Tag Archives: foundations

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.

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: