Detailed Description Of The Flood Flaps Invention
In the following description, like reference characters designate like or corresponding parts throughout the several views. Also, in the following description, it is to be understood that such terms as “front,” “back,” “within,” and the like are words of convenience and are not to be construed as limiting terms. Referring in more detail to the drawings, a device embodying the principles and concepts of the present invention and generally designated by the reference numeral will now be described.
A Flood Flaps vent fits closely into a correspondingly sized vent space in a building wall adjacent a crawlspace under the building. The Flood Flap vents are permanently fixed in the foundation walls of the building at an elevation above ground level. Flood flaps vents are spaced apart around the lower part of a house or other building, usually about one vent for every hundred square feet or so of crawlspace (though this number varies). Often the front of the Flood Flaps vents and the front wall of the house or other building can be seen from the street, with the Flood Flaps vents all being at generally the same level on the building. The decorative grills on the front of the Flood Flaps vents present a pleasing appearance from the street. The crawlspace wall may include a brick wall at the front of the Flood Flaps vent, and cement blocks a at the rear, often with spaces between.
The building is a house, an office building, a warehouse, or any other type of building with a crawlspace. The Flood Flaps vents are placed in the walls of the crawlspace under a new building under construction, or they are retrofitted into the walls of an existing building once the old vents have been removed. The building may be designed and built with a sealed crawlspace under it, or an existing space under a building can be sealed to form a sealed crawlspace. The Flood Flaps vents can be placed in all four walls of a small house, for example, or just in a front wall and an opposite back wall of a building.
One or more dehumidifiers, which are usually controlled by a humidistat, are often placed inside the crawlspace to keep the humidity at a controlled level. Flood flaps vents have been found to help maintain a constant temp in the 60’s (degrees Fahrenheit) within the crawlspace. Without meaning to be bound by theory, it is believed that Flood Flaps vents help control temperature and therefore heating and air conditioning costs in the home or other building above the crawlspace. Growth of mold, fungus, and mildew is controlled in a sealed crawlspace equipped with Flood Flaps vents and dehumidification, and wood under the building is less likely to rot or be damaged by insects. The Flood Flaps vents largely discourage small animals, such as rats, opossums, cats, raccoons, moles, snakes, lizards, and some insects, from entering the sealed crawlspace.
Crawlspace walls are most often brick and/or cement block. The vent box portion is normally the height of a cement block, since it frequently replaces a cement block in a crawlspace wall. In an existing structure, a cement block is removed from a cement block building wall adjacent the crawlspace and a Flood Flaps vent is inserted into the vent space and sealed in.
The grate portion includes the decorative grill across its front end and preferably a screen directly behind the grill. The grate portion preferably sits back about ¾ inch from the face of the house wall and presents a pleasing appearance to passers by. The screen and grill function to prevent mice, snakes, moles, etc as well as larger animals, such as cats and rats, from entering the crawlspace to nest, eat, and breed. The screen also traps debris and prevents it from entering the crawlspace. Although any suitable type of screen may be used, the screen preferably has a grid of open squares, each with a grid size of up to about ½ inch for preventing debris intrusion yet permitting water to flow freely through it. The screen is preferably molded or inserted inside the vent passageway adjacent and behind the grill. The front face of the screen preferably contacts the rear of the grill. The openings in the grill are larger than the squares in the screen. The screen is preferably made of aluminum or other metallic or fabric to prevent insects, other vermin, or debris from entering the crawlspace under normal or flood conditions.
Alternatively, in the case of a retrofit, the grill or the entire grate portion can be removed from the Flood Flaps vent, which is then glued or otherwise attached to a grate of an existing house.
By “sealed crawlspace” herein is meant a space under a building with walls that have been segregated from the outside elements. The crawlspace is not necessarily hermetically sealed, just closed in as well as is feasible, as by adding insulation, sealing the floor and walls, and adding dehumidifiers to keep the crawlspace dry. By “sealing the crawlspace” herein is meant that, along with these other sealing measures taken, the Flood Flap vent with its Flood Flap helps to seal the building crawlspace.
By “flood plains” herein is meant flat or nearly flat land adjacent to oceans, streams or rivers, but also any land that is periodically exposed to flooding, even places where floods occur some -0 years apart.
The vent box portion is comprised of two generally parallel side wall portions connected at their bottom edges to opposite edges of a bottom box portion, and along their top edges to the opposite edges of a top box portion. All of the four portions – are generally rectangular in shape. The vent box portion is preferably generally rectangular in cross-section. The vent box portion is preferably one-piece and made of any suitable material, such as plastic or polyvinyl chloride, most preferably molded recycled plastic The side wall portions are preferably same sized and parallel to one another, and at right angles to the top and bottom box portions,. The top and bottom box portions are preferably same-sized and parallel to one another and at right angles to the side wall portions. The outside corners of the vent box are preferably square, though they may be rounded.
Although its size may vary, the vent box is most preferably about inches deep, its size being determined by the size of a cinder block, since the Flood Flaps vent replaces one cinder block. The Flood Flaps vent is preferably (but not limited to) about 8 inches by inches by inches. A second size is about inches by inches by inches. In the case of a brick building wall, which is generally thinner than a cinder block wall, a rear part of the Flood Flaps vent simply sticks out into the crawlspace.
While the front end of the vent box is covered by the grate portion, the open rear end is covered by at least one, and preferably two or three, Flood Flaps. Without meaning to be bound by theory, it is believed that one Flood Flap is sufficient for use in temperate climates. In a majority of climates, two Flood Flaps covering the rear end of the box are optimal. Double Flood Flaps provide thermal insulation that is consistent with the insulation of the interior crawlspace walls. (Insulation is installed on the crawlspace walls as part of the sealing process.) Where winter or summer temps are consistently excessive (e.g. extreme northern climes, desert locales), three Flood Flaps, one behind and parallel to the next, are preferred for the additional insulation they provide. Three Flood Flaps help regulate the temperature in the sealed crawlspace and yet permit flood waters to pass through the crawlspace in the event of a flood.
Each Flood Flap extends down substantially vertically from the top box portion of the vent box. Where the Flood Flaps vent has two Flood Flaps, the top box portion includes two parallel flap slots that extend almost from one side edge to almost the opposite side edge of the top box portion over the otherwise open rear end of the vent box. The flap slots are preferably rectangular-shaped (looking down from above), with short side edges. The rearmost slot a is preferably about an inch or two from the rear end of the Flood Flaps vent for strength.
Each Flood Flap preferably includes a thickened upper flap wedge that extends along the top of each Flood Flap. The upper flap wedge is preferably generally triangular in cross-section. To assemble the Flood Flaps vent, the body of each Flood Flap slides down through the flap slot. The flap slot is also generally triangular, or wedge-shaped, in cross-section, so that the flap wedge catches in the flap slot. Thus, the Flood Flap hangs in the flap slot, suspended by the flap wedge in the flap slot. The Flood Flap need not be glued into place within the Flood Flaps vent.
The Flood Flap is the about the same size as the passageway at the rear end of the vent box. The other three side edges, of the generally rectangular-shaped Flood Flap are preferably sharp-edged. The three free edges, of the Flood Flap preferably contact the inside of the vent box. The Flood Flaps are preferably the exact size of the rear end opening so as to prevent air from passing through from the vent passageway into the crawlspace.
The vent box portion preferably includes at least one and preferably two wall flap channels carved into the inside faces of the two opposite side wall portions, and the bottom box portion between them, in the area of the box rear end. The term “side flap edges” herein is meant to include the side edges and the bottom edge of the Flood Flap. The side flap edges of each Flood Flap fit into the opposite side sections of the corresponding flap channel. The bottom flap edge of the Flood Flap fits into the central section of the flap channel. The side sections of the flap channel are continuous with the central section of that flap channel. The three free edges, of the outer Flood Flap a fit into the outermost flap channel, and the three free edges, of the inner Flood Flap fit into the innermost flap channel. By “free” is meant that the edges are not attached to any structure, which permits the Flood Flap to flap in and out with water entering or exiting the Flood Flaps vent during, for example, a flood.
The flap channel helps maintain a home position for the free edge, of the Flood Flap that fits into the flap channel, protecting the Flood Flap from windy conditions. Even though its three flap edges, rest in the flap channel, the flexible Flood Flap is capable of swinging from the top flap edge, which is preferably a flap wedge, in the vent passageway. The base of the flap channel is preferably curved in order to facilitate movement of the Flood Flap edges, into and out of the flap channel. The base of the flap channel is less preferably substantially flat with relatively straight sides parallel to one another bordering the channel base. The free flap edges, in the flap channels help seal the rear vent opening.
The Flood Flaps are made of a durable material, such as rubber or vinyl sponge, that is flexible enough to resist air flow, thick enough to provide insulation, and strong enough to keep rodents and other vermin out, yet allow water flow under flood conditions. The Flood Flap material is preferably a molded, spongy material with a non-porous, semi-rigid skin sealed to the spongy material. It may be buoyant so that the body of the Flood Flap is easily pushed upward by flood waters. Air bubbles are preferably entrained (suspended) in the Flood Flaps for buoyancy. If a Flood Flaps vent is already in a crawlspace wall, the material is flexible enough to permit a Flood Flap to be replaced from inside a vent box, if necessary on rare occasions. To do so, the upper flap wedge at the top of the Flood Flap is squeezed, inserted into the flap slot, and released. The three side edges, of the body of the Flood Flap find a home in the corresponding flap channel, which is next to and below them. When the Flood Flaps are in the substantially vertical, resting position (steady state), the side edges, of the body of the Flood Flap are seated in the corresponding flap channel.
Although the thickness of the Flood Flap may vary, it has been found herein that a preferred thickness of between about ¼ and ½ inch is optimal for providing insulation. In their vertical, at rest positions, the inner Flood Flap is not in contact with the outer Flood Flap a. Importantly, the Flood Flaps are preferably between about ½ inch and about two inches (most preferably about an inch) apart so the air space between them provides additional insulation. The insulating Flood Flaps help to seal the crawlspace. The width of the flap wall channel is preferably about twice the thickness of the Flood Flap in order to help the Flood Flap slide into home (resting) position in the wall channel.
Alternatively and less preferably, the upper edge of the Flood Flap is attached within its flap slot in the top box portion. The upper flap edge is less preferably squared in a conventional manner, or sharp-edged like the other three, unattached flap edges, as described herein. To insert the upper flap edge in the flap slot when the Flood Flaps vent is being made, the upper flap edge is squeezed, inserted into the flap slot, and released. Since it is made of a foam-like material, the upper flap edge expands back out again once it is inserted, which holds it in the flap slot. This is another advantage of the Flood Flap being made of sponge vinyl or the like. Once it is in the flap slot, the upper edge of the Flood Flap may be attached in the slot, as by gluing.
The three (free) edges, of the Flood Flap are less preferably substantially squared off, or flat. They preferably have a sharp, tapered edge shape, though, for optimal functioning. The unattached edges preferably have the same shape/appearance as one another, and one of six alternate shapes. Moving down from the upper left of the free edge or is: rounded, with the round at the center of the edge; knife-edged (preferred); or pointed. Moving down from the upper right of the free edge or can be an off-center rounded edge (most preferred); an off center knife edge; or a blade edge. It has been found herein that these sharper edges – glide more easily into and out of the flap channel, permitting the flaps to quickly find the home (at rest) position and helping to seal the Flood Flaps vent.
Flood events are mercifully few and far between in most places. However, when flood waters do rise, incoming flood water pushes the Flood Flaps. The flood water surges through the grill and screen at the front end of the Flood Flaps vent, through the vent passageway, by the Flood Flaps, and out the rear end of the vent box. As the water rushes by the flexible Flood Flaps, it pushes the bodies of the Flood Flaps up and out of the way. (By “bodies of the Flood Flaps” herein is meant all but the top edges of the Flood Flaps.) The flexed, sideways “L” shape of the Flood Flaps is their open “flood position” (versus their generally vertical, closed, at rest position). The upper flap wedges hold the Flood Flaps in the flap slots, so the Flood Flaps are not pulled out of the Flood Flaps vent. The Flood Flaps do not impede the rush of water into or out of the crawlspace. Since the Flood Flaps are not blocking the rear end vent opening, the hydrostatic pressure under the building is unlikely to build, so it is less likely that the building walls will be weakened or toppled by the flood event.
Flood water escaping from the crawlspace passes through the open rear end of the Flood Flaps vent, past the Flood Flaps, through the vent passageway, through the screen and grill of the grate portion and out the open front end of the Flood Flaps vent. The Flood Flaps are preferably separated from but close to one another, and close to the rear end of the vent box, and the Flood Flaps vent is sufficiently long to accommodate the body of the Flood Flaps, so that the bottom ends of the Flood Flaps will not push up against the grate portion during a flood event. (By “body” of the flap is meant all but the top edge.) Double Flood Flaps are preferably between about ½ inch and about two inches apart, most preferably about one inch apart from one another, in a Flood Flaps vent.
In a less preferred Flood Flaps vent with three Flood Flaps, the vent box portion is sufficiently long (deeper) to accommodate the length of the innermost Flood Flap. The triple flap vent has three substantially parallel flap slots. At rest, the three Flood Flaps, which hang down into the passageway, are all substantially parallel to one another, resembling the double flap shown in but with an additional flap slot adjacent the innermost slot and a third Flood Flap c in the flap slot behind the second flap.
The Flood Flap material is flexible enough to be moved in either direction by slight water pressure. The sturdy Flood Flaps are sufficiently flexible to return to their vertical, “sealed”, resting, home position, and dry out once the flood subsides. The Flood Flaps vent is useful for those buildings in flood plains or other locations exposed to the possibility of high water (e.g. during hurricanes, dam breaks), such as buildings by rivers, creeks, lakes, the ocean, or downstream from dams. The length and height of the Flood Flap is approximately the length and height of the vent passageway interior.
For some applications, such as garage walls where horizontal space is limited, two Flood Flaps vents can be stacked on top of one another in place of two stacked cinder blocks in a wall. Homeowners are sealing/insulating their garages more frequently now, for example, where they are storing furniture, documents, sports equipment, musical instruments, etc. in their garages and therefore want them temperature controlled.
In a single, wrap-around Flood Flap is employed rather than two separate Flood Flaps as described above. The less preferred single Flood Flap sheet is about twice the height of two shorter Flood Flaps, with an additional, continuous, center Flood Flap piece that loops through the parallel flap slots in the top box portion of the vent box. Thus, the single Flood Flap sheet hangs over the piece of the top box portion between the flap slots like a quilt over a quilt rack. One end portion of the single Flood Flap sheet hangs behind the other (like a double flap). The length of the single Flood Flap is the same as the shorter Flood Flaps described herein above. The bottom flap edges of the single Flood Flap, which are actually opposite ends of the single Flood Flap, preferably contact the inside bottom box portion. In the resting, home position then, each end portion of the single Flood Flap blocks the vent passageway. Otherwise, the vent box and grate portion of this Flood Flap vent are as described herein.
The vent box portion of the single sheet Flood Flaps vent of preferably includes two opposite side wall portions, the top box portion and the bottom box portion being connected by the two opposite side wall portions. When the single Flood Flap sheet is in the resting position, bottom flap edges of each end flap portion contact an inside surface of the bottom box portion, and opposite side flap edges of each end flap portion contact an inside surface of one of the side wall portions. This Flood Flap vent may or may not include flap channels as described herein. One end portion of the single Flood Flap sheet hangs behind the other, occluding the vent passageway. An underside of the center Flood Flap piece is attached, as by gluing, to the upper surface of the top box portion piece between the flap slots. Only the center Flood Flap piece is visible from the top of the Flood Flaps. The bottom and side flap edges, of the single Flood Flap sheet are preferably sharp as seen in as described herein.
From the foregoing it can be realized that the described device of the present invention may be easily and conveniently utilized as a Flood Flaps vent for sealing a crawlspace under a building.
Contact Flood Flaps today at 843-881-0190 or [email protected] to find out how our flood vents can help reduce your flood insurance, and protect your home or business property from flood damage.