Raising the roof — and everything else
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Wood-framed homes with a crawl space or basement, which are more common in our area, are easiest to lift, but FEMA requires abandoning basements or crawl spaces by filling them in. Fortunately, building codes are being changed to accept attics and taller homes as an alternative. Raised homes will have parking and patios underneath, one or two stories of living space and an attic above that. The minimum height of the living space is mandated by FEMA, depending on the specific flood zone, and New York state requires an additional 2 feet of elevation above the FEMA minimum. Check with the local building department, since there are 71 municipalities in Nassau County alone, each with its own rules.
FEMA funds the raising of houses that sustain major structural damage or whose damage repair cost is estimated to be more than 50 percent of their value. To be eligible for FEMA funding, you must submit three estimates for repairs from licensed contractors to the Nassau County Tax Assessor’s Office, at 240 Old County Road, and fill out eligibility forms. Only the home values used by the assessor’s office are recognized by FEMA.
I rarely see close bids for house lifting. One couple presented me with three bids that varied by over $100,000. The raising itself should cost around $40,000 for an average home, plus another $40,000 or so for handling utilities, building the foundation to the new height, and site repairs.
The lifting itself is done by inserting large steel beams under the floor structure and then placing a series of hydraulic pumping jacks underneath them, all of which work in unison to slowly raise the home. If it is done right, not even a dish will shift in a kitchen cabinet.
Expect the process of planning, obtaining a permit (and potentially a zoning variance), and construction itself to take a year — after which flooding will no longer have the same impact on your life.
Monte Leeper, president of Monte Scott Leeper, Architect, P.C., in Oceanside, writes the Herald’s Ask the Architect column.