Tag Archives: house elevation

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 –

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Front yard prior to landscape

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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.

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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 …

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The sod was strew about due to minor flooding

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The high water mark …

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

SUN SHINES AGAIN: 

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A few moths later and our yard was complete

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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.

 

Top 5 Tips for Painting the Exterior of a House

Our house elevation project is almost complete. The next step is the exterior painting aspect. What do you need to know?  Top 5 tips for painting the exterior of a house:

1. TEMPERATURE: Ideally, exterior painting will take place when the temperatures are going to remain above 50 degrees, even at night. Otherwise you are likely to get peeling.

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Obviously too cold to paint

Once the temperatures warm up, you can tackle that exterior paint job. Below, our hand-made iron railing system finally gets painted.

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The same team who built our railing system, also painted it for us.

2. GET AT LEAST 3 BIDS: With three bids you’ll see what the fair market value is for the job. After our house elevation, the house is pretty high. How are they going to paint it safely? I didn’t want to have any surprises in terms of injuries or the price once the job began.

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A scaffolding system was required for our project

3. POWER WASH and PREP: The integrity and longevity of your paint job hinges on the preparation phase. Make certain you’re painters don’t skimp on this stage. Our house is made of cedar shingle, so it had to be handled a bit more delicately than other exterior finishes, or the shingles could break. The preparation is the most time-consuming part, but also vitally important. Cracks need to be filled, nail holes covered, etc. FloodSavvy.com

House gets a full power wash

The power wash rids the house of any dirt, mold or debris that may have built up over the years. Cedar shingle homes are susceptible to mold in areas that get little sunlight or excessive moisture.

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BEFORE: Mold build up over the years

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AFTER:   mold is gone.

As with any natural wood product, there is always going to be some variation in the color tone of the shingles. For a more homogenous look, shingles can be painted.

4. USE LATEX PAINT: Make sure the paint you choose is designed for exterior use and is latex based. Some paint companies may try to use oil-based paint for the trim, but this is an outdated practice. Following the adage of wine before beer – prime before paint. Both will provide for better results.

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BEFORE: Back porch post and deck railings

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AFTER: back porch and deck railings after power wash and fresh coat of paint

5. WATCH THE WEATHER: The exterior of your house will need to be dry before the paint can be applied AND after the house had been painted  the weather will ideally stay dry for at least a few days. If Mother Nature is taking requests, ask for sunny skies with no wind.

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Finished job

CEDAR SHINGLES: We opted not to paint the shingles. Over the next few years, the older shingles and the newer shingles will blend in tone. We left the shingles bare to allow for color change. We spruced-up the front door and the garage door, starting with a power wash and followed up with a stain to enhance the wood.

Now for some landscaping ….

 

 

Best Ways to Prepare for Home Renovation / House Elevation Project

The best way to prepare for a home renovation project/ house elevation: assume the project will be messy. Plan accordingly or at least try to learn from our mistakes.

POST CONSTRUCTION CLEAN-UP:  We’ve been living in our flood mitigated/ house elevated home for almost three months. The remnants of construction dust continue. How can that be? Haven’t you been cleaning like mad?

An emphatic “yes” to that question as anyone who knows me would expect. I”m a bit of a neat-freak and crave organization; we all have our quirks. I began to suspect the vacuum I had been using was no longer performing it’s job sufficiently when stray pieces of thread became a challenge for it.

Channel surfing on a recent morning I came across QVC hawking the latest and greatest product they had found: a HEPA filtered, wind tunnel, 3 channels of suction – Hoover.

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My new favorite vacuum

With the company’s 30-day money back guarantee, I figured I had nothing to lose. I was a bit skeptical as my last vacuum had been the Rolls Royce of vacuum’s at the time when I bought it – an Oreck. (Is this post seriously about vacuum cleaners? Sort of, but I have a point).

WHOSE JOB IS IT ANYWAY? When we’d moved out of our home just prior to the start of this house elevation project, our contractor had assured us that they would cover and protect everything. That was their job. They took pride in their neatness on the work site. Well unless their last customer was Oscar-the-Grouch, the muppet who lived in a garbage can on Sesame Street, I can’t imagine anyone finding their version of clean and neat desirable.

MISTAKES WERE MADE: The mistakes we made could easily be avoided once you know what to expect. First off, never trust a builder to appreciate the level of clean that most of us our referring to when we say we don’t want to have a giant mess. Second, go ahead and prep your space yourself.                                                                                                                                                   1. Roll up any carpets and put them in a room, away from the construction zone. Not only will dust and dirt accumulate from the job, it also will accumulate just sitting there. When we moved out we knew it would be for at least three months. It turned out to be six months. That is an awfully long time not clean a house – even if no work were taking place.

2. Cover any furniture that can’t be moved out of the way

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Cover all furniture

3. Seal off all vents. This was a huge oversight on our part. Most of the dust and dirt came up from the basement through the vents. All duct work was removed prior to the lift so these vents were completely exposed to the area below them.

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Seal the vents with saran wrap

4. Pack away all smaller items and store them in a zone away from the construction. Anything that is too big or awkward to move, such as a mixer, cover it.

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Kitchen counters cleared except for largest items, such as this mixer

It’s much easier to pack things away, clean up the mess, then restore the items to their proper place. So much of the discussion during a house elevation was that you didn’t have to move anything. Nothing would be damaged from “movement” but a huge mess was left due to simple and inevitable construction dust.

WARNING:  to those fellow cleanliness aficionados’ out there, the following may be too graphic to see. Here’s is what my new found favorite vacuum pulled up from my floors and areas rugs this morning:

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Dust, dirt and nerf darts

That is after a vacuum has been over the same areas many times in the past few weeks. I’m not trying to sell any Hoover’s and I’m not being paid to write this endorsement, however, the dirt collection speaks for itself. This excessive amount was from the entire house, including the mud room which is notorious for collecting significant dirt.

Keeping dirt at bay during any renovation project, let alone a full house elevation, is not feasible. However, forewarned, the labor to bring a house back to it’s former level of acceptable dust and dirt (with three boys, I have to have some margin of acceptance or I’d do nothing else but relentlessly clean) can be minimized. I prefer neatness, but take what I can get as I am outnumbered in my house as to who cares and who does not.

Insurance Costs Remain High post House Elevation

OUR HOUSE IS “SPECIAL”: We live in a flood zone that has been deemed “special” by FEMA, and not in a good way. It’s rated in the highest category of flood insurance, beat out only by those who have ocean front views. The guilty party in our instance is not the Atlantic Ocean, but a gentle brook whose size is disarmingly small. Yet, it provides, under the right circumstances, significant flooding around the entire perimeter of our house. For all kinds of obvious reasons, we no longer wanted to have the brook entering our house like an uninvited guest who crashes the party and trashes your house.

RAISE THE ROOF: or the whole house, as we did. That’s right. Ripped it from its foundation, jacked it up about 5 feet, built some new access stairs and endured a few months of costly construction. All in the name of decreasing our flood risk and ever-climbing flood insurance rates.

Our updated information was sent to FEMA complete with our required new flood elevation certificate. We weren’t looking for a gold star for our foreheads, just a decrease in our flood insurance rates.

FEMA’S RESPONSE: No rate change – same as  BEFORE the lift. Why? Two words – Flood Vents.

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Interior view of flood vent

WHAT IS A FLOOD VENT? Simply put, a flood vent allows for a free flow of flood water in and out of a home’s foundation walls. They serve to equalize the pressure on both sides of the foundation walls, decreasing the chance of significant damage. (see earlier post on flood vents)

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FEMA accepted flood vents

Not only do you need to have them, you need to have the right number of them based on the square footage of your house. The correct number of vents were on our plans, but our builder missed two of them. FEMA is a stickler that all criteria be met. Our house is out of harm’s way, but because we have seven instead of the required nine flood vents, they offered no reduction. A true all or none philosophy.  They have no competition, you can only get flood insurance through FEMA so they get to make all the rules. Once installed, we’ll resubmit our data to FEMA and hope for a better outcome.

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Flood vents cut into the foundation near the ground

 

Kitchen Renovation – Post House Elevation

THE PROBLEM: As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.  Or, as I like to say,  you can’t undertake a massive house project (house elevation) without eating a few crap sandwiches. Today’s topic hails from the kitchen. The situation created stems from careless foundation work when our house was lowered (see older posts). An entire bank of cabinets, along with the granite counter top, shifted out-of-place, resulting in drawers that would roll open and an unsightly gap in the counter. Not an entirely big deal, until you appreciate that this kitchen had recently been fully gutted and renovated ALREADY!  Here’s what it looked like before:

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Gap in granite seam about the width of a pencil.

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Entire bank of cabinets shifted away from the wall

THE FIX: This project required a bit of re-tooling of the cabinets, or in  construction speak “shimming” to readjust them.  The backslash had to be  pried off  with a crowbar to achieve this and then the kitchen sink had to be reset.

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Shimming the kitchen cabinets

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Small pieces of wood added to the bottom of the cabinets, kick plate removed.

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Ripping off the backsplash

AFTER:

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Gaps are gone!

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FOR EVERY ACTION, THERE IS A REACTION: For the most part, this side of the kitchen was restored. We’ll still have to shore up the refrigerator, again. Plus, a new gap was created at the top of the backsplash. You can sort of see it in the picture above. Note how the beadboard and the backsplash do not meet. The gap is too big to use caulk . Eventually, we’ll put in new tile or replace this beadboard.

NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS: At the very beginning of this house elevation project, we had to remove a superfluous chimney that ran right through the kitchen. We decided to install new cabinets in its place to open up the kitchen a bit. The crew today did a fantastic job seaming in the new cabinets to blend in with the already existing ones.

BEFORE:

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Chimney tucked neatly behind the bead-board.

AFTER:

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Cabinets replace former chimney

We opted to go with a walnut cutting board instead of more granite. This kitchen already has plenty of it and it was much easier to seam in a piece of cutting board than another piece of granite. When I asked the lead installer about this kitchen in terms of how this project faired compared to others he has worked on he said,” This job was a nightmare.” Tell me about it!

Although you can’t tell from the photos above, this old house has walls that are no longer square, if they ever were.  A lot of tedious maneuvering went into lining up these cabinets. Many thanks to Pablo and his crew for working some magic.

Things (About my House) I Never Wanted to Know

FOUNDATION-TO-FLOOR BEAM CONNECTIONS:  … and other things I could have gone my whole life without knowing and never missed it. Here’s the scoop: A sill plate is a lining of pressure-treated wood that is secured to the top of a foundation wall before a house is either build up (most scenarios) or lowered back down onto it  in the case of a house elevation. It looks like this:

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Sill plate: the little piece of lumber atop the foundation wall.

PRECISION FRAMING: Ideally, your house would be level and square all the way around, providing a seamless transition between the house, the sill plate and the foundation.

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Good: Foundation – sill plate – house frame all secure without any gaps.

SHIMMING THE SILL PLATE: If the house is uneven (not ‘square’) there will be gaps between the house and the sill plate as shown below:

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Bad: All kinds of wrong

If the house is supported in some spots, but not in others, that’s not good. Enter the shim …

Shims are used to fill in any gaps. It’s a common practice and can be applied successfully. They should be made from a strong material such as metal or pressure-treated wood. Using whatever is handy at the time, like a scrap of wood or a crumbled up receipt from your pocket, is a big no-no. Anything marginally soft will be crushed by the house like a fat man sitting on a fragile chair and shifting will occur.

WHERE THINGS GO WRONG: In the picture above you can see where shims were installed in the back corner – see how the house is pushed up in that area and not sitting on the sill plate? My kitchen sits right above this area and the floors, cabinets, granite counters, etc. are all bulging out or pulling away from their frame. Ugh!

Could a proper calculation on the part of the masonry team have avoided this issue? Maybe. Was jamming random scraps of wood into any gap a bad idea? Definitely. The “fix” will require a slight re-jacking up of the house in this location to properly shim it.

Useful tips about your home that will come in handy the next time you elevate your house or lack witty banter at your next cocktail party.

Settling In or Just Plain Settling: House after Elevation Project

HAPPY NEW YEAR! As the calendar turns over to reveal the start of a new year, 2014, we are still in the midst of our house elevation for flood mitigation project that began many moons ago. What’s left? Final inspections, certificate of occupancy, landscaping, driveway resurfacing, exterior painting and a few other odds and ends.

MOVEMENT AFOOT: We moved back into our home just about a month ago and continue to see some settling with the house. But how do you decide between to-be-expected movement and compromised structural integrity? Hairline cracks in most of the walls – fine. Gap in seam of granite countertop – ok. Buckling of floor boards due to misplaced shims between the house and the foundation – yep, that too. We had mentally absorbed all of those issues. But the list continues to grow …

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Built-in refrigerator pulling away from the wall

It may be hard to tell from the photo above, but the built-in refrigerator is beginning to pull away from the wall. Fueling my discontent here is that I paid a refrigerator specialist to secure it back into place just last month. Also:

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Granite countertop pulling away from the wall – brand new injury

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Yesterday we saw new signs of movement with the granite beginning to pull away from the wall as well as the floor beginning to buckle in a new location.

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Floor boards pulling apart

In the photo above you can see how the floor boards are tight on the right side and pulling apart on the left – again, brand new development as of yesterday.

THEORIES: Two thoughts on what is perpetrating these new injuries to my kitchen. One: the house is simply settling into its new foundation and due to temperature changes and shifting weight from our boys running around the house, the house is in flux. Two: Due to misplaced shims and missing shims (thin pieces of wood added to the foundation wall for the house to sit flush), the house is moving  – and will continue to move – until the house is properly shimmed.

I’M NOT A CONTRACTOR, BUT … It seems to me the only new problems are in the exact location where the shimming has been called into question. With a call into our contractor and a promise to investigate the issue, hopefully we can stave off any more problems.