By Anessa V. Cohen
Many of us have noted a new type of construction going on around the Five Towns. As the winter has waned, we have begun to notice more construction workers and their trucks dotted on many a street.
These trucks spell out the specific type of work that their construction companies do, specialized construction work as opposed to general construction—a bit like going to a medical specialist instead of a general practitioner.
“House Elevation Specialists” or similar labels can be seen on these vans and trucks parked all over town, bringing a new construction concept to our community—one that we never envisioned or considered in the past, before facing Superstorm Sandy.
House elevation, simply put, is a process of raising an existing dwelling a certain number of feet—as little as 3 feet or as much as 20 or 30 feet, depending on the location and how high previous flood waters reached—by installing concrete piers, a deep kind of column footing, and connecting concrete walls around an existing house that has been raised. The house sits atop this newly built foundation-like concrete box, which hypothetically will protect the raised structure from being flooded in the future.
In addition, this new concrete elevated foundation contains a form of square vent installed at the base, which is made in the form of a flapper. The idea is that in the event of a new flood, the water will go in and harmlessly fill up this concrete foundation without harming the existing house structure now sitting on top of it, and then the flappers will stay open, allowing the water to flow out as the flood waters recede, so there is no negative pressure on the house and no more flood water in its foundation.
Although I understand and applaud the concept of this mitigation for homes that have had significant flooding, it does take some getting used to when passing a house that has been raised from a ranch with no steps to a two- or three-level-high structure with the ranch now perched atop the new platform. This new elevation also creates a situation where a house that you could previously enter by going up only a few stairs, or even no stairs, now requires two flights of stairs or even more.
This is not to say that most of the homes in our community that have chosen this form of mitigation are raising their houses to these high levels. For the most part they are not, but in other areas—especially those near the beach, like in Long Beach—the houses are being elevated very high, as long-term preventive measures are taken with much caution.
Here in our community we are seeing raises more in the 3-to-5-foot range, with the concrete boxes holding the raised structure looking like a white elephant with a house on its back. This will really take some getting used to by the rest of us, even if it seems that these homeowners are doing what has been recommended to them by the people assisting them with the new FEMA flood-protection guidelines.
There is a 230-page FEMA booklet called Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your Home from Flooding that can be downloaded and reviewed by anyone wanting further information about the various options and who should use (or not use) them. You can find it at http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1441-20490-4268/fema_p312_a.pdf.
Whether or not house elevation is something you think you need, this booklet is very interesting and explains in depth, with illustrations, the entire concept and different methods of figuring out whether house elevation is an option that should be considered. v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.