Tag Archives: flooding

House Elevation Project Runs Amok

WEEK NINE:  A big disappointment  – that sums up week nine of our house elevation project. The lifting company, Payne, was ready to return to the site, but the construction crew did not have the site sufficiently prepped. As Payne is jamming with business, they did not have the luxury of time to sit around and wait. They moved on to their next job in the queue. Cost to our project? A one week delay in action. One week of virtually nothing being accomplished. Zero progress.

IS THAT A SPRITE? We now stand a better chance of finding a family of fairies living in our backyard than being back in our house on time. When time management runs amok, delays are inevitable. So in addition to last week’s expensive overages, there are now project productivity issues. My construction team is making it really easy not to like them.

THE SUNNY SIDE: But, fresh on the heels of 13 states experiencing extensive flooding in the Midwest last week, I’m still happy to be involved in this house elevation project. One day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to relax on my new back deck enjoying my new-and-improved elevated views, knowing that my house is protected from flooding.  I”m down, but not out.

For news of Midwest’s extensive pounding by floodwater:


Can You Still Have A Basement in a Floodplain?

WEEK 8: Most of the work occurring on our house elevation project this week are of the unseen nitty-gritty sort. The construction crew is preparing for the return of Payne, our lifting company, by completing the last few foundation projects: aligning the proper height all walls, erecting support beams under the crawl space in the rear of our house, fortifying the cinder blocks, and beginning to fill in the basement.

Can you still have a basement?: No, we will not have a basement in the traditional sense of the word. Historically, the basement evolved as a cool, dry, place to store food and provisions. Over time that idea expanded into habitable living space. As building codes developed, the placement of basement/foundation walls were formally established. In short, foundation walls have to be dug below your area’s frostline. In metro New York, the frost line is four feet deep. That means all the foundation walls have to be dug at least four feet below grade. It makes sense to dig a bit deeper, hollow out that space, and have a usable basement. Ever wonder why so many houses in the northern states have basements vs. those in the south? That’s why. The frost line in many southern states is mere inches. No need to dig as deep and incur an unnecessary expense.

Just because your foundation walls are four feet (or more in colder climates) deep, does not mean you have to hollow out the space and create a ‘basement.’ In fact, in a floodplain, you can not do this. What happens to our current basement? It gets backfilled with gravel and other materials then covered with cement, eliminating any below grade space. This new area is now referred to as the “lowest floor.” By floodplain management regulations, the lowest floor below base flood elevations may only be used for storage, parking, and building access.

As the new foundation wall is constructed, space is allocated for one of the  flood vents.

The new foundation walls are at least four feet below grade, as per proper building code for our location.

In the picture above, our son, Luke, is standing on a ruble pile that was once our basement. Behind him space has been allocated in the foundation wall for a flood vent, a window, and space to remove the steel beams that currently support the house. Once the house is lowered back down onto the new foundation, the gaps for the steel beams will be closed. The flood vent demonstrates where the new floor will be poured. The wooden cribbing will be removed once the house sits on the foundation and is no longer supported by the steel beams supplied by the lifting company.

More things I never planned to learn:  The foundation walls are made of cement cinder blocks fitted with steel rebarb. The rebarb serves to support the cinder blocks along with cement that is meticulously poured down each row of blocks, as seen in the picture below.  The walls will also be a formidable opponent for any flood. (Again, our house does not incur high velocity flooding).

interior of cinder blocks

interior of cinder blocks showing the poured cement

Just in case you can’t get enough information on basements:



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.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane … No, It’s my House!

WEEK 5 STARTS WITH A BANG! Mission accomplished – now the time intensive work can 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

House pulls away from the foundation easier than you might think


Before: Holes cut into the foundation and steel beams were gingerly inserted.

After ...

After: House lifted straight up; note the white trim in each picture. The foundation wall, in our case, had to be knocked down.

Before ...




Our boys checking out the site

Checking out the site

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

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

Back of house: Before

Back of house: Before



ALL THE CRIBBING IS IN PLACE: Note the cribbing that’s been placed to buttress 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.