What are some of the most important steps that you will need to take if you want to obtain a flood elevation certificate for your property? Continue reading to learn more!

A flood elevation certificate should be your priority if you live in a high-risk flood zone, or if you are in the process of buying and insuring a property. Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA maintains a flood map that shows different zones according to the risk of flooding. 

Whether you have a property in a low-risk or high-risk flood zone, you should obtain a flood elevation certificate as it will help you in several tasks related to your property, such as determining your property’s insurance premium, or complying with the requirements in the permitting process.

It is not a highly complicated task to get a flood elevation certificate. You can accomplish it in a few simple steps. In some fortunate circumstances, you might even be able to find one that already exists. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that relying on existing elevation certificates can be extremely risky as they may be outdated or simply not in line with the latest renovations and developments of the property. 

obtain a flood elevation certificate

How to obtain a flood elevation certificate

For this reason, it’s always better to get a new one from a professional land surveyor who will assess the current situation of the property, ensuring that the flood risk has been evaluated correctly.  

If you want to get your property insured against flooding and need a certificate, keep reading to learn how you can obtain a flood elevation certificate in three straightforward steps. 

1. What is a flood elevation certificate, and what can it do for you?

A flood elevation certificate is a document that measures the elevation of your property from the level the water is expected to rise during flooding. It is essential for obtaining permits and getting better insurance rates. It takes into account various factors and calculates the risk and probability of your property being damaged by flooding. 

These factors include the characteristics of your property, flood zone, elevation, and a few more. 

  • The characteristics of a building entail the size of the property, the rooms, doors, whether it has a basement, and other important factors about it. The existence of a basement or garage is an essential point for the certificate as it can change the elevation of your property.
  • FEMA has divided different areas into flood zones, which are represented on a flood map. The flood map shows high-risk, low-risk, or medium-risk locations for flooding. There are no areas that are considered no-risk. If there is a low chance of flooding in your area, it is just low risk. The elevation certificate considers the flood zone. 
  • The exact location of your property is essential. 
  • The most important factor is elevation. Elevation determines the chances of floods destroying your property, and this can have a huge impact on your insurance premiums. 

Base flood elevation

The elevation of a house or other properties is calculated by comparing it to Base Flood Elevation or BFE. Base flood elevation is the expected level of water during the floods in that year. The higher property is from the base flood elevation level, the better the chances of surviving and not being affected by them. 

When your property is in a high-risk flood zone, you will have to pay high premiums for insurance to get the property protected. Similarly, if the elevation of your property is significantly higher than BFE, you will be eligible to receive discounts on insurance premiums. 

The high-risk areas have more than a 1% chance of being hit by flooding every year. So, if your house or other property is situated in an area with a high risk of flooding, you must obtain a flood elevation certificate. 

Purpose of a flood elevation certificate

The main aim of obtaining a flood elevation certificate is to get your property insured, as well as obtain better insurance rates. A group handles the flood insurance of properties under FEMA, known as National Floods Insurance Program NFIP. 

If you obtain a flood elevation certificate and it can back your claim that your property is in a low-risk flood zone, you can get lower rates for the insurance provided by NFIP. Even if you are going for a private flood insurance company, sometimes even those firms offer lower rates based on your flood elevation certificate. 

You will also need to provide the flood elevation certificate if you are trying to refinance the house or the building. As a seller, it is better if you already have the certificate so the buyer can take a look at the elevation and related information.

Moreover, a flood elevation certificate can provide updated information about your property which can prove highly useful in case you need to renovate your building or even when you want to construct a new block. 

2. When do you need a flood elevation certificate?

A flood elevation certificate contains extremely important information about your property and the risks in case of flooding. You will be required to provide the certificate to the insurer in the following situations:

  • The purchase of your property is financed by a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. 
  • Your property is situated in a Special Flood Hazard Area as defined by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • You are ensuring your property with a flood insurance policy backed by the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program). It’s important to keep in mind that many private insurance companies tend to offer flood insurance in their name, but it is ultimately backed by the government – which makes it public rather than private.

You are not obligated to obtain a flood elevation certificate if you are not meeting any of these conditions. However, it can still be highly valuable for your own peace of mind and taking into account if you actually live or work in a high-risk area.

obtain a flood elevation certificate
Flood elevation. How to obtain a flood elevation certificate. Image source

3. How to obtain a flood elevation certificate

While obtaining a flood elevation certificate is not a complex process, many people are not sure exactly where to start, and what needs to be done in order to get it, as well as what information will have to be provided on their behalf.

Getting a flood elevation certificate is not necessarily a combination of lengthy and complicated steps. You can obtain a flood elevation certificate by following a few simple steps

3.1. Check for a pre-existing copy

There is a high chance that you will be able to obtain a flood elevation certificate for your property from the pre-existing records, especially if your building lies in a high-risk flood zone. You can check with a few different sources to confirm if the certificate already exists. 

Check with your floodplain manager in the local area. The manager usually has a copy of the flood elevation certificate of all properties in the area, and they might be able to assist with that. If the manager doesn’t have the certificate, you can check with the seller of the building. 

You can also ask the builder or the developer of the building. They also have to obtain a flood elevation certificate when constructing the building. So, they might be able to provide you with one. The certificate is also included in the property deed for high-risk flood zones so take a look at that. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that getting your hands on an existing copy may not be the best idea, especially if the copy is too old or is not considering major updates and renovations to the property. If that’s the case, you risk:

  • Presenting the insurance company with outdated information;
  • Getting a wrong evaluation on behalf of the insurance company; 
  • In the case of actual flooding, the company may find out that they have been presented with incorrect information, and may not cover the damage;

For this reason, it is nor recommended to reuse an existing copy, especially if it has been done a long time ago. 

If you are unable to find the elevation certificate for your property, or if it’s outdated, you will have to get a new one by hiring a licensed land surveyor who specializes in elevation certificates. A new elevation certificate is also needed when you update the property. 

Considering that assessing the flood risk is based on a variety of factors, a major update may completely change the property’s evaluation and thus, your insurance rates as a result.

3.2. Hire a professional land surveyor

The better way for obtaining a flood elevation certificate for your property requires the services of a state-licensed land surveyor. You can hire an authorized professional to survey your property and issue the flood elevation certificate. 

The land surveyor will make a thorough assessment to determine whether your property is susceptible to flooding, evaluating factors such as proximity to a flood zone, location of the property, elevation levels, lowest point of elevation, and other characteristics.

The survey of your property could take anywhere from 15 to 20 days, depending on the size of the property and whether it is a residential space or a commercial building. Other factors will also vary the time of the survey – the more complex it is, the more time it’s going to take. 

The hiring process will cost you a certain amount, which will also vary according to the circumstances and the location. The professional may demand different rates in various flood zones. The more extensive the task is, the higher the cost of surveying the land. 

The professional surveyor of the property needs to be licensed and authorized by the state to perform the survey. For example, Tucker Engineering is licensed with the Alabama Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors.

4. What to do after getting the elevation certificate?

The first thing to do as soon as you receive your flood elevation certificate is to make multiple copies. Give at least one copy to the flood insurance agent and keep another one safe with you for your personal record. 

5. Does the elevation certificate have an expiry date?

There is no expiration date for the flood elevation certificate as long as you don’t make any changes to the property. However, you will have to get a new and updated certificate if you make slight changes like adding a room or a floor. All the information on the certificate must be updated for the best insurance rates. 

You will have to go through the process of getting an elevation certificate when updating your property which will require you to hire a professional surveyor and pay for it as well.


Obtaining flood elevation certificates for your property is easy if you are working with the right land surveyor. Specialized in elevation certificates in Alabama, Tucker Engineering has 25 years of experience and a highly-skilled team of professionals who will ensure that you will get the most precise and detailed elevation certificate.

Are you ready to get started? Contact us today!