Our builder, architect, and lift expert all reviewed the proposed new elevation height, comparing the blueprints with the tree markings (see picture below).
Bottom to top: Base flood elevation, new family room height, new front of house height.
For the construction crew to actually work underneath our house while building up the foundation walls, initially the house will be lifted a foot higher than the intended height. The house will sit in the air, supported by steel beams, wood pylons and hydraulic jacks before being lowered back down onto the newly built foundation.
Tell-tale signs of change
Three markers were placed in our tree highlighting the key elevations of our property. They were determined based on our city codes and FEMA. They had to be measured for accuracy and placed by a surveyor. The top of each pink ribbon is the official line.
The lowest ribbon defines the base flood elevation (BFE) for our property. The BFE is the 100-year flood line or a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year.
“The BFE is the regulatory requirement for the elevation or floodproofing of structures. The relationship between the BFE and a structure’s elevation determines the flood insurance premium.” (source: FEMA)
Our community additionally stipulates that any elevation project lift 2 feet higher than the BFE.
The middle pink ribbon illustrates what will be the new elevation of our back family room. The highest pink ribbon illustrates the what will be the new elevation of the front of our house.
For more information check out:
What is my Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE)?
The foundation walls are prepared.
Today’s task predominately involved the lifting company carving holes in the foundation walls to prepare for the impending placement of the steel beams that will support the house during the lift.
Holes cut and spaced in stone foundation
With precise measurement, the section of the foundation that must be removed is first measured, then marked, and finally opened up. Notice there are several holes running the length of each wall.
Hammering through the walls.
The above photo illustrates the marking of the space that needs to be removed followed by several drill holes to weaken the area and finally the square of foundation wall is removed. With record flooding being recorded in Australia this past January, the mid-west of the United States this spring, and most recently in Calgary, Canada, I feel very fortunate to have this process underway.
Before the Lift
Several necessary first steps had to be completed prior to the initiation of the construction phase.
Front fence segments and all foundation plantings removed.
Front steps removed
Heads up: High-Water Mark:
The high-water mark for our house was roughly as high as our son’s head in this picture – or 56 inches.
The high-water mark is the mark indicating the highest level water has reached on a particular structure or home. In our case, it was about 56 inches – or about as high as Luke’s head in this picture.
“Know Your Line: Be Flood Aware” FEMA, along with 7 other federal agencies, has recently developed a high-water mark initiative designed to illustrate the high-water mark in areas prone to flooding. The idea is to illustrate, by posting signs, to residents of a community the flooding history for a particular location so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves from future flooding. To date a handful of communities across the USA are participating in this initiative.
In the picture below it highlights a high water mark for flooding that took place during Hurricane Sandy.
Note the muddy water line above this car.
Moving from a house to an apartment has a few unforeseen advantages.
1. Downsizing to an apartment required me to bring only the essentials. Not that much really. I realized how much extra stuff we’ve accumulated over the years. For example, those boxes collecting dust in my attic for the past 10 years are mostly just taking up space. If I haven’t had a need to rummage through them in a decade, chances are I could do without them permanently. Am I ever going to reread some paper I wrote in college? Not likely.
2. A smaller place really is a lot easier to keep clean.
3. I know where my children are and what they are doing at all times, not that I needed or wanted to do this, but they can no longer hide away up in their rooms for big chunks of time. Our family together time has vastly increased – for better or worse 🙂
4. Smaller grocery bills – with a lot less storage, I have to consider where I’m going to put everything.
5. We’re getting to know another neighborhood in our community that we would otherwise not have known much about. Every neighborhood has it’s own vibe and subculture.
6. My boys are getting exposed to an alternative housing option and are learning that there can be some fluidity in where you live and that’s ok. It’s not where you are, but who you’re with.
HOUSE LIFT: Project started with removing the chimney
- Basement view: Mechanicals still in place
During a prior renovation, we relocated the furnace and hot water tank to an attic space above our garage.
- Mechanicals removed – Chimney BEFORE
Today marks the official start of our “operation house lift” project. It has been almost a YEAR in the making with many details, reports, surveys, blueprints, and bids to sort through. The planning phase has been very involved and tedious.
The “first” step involved (and by first, I mean of the actual construction phase) is to remove the internal chimney that used to vent our hot water tank (not the chimney for the fireplace). This internal chimney must be removed prior to elevating the house because, in our instance, we will not be utilizing it any longer. IF we were planning to keep it, they would have to cut it from the concrete slab in our basement, provide extensive support while the house is lifted, and then rebuild the lower portion once the lift was completed.
Our situation is also a rather involved task requiring a patch to the roof, a patch to the attic floor, opening up the walls of the second floor and opening up the walls of the kitchen – all to gain access to the chimney that needs to be taken apart piece by piece. It would be great if you could remove a few pieces and the rest of the chimney would fall down into the basement, sort of like the children’s game “Don’t Break the Ice,” but that is not how it works as my contractor has assured me.
- Chimney: AFTER
The entire basement will be backfilled. There is no need to ever have a basement in a floodplain.