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House Lift: Elevating Foundations as a Response to Flooding

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Resilient Construction

House Lift: Elevating Foundations as a Response to Flooding

One response to chronic flooding is to mandate that building foundations be elevated. Homeowners and builders weigh the costs 


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor January 8, 2020
Neighborhood homes flooded during a natural disaster
Millions of Americans live along coastlines, river ways, and lakes that can be subject to flooding. Elevating homes above flood plains is a growing trend in many counties to keep homes safe. | Photo: jsnewtonian / stock.adobe.com

Several U.S. markets have responded to chronic flooding by mandating that buildings be elevated—sometimes significantly—above flood plains. That solution isn’t cheap, but it’s less expensive than rebuilding a flooded house.

AJS Building, Moving & Leveling, in Spring Hill, Fla., does two to five house lifts per year, according to co-owner Mike Knapp. Each takes about five to eight months, on average, to execute. Knapp is reluctant to discuss costs because, he says, each house is different. But where it may cost between $250 and $300 per square foot to rebuild a badly damaged house, “I can get people back into their homes for between $85 and $150 per square foot, and a lot quicker,” he points out. 

 

House lift in progress: raising the home's foundation in a flood-prone area
AJS Building, Moving & Leveling, in Spring Hill, Fla., does two to five house lifts per year, each taking about five to eight months to execute. These photos show a house lift in progress and completed. | Photos: courtesy AJS Building, Moving & Leveling

 

raising the home's foundation in a flood-prone area

 

 

raising the foundation, project completed

 

Florida Design Firm Recommends Lifting Homes to Avoid Flood Damage

ArcDesign, a design firm in Clearwater, Fla., has provided drawings for AJS for a decade. Arc recently sent out postcards to 10,000 Florida homeowners recommending that they raise their homes preemptively. The firm’s president and CEO, Randy Young, explains that many homes in Florida are older and therefore aren’t compliant with newer building codes. If a major storm caused flood damage to a home and the repairs exceeded 50% of the home’s value, that house would need to be torn down and rebuilt to receive FEMA money. “It’s just better to elevate those houses now and save time and expense,” Young says. 

Scott Frankel, co-president and principal of Frankel Building Group, in Houston, says raising a 1,500-square-foot home on slab with a veranda in his market costs between $35,000 and $40,000. But if the redesign calls for only the crawlspace to be raised, using interior piers, the cost drops to between $10,000 and $15,000. “It depends on the part of town and the way the water flows,” he says.

 

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