Tag Archives: floods

Elevated House Lowered onto Newly Built Foundation

Week 10: The much anticipated, but considerably less dramatic act of lowering the house back down onto the new foundation took place yesterday. Our lift company, Payne,  was able to swing into town for two days to complete the job. When lowering the house they have to make certain that the house will sit atop the foundation, flush and square. Ideally they would be able to just lower the house straight down, but sometimes they have to adjust (“shim” in construction speak) all the little places where the house does not meet the foundation wall. For unlike a traditional house build, where you would build the house from the ground up, a lift has to merge two separate projects: house + new foundation.

Our house fully elevated  with no foundation

Our house fully elevated with no foundation

Payne, as well as my construction team, were notably surprised by the extent our house did not square up with the foundation. Any place where the two failed to meet up had to be shored up with wood. This unevenness is most likely attributed to an old house settling and less than stellar construction when the back addition was added by a previous owner.

Foundation walls built up to meet the elevated house.

Foundation walls built up to meet the elevated house.

In the photo above, you can see where space has been intensionally left to allow for the removal of the steel beams that had been supporting the house during the construction of the foundation. Recently I witnessed a house undergoing this same flood prevention measure with a less experienced construction crew. They did not leave any room in the foundation wall to remove the steel beams and so had to carve out space as an afterthought. Not exactly an ideal formula.

Elevated house lowered back down to meet the new foundation.

Safe and sound: House is set back down onto the newly built foundation

Now for the big finish … The photo above shows the house lowered back down, safe and sound, to meet with the newly built foundation walls. All in all, this was a fairly typical lift, according to Sean Payne, the owner of the lifting company we used.

THINGS COULD ALWAYS BE WORSRE: Lately I’ve been bemoaning the fact that the lowering of our house was delayed. By comparison, Sean mentioned a house he was currently working on where the construction team completing that house elevation (recall that the lift team and construction team are not the same) were new to this type of project. The result in that scenario is extensive delays as they struggle to figure out what to do next. That house has been elevated with steel beam supports for 5 months and counting. By comparison, our house was able to be lowered back down in only six weeks, and that includes one week where the site sat untouched.

Until the construction crew returns tomorrow to continue its magic, our house is held to the foundation primarily by gravity. Hope we don’t get a big wind storm any time soon.

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:


Staircase Options for an Elevated House

NEW STAIR DESIGN: One of the trickier elements to elevating a house is creating the new access stairs. Whether you are lifting your house two feet off the ground or a full story, functional yet attractive stairs will need to be designed for your home. Three things will greatly dictate  your options: the number of steps you need, the size of the property, and where your house is located. For instance, beachfront property (“V” zone on a flood map) is restricted by FEMA e.g., no massive staircases that would act as an obstruction to flowing water are allowed. For everyone else, you have more choices.

STRAIGHT STYLE STAIRCASE: One of the standard designs is the straight staircase (see photos below). On these elevated homes, the stairs enhance the look of the house and blend into the neighborhood. There is always the option to add a landing 1/2 way up the run of steps to break it up a bit, provided you have enough property to extend out that far. One of the limiting factors to using the straight style staircase is a shallow front yard. Straight style stairs extend roughly one foot per stair, plus however big the landing to your front door extends.

straight style stairs

straight style stairs – 10 steps

straight  style steps - 12 steps

straight style steps  with a flair at the end- 12 steps

Straight style with a landing in the middle.

Straight style steps  with a landing in the middle

L-SHAPE STAIRCASE: This shape is great at breaking up a long run of steps or using when your front yard has a small set back. They are an attractive alternative to consider based on your personal preference.

The "L" style staircase on a house in progress

The “L” style staircase on a house in progress

T-SHAPE STAIRCASE: This design is similar to the L-shape, except the run of stairs tends to extend closer to the ground before landing on a platform that splits off in two directions, in a T.

This single family home is designed with an L-Shape staircase

This single family home is designed with a T-shape staircase

U-SHAPE STAIRCASE: The U-Shape staircase is a spacious design that allocates room for planting beds to be merged into the structure. As a result, they take up quite a bit of room and are best reserved for wider homes on an expansive property. Otherwise, the stairs will overpower the house.

Note how much real estate these stair consume. Fine on a wider property, like this one.

Note how much real estate this staircase consumes. It works on a  wider property, like this one.

SWITCHBACK STYLE STAIRCASE: Very similar to the U-style stair design except that the large planting bed in the middle of the U is eliminated to condense the size of the staircase. This style works well on a house that requires many stairs in the design, but does not have a lot of space in which to work. Like the U-shape, this style of staircase utilizes landings to break up a large run of stairs.

Initially, we had hoped to utilize a straight stair design on our house (and we still might). On closer inspection, we realized that our house will require more steps (about 16) than the ones we had seen with a straight style design. The verdict for our house is still out …

The choice of staircase style is a personal one that the homeowner will make based on what they prefer and what works best on their property. One upside to all of those stairs – a regular workout for your derrière. Another bonus – your house is above the flood zone.

Foundation Walls

WEEK 7: This week finds the crew feverishly at work completing the new foundation. Cinder blocks meticulously trimmed with cement were built up, to the requisite new height for our house, creating our new foundation walls. This process was a bit reminiscent of the story of the “Three Little Pigs” when the third Little Pig, the smart one, built his house of bricks to ward of the Big Bad Wolf.  In our case, the “Big Bad Wolf” happens to be flood water – and lots of it.

Crumbling old foundation

Crumbling old foundation

What was left of the original foundation walls had to be demolished in several places as it had deteriorated.

Fresh new walls in the making

Fresh new walls in the making

New footings had to be poured before the walls could be erected.

No foundation walls ...

No foundation walls …

After several weeks of hard work under the scorching hot sun, the foundation is just about complete.


The majority of the foundation is now complete.

Upside to Downsizing: Why Temporary Housing Isn’t All Bad


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.