Contractor outlines steps in lifting a house

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This Flanders home was recently elevated. One East End home moving company said it’s receiving about 100 inquiries a day about raising or moving homes as a result of hurricane Sandy.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy sent storm tides of more than six feet surging across the Peconic Bay shoreline and the South Shore, Guy Davis’ construction company has been busy.

People want their homes lifted out of what are now being designated federal flood plains. Not only that, they want them lifted fast.

“These are folks that were devastated,” Mr. Davis said. “They had three, four, five feet of water in their houses.”

Before the storm, Davis Construction House & Building Movers — based in Westhampton Beach — would get about 10 to 15 calls a day from people wanting their houses raised or moved to other parts of a property or needing their foundations strengthened, Mr. Davis said.

But since the storm hit, the company has been getting about 100 calls a day.

The company’s workload has swelled to as many as 40 projects at a time. In the next few weeks, Mr. Davis’ construction company will begin work on two bayfront properties on Scallop Lane in Jamesport.

“They got flooded out pretty good over there,” he said.

Lifting a home takes roughly six to eight weeks, once the necessary building permits have been obtained.

The first step is a site visit, during which Mr. Davis and his employees survey the property and figure out the best way to redesign the house. The homeowner also consults with an architect, who drafts plans for what the house will look like post-elevation, Mr. Davis said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Jamesport beach house at left is slated to be elevated in the next few weeks.

Some customers choose to raise the foundation, while others choose to have their houses rest on wooden pilings driven into the existing foundation.

Next, workers disconnect all electric, plumbing and gas lines. Then, steel beams 10 to 12 inches thick are slid beneath the house in grid pattern, placed strategically under load-bearing points to prevent the structure from cracking, Mr. Davis said.

Specialized hydraulic jacks then begin to lift the house at a rate of about one foot per hour, all the while maintaining the same speed — which is critical to preventing damage.

“It can go eight or nine feet [up] in a day’s time,” Mr. Davis said. Most homeowners are choosing to raise their homes above the flood plain level recently redesignated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Now it’s critical to meet FEMA elevations to get out of the flood zone and get the best discounts on your [federal flood] insurance,” he said.

Houses are always lifted higher than final elevations to allow workers access underneath.

The foundation on an elevated house is then raised to the structure’s new height, with pockets left open in the foundation. The steel beams used to lift the house then fit into the empty spaces when the house is lowered. After the house is set on its new foundation, the beams are slid out from under it and the empty spaces in the foundation are patched up.

The process for using wood pilings as supports is a bit different. Instead of lifting up the house and then building up the foundation beneath it, workers use a “railroad track” of steel rollers to roll the house off its footprint, Mr. Davis said.

The wooden pilings are then driven into the ground and the house is rolled back to its original location, lifted and placed atop the new supports.

No house is too big to lift, Mr. Davis said. The company is currently elevating a 18,000-square-foot mansion on Middle Lane in Southampton.

“Size doesn’t matter; we can raise and move any type of house,” he said.

The process may take a while, but raising a house can offer peace of mind to those who have suffered from flood damage.

“They want their house high and dry so they never have to go through that again,” Mr. Davis said.

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