooded during Ian but one of many in the city.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said nearly 50,000 National Flood Insurance Program claims were filed in Cape Coral after Ian.

That number doesn’t include people with private flood insurance or no insurance.

Short of raising homes, or tearing them down, is there a way to keep them protected?

Fort Myers Beach builder Joe Orlandini specializes in luxury homes that can withstand storms as powerful as Hurricane Ian.

“He basically didn’t lose a thing except his pool cage,” said Orlandini.

The home did flood but only at the garage level.

“I think it was about 6, 7 feet roughly inside,” Orlandini said.

The owners don’t want a repeat, so they asked Orlandini to help them install a flood barrier.

There are many floodproofing products out there, but do they work?

It’s a first on one of his homes.

“It actually has panels,” Orlandini said. “Each panel clips together with a water seal between each one, and they slide into this track, and of course they bolt in and secure in place,” Orlandini said.

He said his Hammerhead system purchased from Garrison Flood Control costs $14,000.

The company’s owner Arnon Rosan said he thinks it’s worth the investment.

“That really gives you the best protection, because it’s almost — I won’t say it is hermetically sealed, but it’s essentially hermetically sealed. You don’t get any water,” Rosan said.

The company offers other options, including a red water barrier.

“Which is an interlocking plastic panel system that you can protect your perimeter you could protect doorways,” Rosan said.

They also offer water-filled tubes you can use instead of sandbags.

“And essentially, you’re fighting water with water,” Rosan said. “It creates a berm around your house.”

But, how do they know it works?

“We’ve built tanks, and we’ve actually tested to different heights for the Hammerhead system. But beyond that, we now have hundreds and hundreds of projects in the field that have sort of been out there working and being used,” Rosan said.

Rosan did not have any testing results to show WINK News.

Robert Traver, director of the Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems, said there isn’t a perfect solution.

“You cannot battle Mother Nature very easily. There’s always an old joke of Mother Nature bats last,” Traver said.

And each storm is different.

Traver hasn’t tested the products in this story, so he can’t review them but said you need to ask yourself an important question before you buy anything.

“Let’s think about this,” Traver said. “You’re going to have to, within the time that you know a hurricane is coming, put it in and rebuild it or get it installed and get it up to operation. Is that really feasible?”

“The danger is you’re rolling the dice,” said Louie Greenwell, with the Association of State Floodplain Managers, a partner in the Flood Mitigation Certification Program.

The group works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FM Approvals, a testing and certification company, to put flood barrier products through rigorous trials.

A testing and certification site helps some products get the stamp of approval when fighting floods.

“They can test, I believe, it’s up to four feet tall,” Greenwell said. “And they would turn on this wave machine, and these products would be hit with these tremendous forces, and we have sensors and technology in place to measure how will those products perform.”

The products that pass the test are posted online, but as of now, there aren’t that many to pick from.

“The testing and certification process is still a mystery to some people,” Greenwell said.

The program isn’t mandatory, and Greenwell admits it takes time, and potentially tens of thousands of dollars for a company to get one of its products certified.

Rosan said he is not interested.

“They’re looking for hundreds of thousands of dollars to test your products. But we kind of test our products anyway,” Rosan said.

And he claims his products meet federal standards.

“Our product meets all the requirements under the National Flood Insurance Program and under FEMA,” Rosan said.

However, the requirements he’s referring to in the flood program technical bulletins are for non-residential and mixed-use buildings, not homes.

And FEMA said they don’t “verify or certify design calculations for any” flood barrier products.

Certified or not, Orlandini said, you should consult an engineer before you buy so you know if the product can work with the structure of your home. You’ll want them to make sure the product is installed properly.

“A lot of people put it in themselves, if you’re fairly handy. It’s really just about getting at a hammer drill and drilling the post to your wall,” Rosan said.

There are many floodproofing products out there, but do they work?

But if you make a mistake, Orlandini said even the best system won’t work.

“I would probably want the seller of the product to be the installer. In a scenario like this, you want the application correct, you want the sizing correct,” Orlandini said.

If you need more guidance for Southwest Florida’s unique conditions, FEMA said you should call your local floodplain manager.

You can find that information here.

Visit Lee County’s website for more information on flood planning.

For more information from FEMA, visit the link to learn how to protect your property from flooding.

If you have a flood barrier solution that worked for you, join in on the conversation and email

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