LSU AgCenter testing out new method to 'flood proof' homes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Bill Robinson is a building science instructor at the LSU AgCenter, and he's got a new pet project. Robinson says he has a more effective way of repairing flooded homes, one that allows homeowners to move in sooner, and that makes homes more resistant to future floods.

"Wet flood proofing, which means that the building can still get wet and dry out," said Robinson. "Which is opposed to dry flood proofing, where you try to create ways to keep the water from getting in the building."

For one, he says homeowners should use paperless drywall such as fiber cement, glass-faced, or polystyrene insulation boards. Robinson says these boards are more water resistant and will hold up better against floodwaters.

He also says making adjustments to the home's electrical system, such as raising outlets as much as four feet, will make a big difference in the long run. Raising outlets this high still meets building codes and keeps those valuable wires out of harm's way.

On Monday, Robinson was joined by volunteers from across the country and the LSU AgCenter to work on a test home in Baton Rouge that a homeowner offered up to display these techniques. He's already caught the attention of Alessandra Jerolleman, a professor at the University of New Orleans. She was also at the home, helping with repairs.

"We, and several others across the state, have really been trying to nudge post-disaster rebuilding, both residential and commercial, to using some of these best practices," said Jerollmena.

But there is one downside. This method can cost up to 25 percent more for a homeowner in terms of overall repairs, but costs do vary from house to house. The paperless dry wall is more expensive and contractors may ask for a little more to do the installations. But Robinson and Jerolleman say the long-term benefits outweigh those costs.

"Even if a property does flood, at least the impacts can be slightly reduced or the downtime to a structure or the time that a family is out of their home can be reduced," said Jerolleman. "And these are all measures that add a little bit of cost on the front end, but over time, as you see cumulative events, you do start to see savings."

Robinson is working on some instructional videos on YouTube. The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and some volunteer organizations are giving him the manpower to complete this home. He says once homeowners see the results, they'll want to know how it's done.

The LDH says some officials from West Monroe are meeting with Robinson next week to examine his techniques.

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