How to Pick Up Your House

As I mentioned last week, my newest client, Clayton, is lifting his house off its foundation to get above Base Flood Elevation, or BFE. The lift is underway! Clayton hired Messier House Moving & Construction to jack up the house to its new height 7 feet 2 inches above the old level (and 1 foot 1 inch above BFE). I got to watch Messier work today and I am nothing short of impressed.

Clayton prepared the house by cutting notches out of his foundation wall on all sides. Messier slid steel beams through the notches – not an easy task, as the beams weigh 1500 to 6000 pounds apiece – so that beams running transversely (the short way) support beams running longitudinally (the long way), which in turn support the house’s existing floor joists. Next, the crew set up a hydraulic jack at each end of each steel beam. They connected all the jacks back to a central control, which ensures the jacks move at equal speeds and lift the entire building uniformly.

Notches in the foundation wall - see how the steel beams fit before lifting the house.

Notches in the foundation wall – see how the steel beams fit before lifting the house.

After putting a slight upward pressure on the beams, Messier cut the anchor bolts around the perimeter, disconnecting the house from its foundation. Now, think of all the careful finish work inside your home and imagine what might happen to it when you pick up the house. Broken tiles? Cracking walls? Crooked cabinets? Artwork crashing to the floor?

None of that. Clayton reported one caulk line that popped in the bathroom; otherwise the interior was undisturbed. These guys are good.

Cribbing towers support the ends of the steel beams.

Cribbing towers support the ends of the steel beams.

Messier lifted the house 14 inches at a time, with each interval taking about 90 seconds. Between intervals, the crew built up neat stacks of lumber called cribbing around each jack, then reset and moved each jack to sit atop the cribbing. They eventually lifted the house nearly 9 feet above its original position. That’s higher than the 7 feet 2 inches Clayton wants, and next month Messier will lower the house back to this height, but right now they need the extra clearance to drive a Bobcat into the basement. Next step: fill and compaction!

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