Category Archives: House Elevation

Vive La Victorie!

New Stairs for Elevated House:  The winds of change have visited our project this week and delivered a blast of good news. With a follow-up to our oh-so-friendly encounter with the neighbor, we have come away victorious.  Recall our project was held up for two months while she disputed the few extra inches of variance required for the bottom step, a variance that we already had. Defying all logic, initially they granted us far more variance than we required, but realizing we needed far less, we had to go back to the board to ask for a lesser variance. Yes, that happened.

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Steps in dispute: bottom step was 4 inches past our variance.

Deck Stairs and Back Stairs:  Not even a full step, I might add. We were over the variance line by a mere 4 inches. At this month’s zoning board meeting the board voted unanimously in our favor. Our sour neighbor stormed out in protest. Seriously. Left a draft in her wake. Why she was so outraged is not clear to us for once our fence  is reinstalled she will not be able to see ANY of the steps. Maybe someone needs to find a better hobby. An indoor hobby  – like extreme ironing or maybe guerrilla gardening, if she insists on peeking over my side of the fence incessantly. Hey, I could use some new landscaping.

*Those are actual hobbies, by the way. See link below for more ideas for your pesky neighbor to try. communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/world-our-backyard/2013/jan/25/11-unusual-and-bizarre-hobbies/

Complete Staircase for Elevated House

The front of the house is coming along this week. The staircase is complete except for the railing. The porch has had the columns placed this week as well. All the exterior trim work is done as well as the exterior faucets installed. We are still awaiting the leaders to be dropped for storm water run-off.

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Front view still awaiting the railings

You can see where the cedar shingle has been added and is still fresh. Over time it will blend and not longer be a drastic color distinction.

Just a Mess

Week 22: What happens when a crew of sheet rock workers run amok in your house? Someone’s going to be very unhappy. That someone was me this week.  The first day this crew started, they made a huge mess. Dust was everywhere. The kind of dust that can find its way into closed cabinets. I was not happy. I let them know. I asked them what their wives would say if they made this kind of mess in their home, hoping to appeal to their spirit of treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

Fuel for the fire was that I had covered anything that may be in harm’s way, and someone had UNCOVERED everything. Seriously.

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Drywall goes up in new room

I thought they were really inconsiderate, but assumed they had heard my concerns. Well, they may have heard them, but they sure didn’t heed them. The next day’s mess was even bigger. They had come back to tape and mud the drywall and just let the spackling paste fly.

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This piece had been covered.

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Spackling mud on the stairs

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On a table

They also had it on a curtain rod in an adjoining room, door handles, the kitchen floor and the mat in our foyer. Guess they didn’t like my suggestion to treat our home with more respect.

Where was my contractor during all of this? Good question. I encouraged my contractor to refrain from sending pig-like animals to work on my home. He apologized.

What other fun treat did we have happen this week? Our contractor’s electrician broke through a sealed off bathroom to take a dump and clogged the toilet. Clogged it. Are you kidding me?

I’ve heard that construction can be really messy, but his week was over the top. If this we’re a cheesy 1970’s commercial I’d be encouraging Calgon to take me away. If this were a Rolling Stones song, I’d be reaching for mother’s little helper.

Mudroom Renovation

WEEK 21: The mudroom, like this entire project, is S-L-O-W-L-Y  taking shape this week. In an earlier post I had discussed the history of flooding in this room as well as tips on choosing tile (see: Lighting up $100 Bills).  So this is merely a pictorial update:

SEPTEMBER: 

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What lies beneath the mudroom floor

OCTOBER: The floor was built up and then the concrete was poured:

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Mudroom awaiting fresh tile

LAST WEEK OF OCTOBER: The tile was laid out and the sheet rock was installed this week.

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New tile and sheet rock

The tile will definitely serve the “mud” room well and hide what my boys will track inside.

 

 

 

Staircase Transformation

WEEK 20: Fresh on the heels of last week’s set-back, we’ve made some steady progress this week, albeit not nearly enough for my liking. The majority of the work effort has been restricted to the new front staircase. It’s great to see the transformation, but what I’d really like to see is a beehive of activity on my house. You know, like they show on TV where an extensive renovation takes 4 or 5 days on a shoestring budget. But, this is hard-core reality here, definitely not for those with weak inclinations.

JULY: Back in early July, while we were busy celebrating the Declaration of Independence, the front of our house looked like this:

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House elevated and separated from the foundation – July

AUGUST: By mid-August, our construction crew had nearly completed the new foundation walls:

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House lowered onto newly built foundation – August

SEPTEMBER: About six weeks after the above photo was taken, the crew began to construct what would become our new front staircase:

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Frame work for new front steps

Of course there was a lot of work that went into the formation of these steps including digging a sizable trench, forming the underground footings, and building the majority of the rest of the staircase out of cinder blocks. But by the end of the month, we had a front staircase:

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Front staircase framed, poured, and cured

OCTOBER: Nearing the end of October, the stonework has been added to the front staircase. Missing, however, is any semblance of a railing. At this point we’re not sure whether we’ll go with wrought iron or natural wood. Likely which ever gets us back in the house sooner.

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Front steps having stonework applied

The picture above also shows other key updates. The front left corner of the house show a new gas meter. That was a hard-earned element of the project and we’re happy to have it behind us. Also the new “basement” windows have been framed out and shingles have been added to this side of the house replacing a damaged white border.

Sure beats what we were doing a year ago – riding out the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

A Low Down Dirty Shame

WEEK 19: Mired in a sea of inept, lazy, self-righteous pin-heads this week, things could be better.  Sometimes life is bound to get a little dicey, particularly when undertaking a substantial home renovation. Allow me to elaborate.

A VOLCANIC EXPLOSION: The week started with a site visit in which our contractor had erroneously poured cement in the wrong place when building up our foundation walls. His solution was to jack-hammer out the aforementioned cement that was located in our basement (lowest lying floor). If you’ve ever seen this before, you’ll appreciate how much dust is thrown off. Through every crack and crevice this dust exploded upwards resulting in a scene akin to a volcanic ash flume straight to the top floor. There now sits an appreciative layer of a “dust” cover on every surface – EVERY surface. Our weekend task will be to undo this mess and seal off all interior rooms. Oh, that’s the contractor’s job, you say? Yeah, that’s what we thought as well when he said, “You don’t have to seal up anything. That’s our job.”

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Steps in dispute: approved for two, but NOT three steps.

DEJA VU: Last night the good times just kept coming when we had our Zoning Board meeting to determine the fate of our back deck steps. If you’ll recall, the steps were called into question by our self-righteous, non-stop belly-aching neighbor (she’s still single?). Turns out the stamp of approval from the city’s building inspector on our blueprints somehow did not include these steps. The building inspector feels our architect tried to pull a fast one and sneak something in on the plans. Apparently when we went before the board initially,  our architect did not ask for the proper side-yard variance. He then failed to attend the hearing on this decision last night. As a result, the topic was tabled until the next meeting which is held once a MONTH when MAYBE our pinhead architect will see fit to show up and defend his drawings. In order to move the project along, we may opt to simply redesign them. *similar problem was had with the front steps, but that’s another story

ONE FOR THE MONEY, TWO FOR THE SHOW:  The stairs in question are already built. We have permission for two steps leading to the ground, but not three (as seen in the photo above). Any changes now will cost more money. The contractor was following the plans given to him. The plans which were spuriously stamped by the building inspector which riled up our neighbor which resulted in us attending a meeting last night where nothing was resolved. Merely trying to lift our house out of the flood path while helping our city improve it’s standing with FEMA (who issues flood insurance) has been on par with sustaining a flood event itself. It’s nothing but a low down dirty shame.

Lighting Up $100.00 Bills

WEEK 18: Finally, something to cheer about – we passed the electrical inspection today. Not that we ever questioned if we would pass it – but another hurdle has been cleared. Did I mention that the wires from the basement, the new room atop the garage and the mechanical room all had to be rewired? Add that to the new foundation, the new gas line, the new gas meter and all new gas pipes that ran through the basement and you can tell that we’ve been striking a match to hundred-dollar bills in a steady fashion.

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This mess of wires had to be ripped out and rewired

MONEY PIT: Is there anyplace to save some money on this project? Indeed there is – the mudroom floor. The tile was left out of the budget of the contract in order to allow for us to choose whatever we wanted – high-end or economy. Turns out you can spend upwards of $30.00 a square foot for tile or more, pretty easily. The more labor intensive the design, the more it’s going to cost. Typically, a homeowner will splurge for this only in a kitchen or bath space, not a mudroom floor.

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Mudroom awaiting fresh tile

MUDROOM – EMPHASIS ON THE MUD: With three boys, this room will more than live up to its name. The “L” shaped space affords a row of free-standing storage units, a double wide closet, and an entry point from the garage and the back door. Once you add a few doormats, how much of the tile are you going to see anyway?

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Mudroom tile after 2007 flood

UPSIDE TO FLOODING: One of the benefits to enduring a flood is that we had a chance to start with a fresh pallet every couple of years. Originally, I liked this color as it was light and opened up the room. Turned out to be really poor at hiding all the dirt my boys tracked into the house.

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Darker tiles were chosen the next time

DARKER BY DESIGN: After a few years, you can see where the tile really darkened by exposure to the light (the lighter areas were covered by a doormat and storage units). But what about durability? With a pack of  boys throwing down weighted-down backpacks, sports gear and heavy ski boots, the tile has to stand up to a high threshold of wear and tear. Can you skimp on cost and still end up with a viable product?

TILE I.Q. : All tile is rated, whether you buy at a high-end boutique or Home Depot. There are three scales: PEI Rating (4 or 5 is good), COF, (higher number = less slippery) and Break-strength (300+ is what you want in a high traffic area).

If you check the labels on the desired boxes of tiles you want to buy at Home Depot, you can be certain you are buying a high quality product at a discounted price. You’re going to sacrifice points to originality as the big store options are designed to have mass appeal, but gain dollars in your wallet with the savings.

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Tile for the mudroom from boutique store: 5X  more money than the ones in the picture below

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Discount Tile

Big ticket or discount – know what you’re paying for before you throw those hard-earned dollars on the pyre.

There’s No Place Like Home. Where’s My Ruby Slippers?

WEEK 17: It’s true what they say: There’s no place like home. And much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, our children are yearning to return home. Too bad they don’t have any snazzy red shoes to click together three times and make that happen. (Although we do have three boys, so donning red high heels is not exactly the look we’re going for anyway.)  They miss their toys, they miss their rooms, they miss having any outdoor room.

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One of the things our apartment lacks: a place to play football.

Moving into our apartment over the summer felt a bit like a holiday: new surroundings, relaxed rules, and a go-with-the-flow attitude. But now summer’s a mere memory and school and rules are back in session. Initially set to return the end of September, the calendar rolled on into October today, with a pretty healthy punch-list on our house still to cover.

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Our house last fall, before the start of the elevation project

THE THRILL IS GONE: It’s not really a disdain for apartment life, for there are many aspects about it that I’m really enjoying: easy to keep clean, lot’s of together time, no worries about lawn care. It’s more of the constant hum of energy surrounding such a big project. I can’t remember the last time I spent a whole day without having a major discussion about my house. It’s been a consuming occupation for years (floods, flood recoveries, to lift or not to lift, a year with the architect – and now this).  I harbor a fantasy that once this project is complete, I’ll be able to go a whole week just living in my house – not dissecting every nuance. Ah, what that must be like …

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Still much to be done: Current state of  mechanical room and new room over garage

FURTHER ON UP THE ROAD: We’ll view this project in our rearview mirror one day and be relieved to be on the other side of the mountain. Another fantasy? To be in my elevated house when the skies open up and unleash a waterfall and my first reaction is to reach for the champagne NOT start moving things out of the way. Indeed. I can almost hear the toast we’ll make, raising our glasses as the water creeps higher, “It’s a fine day and there’s no place like home.”

To Deck or Not to Deck: When Designs and Neighbors Clash

REAR VIEW: Originally we had a healthy backyard with a petit patio and enough green space for our three boys to run around. After a few poundings offered up by Mother Nature in the form of floods, our once charming backyard lost it’s luster. Perhaps it was because the water table under our house had permanently been altered or maybe healthy soil had eroded away, whatever the reason, we’ve no longer been able to recreate the lushness this yard once afforded.

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Back of house prior to lift

LOOKS LIKE RAIN: To give you an idea of how much water we’re talking about, the flood water has come as high as 1/4 the way up the window you see above, surrounding the house on all sides. Hence, we opted to elevate our house, forever mitigating against flooding. We had to lose the maple tree prior to the elevation process as it sat too close to the house, but the roots were beginning to wreak havoc anyway. Additionally, the foundation plantings all had to be removed or else face certain death once the formal construction process began. Many plants were able to be temporarily relocated to the edge of the backyard.

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Post elevation

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House elevation: rear view

RISING UP FROM THE EARTH:  The new foundation was built, flood vents were added near the base of the foundation walls and the house was lowered back down.

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New foundation with flood vents – No, the house is not levitating. It hadn’t been lowered yet.

DECK DESIGN AND DECISIONS: Now that the house had been raised, access stairs were needed.  A creative design was sought to address numerous issues: lots of stairs needed in a small space, that would not take up too much room, while providing an easy access port for furniture moving.

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Deck development for raised house

THAT’S A WRAP: Additionally,  we wanted to achieve some symmetry between the two rear doors, rather than have a bunch of stairs everywhere. It was decided to wrap the deck around the house and have the deck stairs meet up with the backdoor stairs, creating a streamlined design with minimal yard impact while preserving an access point to the house for furniture.

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Creative step design to have the deck wrap the house

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Everything we’ve done, all of the plans, with blueprints, had to be presented to and approved by  the zoning board and the architectural review board. But you see the three steps above that lead down to the ground? Yeah – well we were only approved for one of them. And now our neighbor has her panties all in a wad over the 2 extra steps, called the building inspector, who in turn halted our deck project. The building inspector is insisting we don’t have the proper variance to go beyond the side of our house (note how the three steps reach beyond that threshold), yet that is what our “approved” plans show. *see my post on how to hire an architect

THE GOOD TIMES JUST KEEP COMING: Up next? Another meeting with the zoning board, who have voiced a strong appreciation to all of the homeowners raising their homes, getting them out of harm’s way (Apparently, the building inspector missed that memo). But since they meet just once a month, we’ll  have to wait 4 weeks for the next meeting and pay a few hundred dollars to present our drawings again. Definitely not feeling the love.

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There’s a Gladys Kravitz in every neighborhood                                (picture by highlands_pixie)

As for the pesky neighbor: Turns out fences really DO make good neighbors. Keep your eyes off of my side, would you?

The Gas Man Cometh

WEEK 16: aka The Continuing Saga of the Gas Service. When I last left off this topic, we had remedied many of the gas line installation woes with our utility company. They had correctly repositioned our project as a “flood recovery” one and therefore were much more receptive to our needs. They agreed to install the new gas line, at their expense. We dig a trench, they do the rest. They gave us a date to allow us time to get the trench dug.

SURPRISE: Imagine our surprise when they showed up a week early. Giant piles of dirt and a huge excavator were in the way. As a trench was yet to be dug out, they promptly left, vowing to return the following week.

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A PROMISE IS A PROMISE: Knowing how hard it had been to get them to come at all, we were worried we had missed our window of opportunity with conEdison. Would they come back as they had promised? Indeed they did – again earlier than expected. Again, our site was not ready. So …. they just went ahead and did what they needed to do without any help from us.

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New gas line installed – meter to be added later

LIKE MAGIC: Note the big pile of dirt in the background? No trench in sight. Apparently, they have the tools to dig a narrow access hole to install the new gas line that does not require any trench at all. One day we did not have this on the side of our house, the next day we did. Poof!

Making what should be a short story infinitely longer, we still need to have the meter installed and the gas turned back on – prior to being able to move back home. But before we can do that, our plumber has to check the amount of load for the house and make sure all of our interior pipes are in good working order, before the inspector will pass the house for the plumbing inspection, before conEdison will come back again.

WHAT A DRAG IT IS GETTING OLD: As I’ve mentioned before, our house is old – almost 100 years old. Guess what else is old? Our interior gas pipes – not quite that old, but old enough to merit an extensive overhaul. Many of the gas pipes were found to be leaking at all of the joints. They were installed in the era when pipes were merely joined in a screw-type fashion, not sautered. Rather than fix all the leaks, it was determined to be more cost-effective to replace them. Not all of them, but most. The plumber said it was imperative to fix the leaks or the house was at risk of blowing up.

“You don’t want your house to blow up, do you?” he asked.

“Not if I’m in it,” I replied.

Although an older home does offer certain charms lacking in those built in the current age, it comes with a cost of high maintenance. There is little we haven’t had to update in this old house. The upgrades and updates have been extensive.

Dear future homeowner of this house …. you’re welcome.

The Devil’s in the Details

I think it’s important to find the little things in everyday life that make you happy. Paula Cole

Windows added to new 'basement'

Windows added to new ‘basement’

MORNING PLEASURE: It may be just a little thing, but the addition of the windows in our new ‘basement’ was an unexpected pleasure this morning. Why? Because they are the start of making this side of our house look finished. Yes, they still need to be framed out and yes the trim board will need to be adjusted and the water leader lowered to the ground.  And I guess I can’t ignore the giant excavator still parked in my front yard. I said it was a little thing.

Whoa - still lots to do here

Still lots to do here

Inside our ‘basement’ (technically called our ‘lowest lying floor’ as it’s above grade now) things are less rosy.  I’m actively turning a blind eye to the dirt floor, to the hanging ducts and to the 2 X 4 holding up my house at the moment (the vertical steel beams are not yet set). All I see is that the old gas meter has been removed and way back in the left corner the sewer pipe has been reconnected. Whoa, slow down!

Where some see a giant to-do list, I see what’s been done and how far we’ve come, bit-by-bit. Today it was windows.

Stair Elevation Design for Elevated House

WEEK 15: After spending a few days in awe of the flooding that has recently occurred in Boulder, Colorado, I’m back with an update on my flood mitigation project. We’re up to week 15 and taking steps toward seeing a completion date – or – rather making steps this week.

Digging down deep

Digging down deep

Building the footings for the new front steps

Building the footings for the new front steps

The photo above depicts our crew building the footings for what will become our new front steps. Notice how far down they had to dig? As we live in a climate that experiences a true winter, they had to dig down roughly 4.5 feet to reach below the frost line.

The other item of note in the photo above is our sewer line, the pipe in the foreground. This summer we had it power-blasted to remove tree roots (that had nothing to do with an elevation project, just part of general house maintenance). Prior to this, I can honestly say I never once thought of my sewer pipe. Reading about the recent sewer pipes bursting during the Colorado flood this past week, spewing raw sewage into the street and a few basements of unlucky homeowners, I’m happy to know this nondescript pipe is fine and in good health.

The pipe is our gas line

The small pipe is our gas line

The footings required  a site visit and an approval from the building inspector prior to work continuing on the infrastructure for the staircase. Note the slim pipe laying there looking so innocent, like it was not the cause of ANY grief at all.  That little pipe represents an enormous hurdle to any elevation project. I’ve lamented about it several times in earlier posts, our gas line, running from our house to the street.

No visible pipes anymore, buried underneath

No visible pipes anymore, buried underneath

The steps are really starting to take shape. I’m still uncertain as to what the final product will look like as the steps were yet another huge point of contention in this elevation project. I’m not going to beat that dead horse again, but suffice it say these are the steps what worked. Feel free to review some earlier posts where I went into great detail about the numerous versions of steps we considered as well as other options available to suit other homes.

Front steps take shape

Front steps take shape

This may seem like a lot of photos just for the steps – and they’re not even finished yet! That’s how big of an issue they were to this project. In hindsight or to the casual observer, it’s easy to suggest – what’s the big deal? Suffice it to say creating proportionate and eye-pleasing steps to get into a home that is now almost 5 feet higher than it used to be is easier said than done.

David Vs. Goliath: The Gas Meter Revisited

DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS: An old house. Extensive flooding. One family. A behemoth-sized utility company. What do all these things have in common? A house elevation project. What originally began as a Stalin-esque shake down from conEdison, our utility company, making us question if we had somehow woken up in a post WWII Eastern Bloc country, has rounded the bend dramatically this week. Once told we would have to pay huge sums of money and be forced to endure months of waiting to have a new gas line and a new gas meter installed (with only conEdison permitted to complete the work), has now been (hopefully) resolved. Huge sigh of relief.

UNTANGLING A MISUNDERSTANDING: Initially, conEdison had mistakenly understood that WE were requesting for our gas line and gas meter to be moved for frivolous reasons, prompting them to take a strong-arm approach to our project.* Only after making daily calls to conEdison, that all seemed to lead to a murky quagmire, did we resort to contacting those much higher up in the organization. Although the CEO did not take our call, those not far below him did. Subsequently,  our project was quickly repositioned as “flood recovery” and as such is being handled quite differently.

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We now hope to have the new gas line and gas meter installed as early as next week, not seven months from now as originally told.  It has already been approved by their engineering department and will no longer require any permits.

USE CAUTION: Let this serve as a cautionary tale to anyone pursing an elevation project for flood mitigation. When talking to the utility company be certain to use the correct terminology. Always talk in terms of “flood recovery” and NEVER use the word new, e.g., “I’m calling about a new gas meter.” The word “New” trips the wire of taking your project down a much darker path of time delays, costly installations and cases of Pepto Bismal.

For better or worse, the homeowner MUST handle this conversation. Architects, builders, plumbers, etc., seem terrified of the big, bad utility company and what it could mean to other projects in the future. They have a relationship to protect.

UP NEXT: Will conEdison show up next week as told? Will our gas be turned back on then or require yet another chain of phone calls? Stay tuned …

*additional information available in previous posts

Top 7 Reasons Why an Elevation Project Drags On and on and on …

WEEK 14: There’s a chill to the air, my children are back in school, and I’m starting to see Halloween candy for sale in the grocery store, yet too little progress on my house. When we moved into our temporary apartment in June, we had hoped to move home by the end of September. Our builder, who had experience with these types of projects, felt that time frame was more than adequate. Here’s a surprise, our builder was wrong (insert sarcasm). But experience had already taught us that lesson – it always takes longer than expected. The question is  – why?

Every project will have deviations from the list below, but if you’re planning to elevate your house, take note. Top 7 Reasons why an Elevation Project Drags On and on and on …

1. THE BLUEPRINTS ARE LACKING IN DETAIL: If there’s one aspect of my project that I’d love to do over again, it would be the hiring of my architect. It’s not that he was unable to create blueprints with sufficient details, it’s that he was unwilling. It took him a year to deliver blueprints with barely sufficient detail for a builder to bid on the job and to get the proper permits from our building department. The kiss of death is anywhere on the blueprints that states, “to be verified in the field.”  I would encourage anyone with a need for an architect to build into the contract specific deadlines for work to be completed as well as having a frank discussion about the level of details required. It’s likely to cost a bit more up front but pay for itself in avoiding time delays and conflicts with the builder later.

2. LACK OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE LIFTING COMPANY AND THE BUILDER: The lifting company in our case worked for us, they were not sub-contracted by the builder. As such, the communication was lacking between these two specialists resulting in weeks of time delays. In our case, this occurred despite the fact that the builder and lifting company had recently worked together on several other elevation projects.

3. THE CONTRACTOR HAS POOR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS: None of them will admit this adage applies to them, but a fair number of contractors are unable to see the big picture and anticipate the needs of the job two, three, four weeks in advance. I’ve never seen a giant calendar on site identifying everything that has to happen in a day, a week, a month. It appears to me they think about the job only a week at a time, in very general terms. They seem immune to the concept of a time crunch, except for the contractors you see on television.

4. SECURING PROPER PERMITS: A house elevation project will require building permits and very likely height variances from your local building department. Additionally, as your property floods (or you wouldn’t be going to the trouble of lifting it), you are likely to run into wetland permit requirements that can often trigger the local county or even the state in which you live to get involved. These permits can often be secured with minimal disputes, but do take time.

5. THE UTILITY COMPANY GETS INVOLVED: When you lift a house, the gas lines need to be cut and locked for safety reasons. No one’s looking to blow up a neighborhood, just elevate a house. However, this necessity brings the utility company to the party. As most of them are huge corporations with a monopoly on the market, it’s going to be on their terms. They’ll tell you when they plan to show up and when it fits into their schedule. They care little about yours. This element is one of the trickiest facets of the job as it is almost entirely out of your hands.

6. THE WATER COMPANY GETS INVOLVED: Before you can lift your house, you’ll need to cut and cap the sewer lines and most water lines (one water line was kept for construction needs in our case). Before they can be turned back on, the water company, at least in our case, needs to cut all the water from the street. This requires the water company to send an employee to your house. This should have minimal impact on your project.

7. UNFORESEEN COMPLICATIONS: Many big projects, such as elevating an old house, are going to run into problems that could not be anticipated. In our case, the original foundation was unsalvageable and the house was remarkably out of square. These two conditions prompted a much lengthier time frame to build up the new foundation. Your project is likely to run into it’s own unforeseen peculiar quirks.

The above list does not touch on change-orders as those are a given that you’ll endure time delays. The list varies with items from those entirely within your control to those that are onerous and require *buttloads of patience. Although it is not entirely possible to dictate the unfolding of your elevation project, armed with the information above, you can avoid some known time traps and possibly finish before you wish you’d never started.

*buttloads is an actual measurement. See the link below that differentiates buttload, from boatload or shitload. It includes a terrific graphic.

blog.andrewallingham.info/2011/06/the-difference-between-a-buttload-boatload-and-shitload/

Feel the Burn: Gas Lines & Meters

GAS METER UPDATE: In a previous post I lamented about the excruciatingly long process to have a new gas meter and a new gas line installed. Con Edison, our local utility company, first visited our site  on August 20, 2013. At that time, we were under the impression that getting new service was the only option we had; it was the required protocol during a home elevation project on an older home with a gas line made of steel.

BURN, BABY, BURN: We had been repeatedly warned that we were at the mercy of this massive utility conglomerate and that they were reputed to move at a snail’s pace. So when we received a follow-up letter in less than a week, we were surprised with the speed of the deed. Maybe we would be the exception and not the rule. But, alas, that was a naive pipe dream. The letter informed us of a projected completion date of (insert drum roll here):  March 30, 2014. That’s right, 7 MONTHS from now. As I mentioned previously, moving back into our house is contingent on this task being completed.

WE HEAR YOU: It was with great resolve that I next contacted the utility company, outlining my argument for why I believed this time frame was unjust. Our project was a retrofit for flood mitigation, an action encouraged by the utility company, not a new service. Plus our three children are impacted by this decision, which tends to help a homeowner jump the line a bit. They saw my point and empathized with my plight stating that they would try their best to move our project along. After several days of persistent calling, with mixed results and responses from whomever I spoke to that day, we were told that it would “likely work out”, but they could make no promises. Maybe it’s me, but those words did little to mollify my concerns.

ARE WE STILL IN AMERICA? By the end of the month and many phone calls later – the squeaky wheel gets the grease when you’re talking about a company with millions of customers – we had some promising news. Our project had moved from the engineering department over to the construction department, a feat that usually takes 30 days. To officially get in the queue of their construction line-up, we just had to make a payment –  of several thousand dollars – that did NOT  include the digging of a trench.

To be continued …

Gas meter in question

Gas meter in question

WEEK 12 of House Elevation Project: Once upon a time we had an ordinary house in the suburbs of New York City. Seasons passed, our children flourished, and all seemed well with the world. Then our house suffered through extraordinary amounts of rainfall, on several occasions. With nowhere else to go, the water rose up and up and up. We grew to appreciate our flood insurance more and more. Until one day when we decided enough was enough. Let’s  fix it so that our house no longer floods. Elevating it above the base flood elevation for our location was the remedy.

Before the House Elevation

Before the House Elevation

RISE ABOVE: As documented all over this website, we did just that. Our house is now elevated well above the litmus test  – the FEMA flood map. But while the rest of the house is elevated with a brand new foundation underneath it, we still need to utilize the garage at ground level. As illustrated in the picture below, the garage in it’s current state is large enough to park a sailboat inside.

Garage space after elevation of house

Garage space after elevation of house

PICTURE ABOVE: Sandwiched between the garage and an upstairs bedroom sits an airy attic. In the picture above, the ceiling of the garage is the floor of an attic (as well as a mechanical room toward the back of the garage). This fortunate placement of the attic will allow for the building of an additional interior room. Work has already begun on this project:

Capturing a new room

Capturing a new room

After weeks of spending time on the foundation, meticulously placing each cinder block and enduring weeks of painstaking efforts to shore up the last few inches between the new foundation and the house – finally, we have some progress. Progress that we can see. Progress that feels like we are getting somewhere closer to being ready to move back home.

New front face of house

New front face of house

SIDE VIEW: Note the sides of the house above. You can see where the holes that were created to accommodate the steel beams have been closed. There are still many, many items on the “to-do” list prior to my family residing here again, but this week at least it feels like there has been a big step in that direction.