Tag Archives: flood mitigation

House Elevation

House Lift Video: 17 Feet in 3 Minutes

Planet Three Elevation: P3Elevation condenses 100 days of work into a three minute video

Watch this incredible video footage that condenses 100 days of a house lift elevation project into a tidy three minute video. The house is in Seguin, Texas just outside of San Antonio. Unlike our house lift experience, this house sat on a concrete slab. There were a few other significant differences between this video and our house lift project. First, this house was all one level, making a slab lift an option. Second, and this is a big one, the property in the video was level and large, supplying ample room for trucks and workers to work their magic.

“100 days of work condensed to 3 minutes. We lifted this large 2-story home using unified jacking system. This home and surrounding sidewalks (now decks) has 10 slab segments which rest permanently on steel beams and concrete columns. Note the work precision as the elevation is executed. The Planet Three Elevation team’s experience enables consistency and precision of process execution which enables quality in the finished product.”

P3 Elevation

No two lift projects are ever the same, but they all offer the same benefit: safety from flooding and peace of mind.

New Landscape for an Elevated House – House Lift Landscape

FINAL STEPS TO COMPLETION: The house project finally completed, the only thing left to do is fill in the landscape.

As the former landscape was completely destroyed during the process, we were starting with a clean slate. The front yard just after our house elevation project –


Front yard prior to landscape



AFTER: A few trips to some local nursery’s, viewing of other lifted homes, and a bit of research on the web and we made our decisions. Sod was an easy call as it goes in so fast and we only needed to cover a small area.


New sod being rolled into place

THE VERY NEXT DAY: A storm whipped into town dropping a lot of rainfall. At first it was welcomed as a huge boost to our new sod, which needs to be watered – a lot – in the first few weeks. Mother nature came at just the right time.

But the rain continued. It rained and rained. Flood warnings were issued. We sat snug in our newly lifted house. But our new sod did not fare so well …


The sod was strew about due to minor flooding


The high water mark …

The homes across the street suffered minor basement flooding, but the water never reached our house, just the front yard.



A few moths later and our yard was complete


In the photo above note how the red maple plays off the red hue of the rocks; it’s height helps to  off-set the tall foundation. A cypress was added to the planting bed in the stair design to provide year round interest.


Surviving a 500 Year Flood

PHOTOS: The photos above show the destructive power of the flooding that has occurred in Colorado this past week, but more importantly, they illustrate the power to overcome adversity. Helping one another by pulling together, friends, neighbors and strangers alike.

An Outlet Of The Mind

Living in Colorado you pray for rain, but not this much rain. I want to write a longer post about my experience of being trapped in my neighborhood, but my brain is ready to process everything. So for now here are a few pictures. IMG_1277Flood 2013IMG_1285IMG_1301IMG_1302DSC_2565IMG_1266DSC_2579DSC_2578DSC_2569DSC_2622DSC_2711

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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.


The Lord has Spoken: Giving Away Millions of Dollars

WEEK 13:  Earlier this week I spoke with Rick Lord, Chief of Mitigation Programs & Agency Preservation Officer for the New York State Office of Emergency Management. I had contacted him in hopes of securing some of the $230 million dollars FEMA had given to the state of New York for flood mitigation. Lord is the head of the program in charge of distributing the money statewide.

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS: This huge pile of money was sanctioned by the federal government and, according to Lord, all 50 States received this same amount as part of a Hazard Mitigation Grant. To date 1,232 homes in New York have benefited. In large part the money is being used to assist homeowners with elevation projects and acquisitions to mitigate against flooding. Homes impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and tropical storm Lee that same year are eligible as well as the infamous Super Storm Sandy.

PLEASE, SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE: How does it work and may I have a piece of that government pie? Well, for starters, homeowners can not apply themselves. The application must come from the city or town government office in which the home is located (very inconvenient). By definition, your city or town must participate in all flood mitigation rules and regulations to qualify for this money and be willing to jump through the government red tape for you. Next, your county must have been declared a national disaster during one of the above mentioned flood events. Your flood insurance category must be deemed “severe repetitive loss” and the extent of the damage must have exceeded 50% of the value of the house. For homes in metro New York – good luck meeting that threshold. If you want/need to live within an hour of New York City, the cost is set at a premium. See link below for more stats:


If your home meets all of the above criteria, it may be eligible for up to $30,000 toward an elevation project. I’m not sure what the acquisition top dollar would be – but I’m willing to guess that Uncle Sam can not afford to buy out many homes in Westechester County.

YOU’LL GET NOTHING AND LIKE IT! Final nail in the coffin for my home – if work has already begun toward elevating  your house,  your home is automatically disqualified. Seriously. Not that we would have qualified anyway, but penalizing initiative seems to go against the grain of the American way.

It’s Functional, Not Pretty

NEW FLOOD TECHNOLOGY: In a recent post I commented on the flood prevention technology being utilized in the subway stations of Nagoya, Japan. The floodgates are designed to protect the subway system from suffering extensive damages during a flood event. However, my contention is that any preventative measure that requires human activation and /or electricity to operate, suffers a potentially fatal flaw.

WHY? BECAUSE IT WORKS: Instead, I would investigate the feasibility of installing permanent concrete steps leading up to the subway entrance, creating a concrete barrier to flood waters. This flood prevention model has been utilized in some residential settings as seen in the picture below:

Flood mitigation via concrete stairway

Flood mitigation via concrete stairway

Notice the doorway in the photo above, under the exterior light fixture. In order to reach the door, you must first ascend several steps before going down several stairs to reach the door. This works to create a flood barrier protecting the entry door on all sides. This same idea could be extrapolated for use in the subway system design thereby creating a permanent flood barrier.

STEADY REMINDER: I’m not suggesting this idea comes without it’s own downsides (they would be cumbersome for many people to navigate, for starters), but they would always be at the ready. As an added benefit, they’d also serve as a permanent visual reminder of flooding that has occurred in the past – revealing their own cautionary tale, lest anyone forget.

Link to article about the Japanese subway system floodgate: en.rocketnews24.com/2013/09/06/nagoya-surprises-citizens-by-unveiling-new-flood-prevention-technology/ 

Nagoya surprises citizens by unveiling new flood prevention technology

The floodgates in the pictures above provide a simple, yet effective means to prevent extensive damage from floodwaters. In October 2012, when Super Storm Sandy ravaged New York City, many subway stations there were forced to shut down, stranding many New Yorkers. As NYC looks for means to combat the increasing threat of rising sea levels and increased incidents of extensive flooding, these floodgates offer one solution.

But I believe there is a better solution. The downside to floodgates,  from my standpoint, is that they would require constant maintenance and human intervention to be properly implemented during a flood. What else could the city do to offer protection? Build cement steps at the entry of the subway, rising up several steps, before leading to the down staircase. A full time cement barrier. They would not be susceptible to mechanical failure or require any personnel to implement them during a flooding event. Yes, they would be expensive to build, but far less expensive than the seawater swirling around in the subway tunnels caused.

The pictures above are very compelling.

House Elevation for Flood Mitigation: Frequently Asked Questions

What all is involved in a house lift? Does flood insurance pay for it? What is an elevation certificate and why would I need one? To find out the answer to these and many more exciting questions related to this flood mitigation technique –  home elevation, check out my newly updated FAQ’s section.

Global Extreme Weather And Climate Events – A 2013 Timeline

A VERY TELLING VISUAL INDEED: Of the 24 events highlighted on this timeline, eight involve massive flooding and two others involve excessive rainfall. Extreme flooding events not included on this timeline for 2013 so far: Australia in January, Europe in May and June and Canada in  June. Though I don’t know how to prevent this seeming epidemic of wide spread flooding, I do know of one cure. For homeowners living in these risky flood prone areas around the world – two words: House Lift

A VERY TELLING VISUAL INDEED: Of the 24 events highlighted on this timeline, eight involve massive flooding and two others involve excessive rainfall. Extreme flooding events not included on this timeline for 2013 so far: Australia in January, Europe in May and June and Canada in  June. Though I don’t know how to prevent this seeming […]

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How Many Balloons Would it Take to Lift a House?

After stopping by my construction site this morning and learning that we had several serious snags and disconnections between our architect, the builders, and the local building department, I needed a little levity. Does lifting a house really need to be so complicated?

Not according to the Movato Real Estate Blog. They’ve actually figured out the exact number of helium balloons (the sort you can buy at any party supply store) it would take to lift a house based on average weight per square foot.

Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

According to the interactive calculator you can find on their website, it would take roughly 77,646,000 balloons to lift my house. That’s a lot of hot air! By comparison, the White House would need a whopping 2,976,470,589 balloons. The one glitch I can see right off the bat – and they would be numerous – is how we could maintain the helium inside the balloons long enough for our crew to build up the foundation walls.

“Sorry, we had the house lifted and were all set to build the new foundation so your house would no longer endure any future flooding, but the darn helium escaped before could finish the job.”

Although our architect is full of it, unfortunately “it” doesn’t happen to be helium. Or ideas. Or time management proficiency. Or even accuracy, for that matter. So while the “lift” went off with nary a worry, the same can not be said for our architectural plans.