With so many Houston homes facing a higher risk of flooding than expected, flood control strategies have become more important than ever before. While most properties require different measures to keep floodwaters at bay, home elevation is the surest way to minimize damage to your home and keep your family safe when a flood affects your area. If your home was damaged during a flood, choosing the right elevation solution for your property is extremely important in order to make the most of your investment.
Home Elevation Solutions for Houston Homes
In some rare cases, Houston homes require a few minor drainage changes in order to prevent or minimize flood damage. While grading the landscape to achieve positive drainage and installing underground drainage pipes, French drains, and/or weeping tile systems could help homeowners drive water runoff away from their homes and prevent damage, these measures often prove insufficient during major flood events. Because elevation provides the best protection from flood damage, we’ll use this blog post to present the most appropriate home lifting solutions for Houston homes.
Lifting the Entire Home and Extending the Foundation
Unlike other home elevation methods, this technique can be used for any masonry or frame home. In most cases, this technique implies:
- using a hydraulic lifting system to raise the home* above the BFE recommendation and holding it up with the help of temporary supports until pile guard piers or driven concrete piers are installed underneath;
- extending the walls of the existing foundation or building a new foundation from brick masonry, concrete blocks, or poured concrete, which meets the current flood protection standards for the area**;
- lowering the home back down onto the new foundation or extended foundation walls;
- installing openings in the foundation walls to allow for automatic entry and exit of floodwaters.
*In a frame home, the frame and the walls are separated from the foundation before the home is lifted. The homes that sit on slab-on-grade foundations are lifted together with the slab.
**In areas where the soil conditions aren’t ideal for masonry or concrete slab foundations, pier and beam foundations are often recommended. Because this type of foundation is elevated on concrete pilings, concrete piers, or wood posts—so it doesn’t rest directly on a concrete slab—it allows floodwaters to flow freely beneath it.
Extending Your Home’s Walls Upward and Raise the Floor
Particularly recommended for concrete-block and brick masonry homes, which don’t include structural elements that are vulnerable to flood damage (e.g. wood studs), this method involves:
- removing the roof, windows, and doors along with their frames;
- extending the existing walls by adding concrete-block or brick masonry;
- constructing a new wood-frame floor or concrete-slab floor that meets the BFE requirements for the area;
- framing the new part of the wall, adding sheathing, and applying stucco or siding in order to bridge the existing part of the wall and the new part;
- reinstalling the roof, windows, and doors;
- removing bricks or concrete blocks from the walls of the lower area of the home so that floodwaters can flow freely in and out; this will help equalize the external and internal hydrostatic pressures on both sides of each wall.*
*When a new concrete-slab floor is built, a layer of dirt, gravel, sand, or crushed stone is placed under the slab. Because the entire under-floor space is filled with subgrade/subbase materials, openings in the walls of this space are no longer required.
Building a Second Story and Abandoning the Ground Level
This method is often used when a home must be raised more than 4 feet above the existing grade in order to meet the required BFE for the area. In general, it’s more practical to add an entire second story to a home than to extend the existing foundation or the home’s walls upward several feet. The area under your new living space can be used for parking, storage, or a different purpose. This home elevation technique involves the following steps:
- removing the entire roof from the home;
- building the second story, according to project specifications*;
- adding sheathing to the walls of the second story, installing the windows, and applying stucco or siding to the sheathing;
- installing flood vents in the walls of the abandoned ground level in order to allow floodwaters to enter and exit freely;
- reinstalling the roof or installing a new roof.
*A second story will add significant weight to the existing structural components of the home. As a result, a second story addition blueprint is typically required. The second story can be built of masonry, wood-, or metal-framing wall systems.
Typically, home elevation is a complex, relatively expensive undertaking regardless of the home lifting solutions selected. However, rebuilding a home damaged by flooding is often far more expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive. But the most important aspect is that lifting your home allows you to keep your family safe during future flood events. All things considered, elevating your Houston home before a flood strikes is one of the best decisions you can make in your life.