Posts tagged home building

Check this out: Tim Carter agrees there are numerous benefits to building a raised floor home

Raised Floor Systems

By Tim Carter
©1993-2009 Tim Carter

Summary: A raised floor system versus a slab on grade home may cost a little more but that is nothing compared to the benefits of building with raised access floors. Concrete slab homes do not have the curb appeal that a raised floor system does. You may find that you pay less for insurance if you live in a flood plain.

DEAR TIM: My husband and I are getting ready to build a new home and the builder is really pushing us to simply pour a concrete slab directly on the soil. I feel uneasy about this for any number of reasons. The builder says it will be cheaper and I am needlessly worrying. What would you do and why? Donna S. Orlando, FL

DEAR DONNA: I can understand why your builder is pushing for a slab on grade solution for your new home as your water table is so high in the sandy soil of Florida. But the builder may be blind to at least one other option that has been around for many years. In fact, I would be willing to bet that within one or two miles of your downtown area we could find several older homes that are 50 or more years old and are not built on slabs that lie directly on the soil.

See that horizontal green fascia board just above the foundation? Behind it is the first floor of my home. My raised floor allows me to have commanding views from my windows, allows abundant light to stream into my basement windows and keeps my wood floor system far away from moisture. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter The older homes we would discover would undoubtedly have a raised wood floor system. The original builder or the architect of these homes probably cleverly disguised the fact that the home is sitting up off the ground 20 or 30 inches.

I love concrete and think it is a fabulous building material, but I would never personally own a home that is built on a slab. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost I want to be able to have complete access to all plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems in my house. Houses built on slabs at the very least have the plumbing drainage system buried under the slab. In some instances, heating ducts and some electrical cables are also buried. In a house with a raised floor system, all mechanical systems are readily visible and almost always accessible.

Raised floor system homes besides their increased functionality simply look better than the same home built directly at grade level. The wall area of the raised foundation helps to give the home both stature and balance. Homes that can be built with raised foundations in areas where basements are possible allow basement windows to be placed above grade. Windows placed above grade permit the maximum amount of available light to readily stream into the lower basement space.

People who live in areas where expansive clay soils are especially troublesome can really benefit from raised wood floor systems. Pier and beam foundations can be used that bypass the pesky clay soils that often cause significant cracks in slab-on-grade homes. Slabs can be engineered to resist expansive clay soils, but if the workmen don’t build the slab exactly right, the best intentions of the engineer become worthless as soon as the soil expands or contracts.

Another often overlooked benefit of raised wood floor system construction is a savings for those who live in flood plain zones. You can often build in these designated areas, but if your first floor level is exactly at the elevation of predicted floods you pay a steep flood insurance premium. But for every foot you raise the floor level above the projected flood level, you pay significantly decreased flood insurance premiums. The savings over time can be dramatic. But in addition to those savings, imagine the peace of mind knowing your house stayed dry during a flood while a neighbor’s house built on a slab might have had 28 inches of murky polluted water invading his house for days.

As for the cost savings of building a raised floor system versus a slab-on-grade home, you are talking chump change in my opinion. If your builder does an accurate labor and material cost comparison, I’ll wager that the extra cost of a raised wood floor system for an average home will not exceed an extra $1,500.00. Yes, it is more money, but that extra cost buys you numerous advantages as well as increased curb appeal.

Some opponents of raised floor system construction say it is too difficult to go up and down steps to get into and out of the house. It is very easy to grade the exterior of the ground around some of these houses to create a gently sloping landscaped berm that serves as a pathway to the front porch so that all but one step is required to enter the home.

There are multiple foundation types to choose from when building a raised floor system. The pier and beam method works well in areas that have mature trees and vegetation. This system requires that the builder just dig several pits to install square or round footers that support the weight of poured concrete or concrete block columns.

A traditional continuous poured footer foundation with a continuous concrete block wall or poured concrete wall can sever many tree roots and weaken or kill nearby trees that add value, beauty and perhaps natural shading in sunny hot climates. It is always a good idea to consult with a certified arborist before you decide upon which foundation method your builder is going to employ.


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A couple rebuilds a green, raised floor home with southern charm. Check out this article from the Sun Herald.

Back in green
msBack in green
TAMMY SMITH/SUN HERALD The home of Julia Weaver and Robert Wiygul in Ocean Springs evokes small-town Southern life while incorporating energy saving elements. The family is keeping the landscaping as natural as possible.

When Robert Wiygul and Julia Weaver rebuilt after Katrina, they knew they wanted to rebuild as “green” as possible. They also wanted their new home to reflect the cherished styles of older Southern neighborhoods.

They got both.

Their two-story sunny yellow home sits on a small hill on Lovers Lane in Ocean Springs. The landscape is intentionally kept as simple as possible, with native plants and trees in profusion and natural topography retained. Water has a natural path for draining, and a charming little footbridge spans that area. Flowers dear to Southern gardeners’ hearts have their places to shine, too, and a small turtle habitat is near the house.

“We have clover out here because it helps put nitrate in the soil,” Weaver said. The clover is one of the several plants that serve as ground cover.

“I’m getting out of the lawn mowing business,” she joked. “More time to fish.”

Since they moved in just over a year ago, the family has thoroughly made the new house their home. Designed by Ocean Springs architect Dennis Cowart, the house seems to hide its practical side behind its charm.

“The biggest energy efficiency issue in a home is cooling,” Wiygul said. “So we wanted deep porches to help with passive cooling.”

The front porch is indeed deep, with plenty of room for furniture and gathering. To the right is the screened porch, with access from the front porch as well as the kitchen/dining area. Seating and dining areas there welcome crosscurrent breezes while keeping pests buzzing outside.

“It’s also shady here, so we can have lots of windows,” he added.

The house’s exterior walls are 11-inch wide insulated concrete form with fiber cement siding over that.

“It’s extraordinarily quiet, a great sound buffer,” Wiygul said. ICF is also used for energy efficiency.

The metal roof system is designed to withstand strong storms, and walls are wind-resistant. The attic also holds clues to the house’s economic appeal. A foot of foam insulation is sprayed into the interior of the roof. There’s also a surprise.

“The attic is not ventilated at all,” Wiygul said. “It’s completely sealed, and that’s much more efficient. It also reduces the risk of moisture.”

The family is looking into a solar water heater in the future.

“Julia did the floor plan,” Wigyul said, grinning as he looked at his wife. “There’s not a space in the house that’s not used every day, so there’s no wasted heating or cooling space.”

But that attention to practicality doesn’t deter from attractiveness. The wide hallway echoes to another period, as does the large window and window seat with storage on the staircase landing. A gas fireplace in the living room releases fewer pollutants than a woodburning one. Bamboo floors give the feel of hardwood.

“These are commercial grade,” Wiygul said. “They’re really no more expensive than hardwood, and they’re made to take heavy use.”

Weaver pointed out pocket doors.

“Dennis added these,” she said. pulling one of the doors out of the wall between the living room and the dining/keeping room. “We had 17 people here for Thanksgiving. We just added the leaves to the table and opened the pocket doors, and everybody fit. In older homes, you would see pocket doors all the time. You can open up room when you need it and close it off when you need to.”

Daughters Amelia and Caroline add nature to their rooms through accessories, and the master bedroom is tranquil in soft blue and white with linen accents.

“We originally had a two-story ’70s house,” Weaver said. “We moved in in November 2004, and then Katrina happened in 2005. This house, we just love the way it feels.

“It’s like a Sears home from decades ago. It feels good.”

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See how easy adding a porch or deck to your raised flood home can be with this article from

Build the Deck That Wont Hurt Your Wallet

When the nice weather hits, you may wish you had a nice deck to relax on; follow these guidelines to build the deck you want without spending too much money.

Build a Deck That Doesn’t Apply To Building Codes
With saving money as the primary motivation for this project, there are some regulations to consider. Building codes vary in each region of the country, so make sure to consult your city code guide before beginning your project. Using Portland, Oregon as an example, here’s how you cut the costs.

Avoid buying a permit by building your deck no more than 30″ above the adjacent grade at its highest point. Also make sure no portion of the deck is closer than 3′ from the property line.

With the deck 30″ or less above grade you do not need to dig concrete footings 18″ or more into the ground.

With the deck 30″ or less above grade, you do not need to install guardrails.

Build your deck as a walkout, from a back door for example. This will allow you to attach your deck to the house, saving material.

If you are going to install stairs, make sure there are no more than three risers (steps) a maximum of 8″ each in height. This will prevent you from having to install handrails and stay within common code guidelines. 24″ should be your maximum height above grade.

If possible, avoid using posts and frame with a “beam under” design (explained below).
As an example, assume a modest deck size of 12′ x 8′. That is 96 square feet of summertime enjoyment! All framing material must be pressure treated. Since we’re saving money, the decking and stair material will be pressure treated as well (as opposed to using costly cedar or mahogany).

Materials for Building The Deck
The following list includes materials required for building a deck (without stairs).

4 pressure treated 2x8x12′
8 pt 2x8x8′
18 pt 2x6x12′
galvanized 16p nails
2 1/4″ exterior wood screws
concrete or wood anchors
12 galvanized 2×8 joist hangers
3 pier blocks with pre-installed galvanized hangers
circular saw
tape measure
measuring square
6′ level
How to Build The Deck
Using your back door as a reference guide, measure down 9 3/4″. This is the maximum step down allowed by code. If your grade is high enough, bring that measurement up to no more than 2″ below the door. This will prevent any step down from the entry point.

Install a 2x8x12′ ledger board against the house. Level across your measurement at the door and mark that as the TOP of your ledger board. If you are anchoring into concrete, pre-drill holes every 2′ staggered at the top and bottom of the ledger. If you are anchoring into siding, make sure to drill through your ledger into wall studs. In either application 8″ bolts are to be used.

Space the remaining Pier Blocks equally, 6′ away from the house, before you set them and install the outside support beam. To ensure the support beam is parallel to the edge of the house (creating a frame that is a perfect rectangle of 90 degree angles):
Measure 6′ away from the house from both end sides of the ledger boards.

Starting at the ledger-point of each 6′ measurement, measure 8′ down the ledger.

Measure the distance between unattached ends of the 6′ measurement and the 8′ measurement; this measurement measures the length of the hypotenuse, or longest edge, of the triangle). If the shorter edges of this triangle are 8′ and 6′, the hypotenuse should be 10′. If it’s not, the pier blocks will not be properly placed
Set your Pier Blocks

Level across from the BOTTOM of your ledger to your Pier Block. You want the level to be 7 1/2″ ABOVE your Pier Block. This is the “Beam Under” design. It allows your joists to hang from the Ledger Board and sit on top of the Beam. Press Pier Blocks firmly into the ground once at the correct height.

Fasten 2 2x8x12′ together and place onto your Pier Blocks. Check for square (6,8,10) and shift the beam as necessary.

Lay out your ledger and beam for framing. Measure across the ledger and beam every 16″ and install one 2x8x8′ joist at each mark. Toe nail joists into the ledger, flush with the top. Sit the far end of your joist ON TOP of your beam.

Install 1 2x8x12′ outside ledger flush with top of the joists that extend past the beam.

Install joist hangers to each joist along the inside ledger.

Install decking. Starting at the far end of the deck, hang the first 2x6x12′ decking board 3/4″ past the outside ledger. Install using 2 1/4″ wood screws.

Space the remaining decking no more than 1/8″ apart and complete decking installation.
Place patio furniture and barbecue grill on deck. Enjoy!

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Raised Floor Systems: One Answer To Hurricane Flooding

Check out this article on about raised floor living systems and how it can benefit you!

Raised Floor Systems: One Answer To Hurricane Flooding

By Dan McLeister

They practically define housing in older neighborhoods in the Atlantic Coast Low Country and along the Gulf Coast before World War II. Ranging from fishing shacks to antebellum mansions, they all share one distinctive feature: They are raised several feet above ground using an early version of what is now called a raised floor system—a wood-framed platform that raises a home above ground level on brick or concrete pilings.

Consisting of engineered-wood beams, girders, joists and sheathing panels, raised floor systems elevate the living areas of a home anywhere from 18 inches to as high as 14 feet above ground level—above the reach of hurricane-caused flood waters. In addition, a raised floor system can help fight mold and termite problems by separating the home from the ground. And some builders and designers feel that raising a home, even a small single-story plan, makes the home look more stately.

Homes built in the last 60 years rarely have this feature, though; in the postwar building boom, builders started putting houses on slabs because that technique was cheaper. However, after the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, “cheap” has become a dirty word in construction, and everyone related to the building industry—architects, builders, insurance experts, codes officials and manufacturers—are taking a much larger view of the true cost of a house. If raised floor systems cost a little more now but save money in the long run, they are worth a second look.

Pushing to go up
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and the 2004 Florida hurricanes have put the idea of increased construction quality on the front burner again, says Dennis Hardman, president of APA-The Engineered Wood Association.

“It used to be that consumers were primarily interested in aesthetic values, room size and lifestyle amenities. But there’s growing interest now in what’s behind the walls and above the ceilings.” And that, he says, presents opportunities for wood systems—in particular, raised wood floors rather than slab-on-grade construction in areas subject to inland flooding during hurricane season.

Raised construction, Hardman says, received considerable media attention in the Gulf Coast region and is likely to become an important component of rebuilding mandates in some areas.

One of the reasons for increased awareness is the effort by Richard A. Kleiner of the Southern Forest Products Association. Kleiner has regaled numerous builder and code official groups along the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina with a presentation he calls Building High and Dry. “It just doesn’t make sense to build houses on a slab in a semi-tropical environment like that along the Gulf Coast. People in this area need to face reality.”

But, Kleiner estimates, in recent years 65 percent of new houses along the Gulf Coast have been built on slabs, most often atop dirt fill or on a backfilled perimeter wall. The raised floor system, he says, is the most practical alternative.

Even though a raised floor system can cost 5 to 7 percent more than a slab, Kleiner maintains that it is a viable and cost-effective option when builders and homeowners find out that raising the floor two feet or more can cut flood insurance premiums by as much as 50 percent.

Information about insurance, construction and case studies of raised floor systems is available on a website sponsored by the Southern Pine Council at The site also includes updated flood zone information to simplify compliance with the International Residential Code requirement that flood-resistant construction shall include buildings that have the lowest floor elevated to or above the design flood elevation. The site experienced a 30 percent increase in “hits” in the months after Hurricane Katrina—an indication of the resurgence in interest in an updated, old-fashioned way of dealing with Mother Nature.

Coming off the drawing boards
As the cleanup from Hurricane Katrina continues and rebuilding begins along the Gulf Coast, architects such as Kevin Harris of Baton Rouge, La., are planning for client houses in which the main living area is 12 to 14 feet off the ground and reached by a series of stairs. The main living areas in these designs open onto decks with views of the nearby ocean. One house designed by Harris will be built for less than $200,000 and include 1,400 to 1,500 square feet on two floors above a ground level containing space for utilities, storage and parking for vehicles. Another house will include 3,500 to 3,800 square feet on three levels and be priced at about $650,000.

People have been coming to him for advice, Harris says, because they want to build houses that will be safer during future hurricanes. He tells them that, in addition to being safer, houses with raised floors provide a better design.

Builder and remodeler Bobby DeViller of Baton Rouge has a similar philosophy. “I have a little saying that has always served me well with clients: ‘Good home building should be a marriage between practicality and aesthetics.’ The raised floor works in both respects with homes of all sizes.”

Apparently the home builders of past decades agreed. Before World War II, about four out of five houses in Baton Rouge (80 miles farther inland than New Orleans) had raised floors. Now the figure for new houses is about 10 percent, says Harris. “I hope to see the figure back to 50 percent at the end of 10 years.”,,HPRO_26524_4729266,00.html

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Something to talk about…

In these economic times building a home is the last thing on everyone’s minds, but we’re here to say it shouldn’t be.  We have so much to say we created a blog just to do so.

Raised Floor Living is an educational campaign created by a non-profit  construction organization that teaches homeowners and building professionals about the raised floor system.

What is the raised floor system you ask? Well it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Anyone that has driven through a historic neighborhood or town has seen this foundation system, and if it’s still not ringing a bell we’ve added a picture to help.

New construction of a raised floor home in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans

The foundation system raises the home off of the ground (as high as the homeowner would like or what building code in that area requires) with concrete blocks and then uses wood sills and joists to create a subfloor. After that up go the walls, roof and the rest is home building history.

We started this campaign because we watched homeowners pick up the pieces year-after-year due to hurricane wind and flood damage and finally had enough of their grief. We knew we had a solution to their problems and wanted to let them know about how to build a home above the flood, that stands strong in high winds and that would eventually save them money and the Earth while they’re at it.

Yes, that’s right. A home that saves them money. Something that is on everyone’s minds these days. Curious to know how?

Then stay tuned to our blog…

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