Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Is the 50% Rule?

   First, let me clarify that there are in fact two (2) 50% rules to consider when renovating or adding on to a home in Florida. The Florida Building Code (FBC) 50% rule applies to all homes being modified. The FEMA 50% rule only applies to homes in documented flood-prone areas (flood zones).

  The Florida Building Code (FBC) governs all buildings built or modified in Florida. It went into effect on March 1, 2002, almost a decade after Hurricane Andrew tore through South Florida and devastated many structures. The idea behind the FBC is to create stronger, safer, and more energy-efficient homes, which benefits homeowners and municipalities. While it shares similarities with codes used throughout the country, the FBC is uniquely suited to Florida building conditions.

   If you are renovating, adding on, or otherwise modifying 25% or more of the gross floor area of your home, you will be required to bring certain things such as GFCI/AFI outlets and smoke detectors up to current standards. This is generally not a huge expense, and is a good idea to do for safety reasons anyway.

   Once you reach 50% of the gross floor area of your home, most municipalities (because of the FBC) will require you to essentially bring the entire structure into compliance. Among other things, this includes adequately sized egress windows in bedrooms, hurricane tie-downs on roof trusses/rafters, electrical upgrades, and even filling the open cells in concrete block walls. These types of extra work can break a project budget if not included in the initial plan.

   The FEMA 50% rule applies to homes in flood zones only. This rule states that only 50% of the value of the structure itself (not including the property) can be used for renovation of or addition to homes in flood zones without bringing the entire home into current compliance. This can be particularly difficult for older homes as the required floor heights have changed several times over the years, and most of these homes are several feet below current requirements. Some municipalities, like the City of Palmetto, have additional ordinances that apply to building and modifying homes in flood zones.

   When considering a renovation or addition, make sure that you are familiar with the codes and ordinances specific to your project and location. If reading several code books more than 3" thick isn't your thing, let us help! We'll help make sure that your project is sized right for your budget and timeline.

   Visit our website at to view samples of our work. Have a question? Call Jenni at 941-462-0110 or email her at