Tiny Tuesday: House Moving in Volcano Country

Residents of Hawaii’s Big Island face a unique threat to their homes: lava. Kīlauea, a volcano on the east side of the island, has been particularly active lately, with a lava flow in 2014 that threatened the town of Puna and surrounding communities. One woman used a novel strategy to avoid losing her house: she moved it.

Tamara Norrbom relocated two of her three Puna houses when the 2014 lava flow neared. This Hawaii Tribune-Herald article describes the project. Fortunately, lava moves slowly – this flow spread about a mile per week – giving Norrbom plenty of time to plan the relocation. She worked with Makakoa Contracting, who split each modular-looking house into two pieces and hoisted each piece onto a trailer. Makakoa has experience transporting buildings away from molten danger, having moved the landmark Painted Church in nearby Kalapana 20 years earlier.


One of Norrbom’s houses during the move.

As far as I can tell, Norrbom is the only Big Island resident who has gone to such lengths to preserve a house. In this video she says it was too risky to leave the houses where they were, but at $20,000 apiece to move them (not including the cost of the land she moved them to) this solution is not available to most people. It’s also not clear how Norrbom and Makakoa Contracting handled the trickier parts of house moving – foundations, utility connections, permitting – and whether the moves were temporary or permanent.

I can’t help thinking a tiny house on wheels would be a great choice near Puna. If you’re serious about living in volcano country, you can give yourself peace of mind with a home that’s relatively easy to relocate.


Tamara Norrbom and family stand outside one of her Puna houses that she moved.

Thanks to Leslie and Dave Silverstein.

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