“It is time to make a decision for many Houston homeowners,” stated Martin Dawson of Dawson Foundation Repair, “because the city of Houston is making decisions for them.” Mr. Dawson is referring to the letter that the city has recently mailed to over 1600 Houston homeowners. That letter has notified them that their homes have been declared “substantially damaged” – meaning that the cost of repairing their homes would exceed more than 50% of the home’s pre-flood value of improvements – it does not including the land value. Approximately 60,000 Houston homeowners will be receiving this letter.
“A substantially damaged home will not be able to obtain the necessary building permits needed for repair work until the issue is resolved. Since almost all of these homes are sitting in a 100-year floodplain the only resolution is to raise the house a minimum of 12 inches above the base flood elevation (BFE). If the home rests in a ‘floodway’ then the minimum is 18 inches above the BFE,” explained Mr. Dawson, “and in reality there is a great difference in flood protection when raising a house 12 inches or 72 inches above the BFE. So we recommend lifting a house a minimum of 24 inches above the BFE or above the highest water level inside the house, whichever is greater.”
The cost of raising a house is significant. There are a number of factors involved but it starts with the square footage of the house, the number of stories, the type of siding, and the type of home foundation. The easiest and least costly houses to elevate are those that are already sitting above ground. These are houses that are built on pier and beam foundations. Big two or three story homes sitting on concrete slab foundations are the most complex and costly to elevate. Sometimes the contractor will cut the framing of the house from the concrete slab, leave the slab in place and raise the framing. In most house elevations Dawson Foundation Repair will install Bell Bottom Piers because they are permanent and have exceptional weight bearing capacity.
The cost of lifting smaller homes on pier and beam foundations generally ranges from $15 to $25 per square foot. Turnkey services for raising a large home can range from $60 to $90 per square foot.
The reality is that many of the 60,000 homes receiving the city’s letter will have to be bulldozed. Either the value of the home does not justify the cost of elevation or the owner simply does not have the money for the service. Many Houston homeowners without flood insurance will be incurring a 100% loss of their home. It is a difficult situation for anyone.