Bracken Engineering E-News
  Vol. 9, Issue 8
  August 7, 2015
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> Grout Counts Toward the FEMA 50% Rule
> Identifying Xactimate® Estimates & Understanding Line Item Descriptions
> Built-Up or Single-Ply Roofs
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Grout Counts Toward the FEMA 50% Rule
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM

At the end of 2014 Hillsborough County (at the request of Citizens Insurance) forwarded a request for clarification to the State of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and FEMA. They asked whether grouting performed in conjunction with sinkhole repairs to buildings within special flood hazard areas (aka flood zones) would be counted toward FEMA’s Substantial Improvement / Substantial Damage rule (also known as the 50% rule). The answer came back a few weeks ago as, Yes.

Historically, sinkhole remediation costs were split. Costs associated with underpinning of structures were counted but costs associated with subsurface remediation (i.e. deep and shallow grouting) were not. FEMA’s previous rational was that since the grout did not touch the structure it was not counted toward the 50% rule. However, in light of the most recent request for clarification, subsurface remediation is now perceived as “site preparation related to the improvement or repair.”

The recent request for clarification asked two basic questions. The first question asked whether the repair of damage due to sinkhole was included since sinkholes are not listed by FEMA.

Question 1. Is Damage to a home as a result of sinkhole activity considered to be damage that would count towards the need for substantial repair?

Answer 1. Yes, damage to a home as a result of sinkhole activity is considered when determining whether the home has been Substantially Damaged. The definition of Substantial Damage includes "damage of any origin sustained by a structure." FEMA P-758 Section 5.6.4 describes several possible causes of damage.


Because the definition for Substantial Damage does not include a definitive list of causes of damage, the list included in FEMA P-758 is not intended to exclude other causes of damage, whether associated with a specific event or incurred over time. Therefore, the costs to repair the sinkhole damage must be included in the Substantial Damage determination.

The second question asked dealt with whether grouting was considered to be site preparation and whether it would count toward the 50% rule.

Question 2. After a building in an SFHA [Special Flood Hazard Area] is affected by sinkhole activity, are the costs for subsurface compaction grouting considered to be site preparation related to the repair and must those costs be included in the substantial damage determination?

Answer 2. Yes, all costs to repair damage that is directly associated with the building must be included in the Substantial Improvement / Substantial Damage determination. The list provided in FEMA P-758 Section 4.4.1 is not intended to be exhaustive, but characterizes the types of costs that must be included. The list includes site preparation related to the improvement or repair, which must be included in the cost. This would include foundation excavation and subsurface soil compaction grouting necessary to support the building. The cost of site preparation unrelated to the building, such as landscaping and Irrigation, may be excluded.

Given the potential impact of this clarification, the Floodplain Manager for the State Florida, Mr. Steve Martin, CFM, stated that Florida’s Division of Emergency Management plans to post information on its website sometime in August of this year. A copy of Mr. Martin’s letter can be found at: Sinkhole Damage in Special Flood Hazard Areas,

In the interim, Florida’s State Floodplain Management Office is available to provide guidance at:

If you would like more information on how this will impact restoration or sinkhole remediation, please contact William Bracken at: .

Identifying Xactimate® Estimates & Understanding Line Item Descriptions
Robert L. De Loach, CBI, CFM, CBC
Estimate Image

Xactimate® estimates are usually easy to identify. The estimates have the company’s name above a solid black line across the front page with their address below the solid black line. The company’s logo, if they have added one, will be to the left of the solid black line. These items will usually be on each of the pages of the estimate. Being able to identify an Xactimate® estimate can help you better understand what is involved with each of the line items of the estimate.

It is always important to ensure the correct price list was used to write the estimate, when reviewing a Xactimate® estimate. This includes checking that both the location and the correct month were used to select the price list.

In Xactimate®, each of the line items have a description that informs the estimator what is included, what is not included, the quality, any “Green” qualities, additional notes, average life expectancy, average depreciation and maximum depreciation for that particular line item. For most line items, the description will have a photograph of the line item. For example, “Remove & Replace Sprinkler – pipe – 1 inch”. The description for this line items states: Includes: Pipe, fittings and labor to install. Excludes: Trenching and sprinkler heads. Quality: 1" Schedule 40 PVC pipe and fittings. Average life expectancy 25 years Average depreciation 4% per year Maximum depreciation 100%.

The description also states what is included and not included in the line item. Within this example you will notice that while the pipe, fittings and labor to install were included - trenching and sprinkler heads were not included in the line item and would need to be added as additional line items.

For more information on Xactimate® please visit: For questions regarding construction estimating, please contact Robert De Loach

Built-Up or Single-Ply Roofs
Steve Towne, RBC, CBC

What’s the difference between a built-up roof system and a single ply roof system? Both types of roof cover systems are commonly used or have been used for many years on commercial buildings or on residential buildings which are constructed with flat or low slope roofs. Although built-up roof membrane systems have been around for several years and continue to perform, the traditional built-up membrane system has slowly been replaced by other systems such as single-ply membranes.

A built-up roof typically consists of several layers of saturated felt (usually three to five layers) which are laid in place with alternate layers of bitumen (either asphalt based or coal tar) and surfaced with mineral aggregate or gravel embedded in hot asphalt. Built-up roof systems have been known for their longevity, robustness and redundancy.

Asphalt costs, labor costs and innovative technology have led to other types of roof systems such as single-ply membranes, some of which have also been available for years. They have evolved due to various in-service deficiencies, manufacturing improvements and material costs. Single-ply membranes are designed to be installed as a single layer membrane in roll sheet form, usually over an insulation board or cover boards which are secured to the roof deck. Single-ply membranes can be broken into three general categories:

Thermoplastic membranes such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or TPO (thermoplastic olefin) are typically light colored flexible sheet materials which are manufactured in various thicknesses and are reinforced with a glass fiber or polyester fabric. They also may be backed with fleece to facilitate bonding of the membrane to the substrate. Thermoplastic membranes are seamed or joined by heat welding with hot air, can be repaired with heat-welded patches of like material and utilize heat-welded flashings at joints and penetrations.

Thermosetting membranes - a majority are EPDM(ethylene propylene diene monomer) or synthetic rubber, are also flexible sheet materials which can be reinforced and backed with fleece to facilitate bonding. Thermosetting membranes are not heat-welded but are seamed with adhesive tape or liquid-applied adhesive cement. Holes or other damages can generally be repaired by cementing in new material. Flashings can be accomplished with like material bonded to the membrane. EPDM membranes were traditionally black. Lighter colored membranes (including white that meet Energy Star® qualifications) are also now available.

Modified Bitumen (MB) membranes are asphaltic materials which have been polymer modified (plasticized or rubberized) and reinforced with glass fiber or polyester and are manufactured in sheet roll material with mineral granule surfaces. Since modified bitumen membrane systems generally employ multiple layers or at least a cap sheet and a base sheet, it is not a true single-ply roof system. Modified bitumen membranes are known to be tough, resistant to the sun and resistant to impacts, abrasions, etc. The installation can be cold-process bonded with cement or heat welded (with a torch).

If you would like more information or have a question regarding built-up or single-ply roofs, please contact Steve Towne, RBC, CBC at:

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