Tag Archives: base flood elevation

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.

Wet Flood Proofing: an Oxymoron?

WET FLOOD PROOFING: This is generally the least expensive floodproofing technique, but it’s also the least effective in the long term. The strategies here result in a home still suffering through a flood, but strive to decrease the damage to the home and your contents.  Techniques that fall under this definition include installing flood vents to minimize structural damage, relocating the electrical panel and the utilities above the base flood elevation (BFE), anchoring the foundation and any fuel tanks to minimize movement or destruction and protecting your personal belongings.

Elevated air handlers

Elevated air handlers

This technique requires active participation on the part of the homeowner. Many times, if not most, there are days of warning prior to a flood hitting your home. With the exception of a flashflood and possibly a catastrophic tsunami, you have time to move your personal belongings out of harms way. Get busy! Move your stuff!

Using cinder blocks to protect belongings one idea.

Using cinder blocks to lift items above projected flood levels is one idea.

PROTECT YOUR CONTENTS: A simple idea to protect personal belongings is to utilize a section of your home that does not flood, e.g, a second floor, and start by moving everything upstairs. Family pictures, important documents, anything you don’t want to be destroyed – move it. We’ve used this method several times. It’s exhausting, but effective. Another idea to protect your home’s contents is to rent out storage space at a storage facility. Most times your flood insurance will cover these costs after a flood warning has been issued.  We utilized this option during a flood threat and basically emptied the entire family room (couches, tables, toys, books, etc.). This option provides great piece of mind, but a bit more planning. During the last flood event, before we decided to lift our house, I decided if I had to move all of my furniture anyway, I may as well move it out of the house altogether. That way it would be easier to start the clean-up and rebuilding process.

Wet Floodproofing will still leave you with a big clean-up effort, requires active participation just prior to the flood event, and offers no reductions in flood insurance premiums. It’s better than nothing – much better. When the water’s rising, do something – even if it’s just moving all of the items in your house upstairs.

House Lift Elevation: First Steps

WEEK 5 of our lift project and the actual lifting is set to begin. 

After spending more than a week preparing the house it was ready for the big lift.  Ever so slowly, one wooden beam (about 6 inches) at a time, the house was lifted.  A wooden beam (also known as cribbing) was inserted at every pressure point, then lifted another 6 inches, etc., until the predetermined height was reached. Total time: about 5 hours for this portion.


House pulls away from the foundation

The house pulls away from the foundation easier than you might think it would. There is nothing but gravity holding the structure of the house onto this nearly 85 year old foundation.


Above is a before picture showing the rectangular cuts into the foundation wall so the steel beams could be ever-so-carefully inserted. Notice the property fence? There is little room to maneuver in this space.

After ...

After the beams had been carefully inserted on all sides of the house, the actual lift began. It was lifted straight up, bit-by-bit. The foundation wall, in our case, had to be knocked down, as can be seen in the picture above. Our boys were very curious about every detail.

Before ...


Above is a picture of our house prior to the lift … 

Our boys checking out the site

AFTER: Checking out the site

… and here is our house after the lift process. Note the steel beams reaching out from the former garage space. Also, the stairs have been removed, the gas and water lines have been cut and capped, and the landscape has been taken to scorched earth.

The door over their heads used to be one step from the garage floor.

Standing under the house. 

Once the house been lifted, we were able to walk underneath it. Here you can clearly see the steel beams that run in a cross-wise pattern to support the house.  The door above used to be only one step from the garage floor. The boys took it all in stride, like it was some sort of Lincoln Log project.

Back of house: Before

 Before …

This photo above shows what the back of our house used to look like. Of note, there were two steps to get inside. During several of our floods, the water made its way into this back room, coming up to the bottom edge of the window.


… After

All the cribbing is in place, buttressing the steel beams that support the house. The house is finally out of the path of a flood. Can I get a “hell yeah!”

However, the lift is actually the easy part of this job. Next our construction crew has to come in to rebuild the foundation walls which should take about 3 weeks. Then, Payne Construction, our lifting company, returns to remove the steel beams and lower the house about a foot onto the new foundation. After that, the construction crew returns again to add the stairs, renovate the necessary interior spaces, reconnect the water, electricity, gas, etc., etc., etc.

Establishing New Elevation Height

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.

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.

Base Flood Elevation For the Elevation of a House

Tell-tale signs of change

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)?