Q & A with Charleston Custom Builder Anthony Wiedemuth
The fall is a wonderful time of year along the coast of South Carolina. It's also a time for preparation and awareness—not only for South Carolinians, but for anyone who lives on the East Coast or along the Gulf. By taking action early and getting prepared, you can save yourself, your family, and your home the potentially costly, even deadly, destruction a violent tropical storm or hurricane can inflict. This is not meant to scare you. Rather, it is to give you peace of mind, knowing that if you take the proper steps and prepare proactively, you can not only save your home, but your lives too. We recently talked to Anthony Wiedemuth of Cornerstone Estates, a renowned area home builder—who builds on Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms, and other coastal locales—to get his perspective on preparing for a destructive storm.
Q & A with Anthony Wiedemuth
Q: So Anthony, you have a lot of experience as both a builder and a homeowner up and down the east coast—in Seabrook Island now and earlier in The Hamptons, New York area. Tell us, what is most important to prepare for a hurricane or tropical storm?
A: Well, first and foremost, plan and prepare to leave…on time! Don’t wait or delay. Make your preparations while you have time. Have a ‘Go Bag’ put together for every member of your family. Have it ready with essentials items [See Go Bag checklist below]. Packing a Go Bag right before the storm hits is a huge mistake. In a hurricane or big storm, with wind and potential flooding, minutes make a difference. Literally five minutes can make all the difference between safety and disaster. Don’t take a chance. Be prepared to go.
Q: That’s a great point: safety first. So many people wait till the last minute—or until it’s too late to leave—and they’re in real danger. Personal safety comes first. But assuming that, what about your home or residence? What can you do, or rather, what should you do in advance of a storm to secure and safeguard your coastal property?
A: Again, don’t wait till the storm is approaching to act. 48 hours before a hurricane hits is not the time to consider the health of your roof. If you have an older house, with a roof that is 20 years or more, you probably want to replace it—or at the very least have it inspected well in advance of a storm—don’t wait for bad weather. Have a professional roofer come and assess the quality of the roof.
Q: What about the overall structure of the house?
A: Same thing, have a reputable builder or renovation specialist inspect your home structurally. Make sure it is not compromised or below code (if it is an older home). With storms more frequent, you want to make sure your home has proper strapping and anchor bolts from ground to roof. That is key. Imagine a giant vice holding your house together and preventing it from breaking apart in a storm. Make sure you use quality grade hurricane strapping and that it is secured by an experienced builder. And of course, after a storm, have a licensed installer check the condition of the strappings and structure for any compromises.
Q: What about flooding and water and wind damage?
A: It’s a good idea to update exterior doors and windows to hurricane-rated impact resistance. Don’t assume they will hold, especially if it is an older home. Get them checked. Also, today’s homes, newer homes, are built to different standards. For instance, a home built today must be a certain height off the ground—based on your Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The Charleston County Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) provides expected Base Flood Elevations (https://www.charleston-sc.gov/2381/Know-Your-Flood-Zone). Older homes may be much lower, so if that is the case, you can ask a builder if it's possible to elevate your house to the current BFE to prevent possible flooding. This is something we started doing alot of in The Hamptons after Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage in 2012). It’s an expense, yes, but it is a lot cheaper to elevate and upgrade than to rebuild an entire house that has water damage throughout.
(Home in process of being elevated)
Q: So proper elevation is critical, obviously, but what about flooding if the home is not properly elevated. What can be done?
A: Well if your house isn’t built to the current BFE, or if it hasn’t been elevated/raised to an adequate height, you are rolling the dice. If you are “slab on grade,” as they say, or just a few feet off the ground, then I would encourage you to go buy racks and shelving and blocks to elevate anything on a ground floor or basement to prevent damage. Furniture, keepsakes, bookshelves, storage bins, whatever it may be, get them off the ground. Home Depot and Lowes have plastic and stainless steel racks you can buy. Also, use sandbags. BUT, and this is key, don’t over-fill the sandbags. They need to be able to contour and conform to doorways and cracks to prevent water infiltration. If they are too full, they won’t do any good—and could even burst if saturated. There should be adequate room for the sandbags to seal and conform to the designated area.
Q: Any final thoughts or words of advice to prepare your home for a hurricane?
A: Only that it is cheaper in the long run to ensure proper elevation or adequate strapping and make necessary upgrades WELL BEFORE the storm arrives. It is much more expensive to rebuild or start over. So being proactive is the way to go. Also, insurance companies will give you discounts—sometimes significant discounts—if you take the necessary steps to elevate, reinforce, or upgrade your house to storm-grade specifications. So that’s a little extra incentive.
GO BAG: What do I need to pack?
Extra Cash (at least $500 in small bills)
Bottled Water (for 3 days)
Water Purification Tablets
Diapers/Formula (for babies)
Canned, Sealed, & Non-Perishable Food
Flashlights & Extra Batteries
Phone Charger Packs
Bic Lighter, Matches (store in ziplock bag)
Hygiene: Toothbrush, Hand Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Tampons
Clothes – Extra Glasses/Contacts
First Aid Kit
Whistle/Signal (for help)
Garbage Bags – Moist Towelettes – Towels
Wrench/Pliers (for utilities)
If you have questions or simply want to know more about selling your current property or buying/building a new Lowcountry home, please contact me at your convenience. I look forward to helping you realize your real estate dreams in the Charleston area.
Want to know if your home is hurricane ready?