2013-10-11 / Top Stories

Up In The Air: House Raising In BC

By Dan Guarino

The new view from the front window. Photo courtesy Valmanno Construction Corp. The new view from the front window. Photo courtesy Valmanno Construction Corp. One block west of the A train subway station in Broad Channel, the house at 120 Noel Road is striking. And high.

Located between Cross Bay Boulevard and Walton Road, it is modest, well-kept and currently raised up 11 feet, about one story, above all the other structures on the block.

It is one of the first in the Broad Channel/ Rockaway area to be elevated to meet new post-Sandy FEMA and flood insurance requirements and illustrates one possible solution to the problems of dealing with potential future hurricanes.

According to experts, safely raising a home or other structure requires a wellplanned out, multi-part process.

Contractor Richie Valens told The Wave that American General Contracting of Ronkonkoma, New York, is overseeing and coordinating the Noel Road project. Valens and partner Dominick Crescimanno, owners of Valmanno Construction Corporation, are handling the actual house raising. The first step, Valens states, involves determining how high above street grade, the calculated base elevation of the property, the house needs to be. Then, he explained, “soil samples dictate how high and how deep we need to go,” in terms of raising the house and also sinking supports to give the structure a firm foundation.

For this project, its sampling showed piles would need to go down 26 feet to fully rest on bedrock, or in this case, solid, immovable soil.

“We’ve got to get down to where the house won’t settle anymore,” Valens noted.”

Before the house is lifted, a structural examination is done to determine what kinds of internal and floor support may be needed.

According to Valens, flooded houses usually have floor problems. “Once you lift up the floor, you see these beams were under salt water, oil was under there. There’s also the problem of mold growing.”

Floors are replaced and supported, then the house is fully braced inside and out.

Once all electrical and plumbing systems are disconnected, boilers detached and other structures like chimneys removed, the actual ‘heavy lifting’ can begin using a total of 16 hydraulic jacks.

“When we lift the house,” says Valens, “we lift it with everything in it. Your clothes, your dishes, your furniture, all stay in place.”

First it is raised up two feet. Solid beams are slid under the house, and then it is raised to a full 11 feet.

Then a new, higher foundation is built.

When the full job is completed, the first floor of the house will sit at 9 feet above the side walk. All electric and plumbing will be reconnected to conform to the new height.

The new, street level, referred to as the “third floor,” would allow for under the house parking.

In the event of a storm it would also act as expendable space which would allow flood waters to pass right under without touching the main house.

As Valens explains it, “If there is another storm, the idea is that you are now above what the highest surge level would be. You would be able to ride it out in your own home.”

With boilers, hot water heaters and all other systems now placed well above the parking level, the house becomes its own self-contained, self-sufficient unit.

Asked about how residents would get up and into the new, higher front door, he stated that a new staircase would be built on the side of the house.

Other elevated homes, he added, might opt for outside stairs built that go directly in from underneath the house.

All this, of course, comes with a cost.

According the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website, “If your property is insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you may qualify for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage.”

“Policyholders in high-risk areas can receive up to $30,000 to help pay the costs of bringing their home into compliance with their community’s floodplain ordinance.”

Critics note that $30,000 is only a fraction what it often costs to fully elevate a house.

Reviews seem mixed so far. One longtime resident said “We should have more of them. All of Broad Channel should be raised up.”

Another said, “It’s absurd. There are other ways to mitigate. Good luck going up and down all those stairs every day.”

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