With recently water-wrecked properties all over the Northeast, homeowners are beginning to face certain realities of living along the New Jersey coast. Although no government agency or private party can command you to elevate (or raise) your house, many locals have chosen to bite the bullet. Though thoughts of construction and financial burden can make the entire process seem daunting, we’re here to broach the subject head on…the good, the ugly, and the uglier.
What Does it Mean to Raise a House?
According to FEMA (and really, who knows more about disaster-proofing your property?), raising a house refers to elevating it to “a required or desired Flood Protection Elevation (FPE).” This process can happen a couple of ways. First, you can have the structure lifted while extending the existing foundation or building it anew. The second option leaves the house in place but constructs a new upper story or elevates an existing floor.
Logistically, it goes as one might imagine—with the house separated from its foundation (via hydraulic jacks) and held on temporary scaffolds while construction begins down below. This particular technique works well if your home was erected on a basement, crawlspace or open foundation, as it allows the existing foundation to continue seamlessly with separate piers, columns, or walls. If you live in a masonry house, on the other hand, the process might require variation but can still be lifted successfully.
If you want to avoid messing with the foundation, you might consider Option 2, whereby the roof gets removed and the walls extended upward. You can then designate lower floors as garage/storage space, or carry on as usual with a multi-floored dwelling.
To learn about the particulars of your elevation and related raising requirements, click here to read the Flood Damage Prevention Code of Long Beach Township.
The Cost of House Raising
Since elevating a home involves many moving parts, it’s difficult to estimate cost with any certainty. According to Fixr.com, however, the average homeowner spends about $35,000 on the project. Variables that affect cost are as follows:
- House Size – The taller the house, the trickier it is to keep it stabilized while the foundation is extended/newly built. More complicated projects involve more contractors, equipment, and monetary investment.
- Elevation – The more feet your home needs raising, the more it will cost you.
- Foundation Type – A full basement below comes with a higher price tag than a slab foundation, and constructing a new foundation is generally more complicated (and costly) than revising what's already in place. In short, you'll need a straightforward quote from a reputable contractor to fully realize the scope and cost of raising your home.
The Pros and Cons of House Raising
Any way you look at it, raising a house is a huge time and money investment, not to mention an exercise in trust, patience, and good old-fashioned levelheadedness. When undertaken with care and thoughtfulness, the project can bring many benefits. On the flip side, throwing yourself into any home improvement endeavor without all the facts can devastate you both financially and emotionally. With that in mind, here’s a brief look at both sides.
Pros of House Raising
- If you live in a flood zone or have experienced flooding damage, raising your house could prevent further disaster.
- If you want to escape your current home’s location but can’t part with the house itself, having it removed from the foundation and relocated to a more desirable lot can create peace of mind.
- Raising a house can give you more space (with a new upper or lower floor).
Cons of House Raising
- Tampering with the basic structure of a home can weaken it. There’s inherent risk in this type of project.
- Even when done carefully (removing all interior belongings before elevating the structure), raising a house can make walls, cabinets, and other fixtures shift, crack, or become otherwise impaired.
The Bottom Line
Depending on your situation, raising your house could add an invaluable layer of protection to your life and property. If you’re curious about the best route to take, you can always call a reputable professional for an evaluation and estimate. Whatever you decide, though, go forth with caution. Raising a home is a complex procedure that should only be performed by the most experienced, skilled professionals. So, like all modern enterprises…it helps to do your homework first.