House Raising: What to Expect
Need to Add More Space to Your Existing Home? Lifting it up Might be the Answer!
Is your growing family running out of room but you love your neighbourhood and don’t want to move? Are you having difficulties with the wet climate in Victoria and need to prevent flooding? Do you have a damaged foundation and need to repair it? A long rainy season can easily damage a foundation. Maybe you’re struggling with recurring leaks and floods. Have you tried to sell your home and it fails the inspection? There are low lying areas in Victoria that experience floods year after year, and this wears away at the foundation which may need protection. You may not need to relocate, however, because house lifts are a viable option.
If you’ve been wanting to add more square footage to your home by way of an addition but can’t build laterally due to a lack of lot space, it might be possible to raise your house and build beneath it. Many of the lot sizes in Victoria are too small for additions, so a lot of homeowners feel stuck in their small space and are unable to afford a larger property. In a city like Victoria it’s becoming increasingly popular to expand upwards due to the inability of expanding living space outwards. Another reason for house lifts is people love their yards and don’t want to sacrifice their outdoor play space used for family activities.
This process, which starts with lifting, raising, or jacking up your house, is happening more often in larger cities, including Victoria BC, where metropolitan lots are usually smaller and houses are already butting up against their neighbours.
Maybe you’d like to invest in the real estate market but can’t afford to buy another property. In that case it makes sense to invest in your own property and increase its value. Adding a basement or second level may be a very economical solution for you.
When land is selling at a premium and growing families are wanting more space or an income property, but don’t have the desire or the financing to move to a different property, the alternative in these cases is to add more square footage to existing properties by way of raising their home and building underneath it. And that is exactly what LIDA Homes is helping more homeowners do in the region.
Wondering if this option is right for you? Here’s a quick overview of house raising and what you can expect.
What is House Raising?
House raising refers to completely removing your house from its existing foundation in order to repair or replace the foundation. It’s often done in combination with excavating the ground below to gain extra square footage by way of an additional dugout crawlspace or basement.
Reasons you might want to lift your house
There are several reasons why you might be looking at lifting your house, including:
- adding a basement/more living space
- increasing the ceiling height of your existing basement/ground level
- adding a secondary suite for rental income or in-laws
- adding or expanding a crawlspace
- repairing or replacing its foundation
- moving the entire house to another lot
- getting out of a flood zone
Pros of lifting a house to build underneath it
- You get to stay in your desired location
- You can add to your square footage without requiring more land
- You can earn rental income without having to move
- You avoid having to do any work on your roof
- You don’t lose any square footage from your yard
Cons of lifting a house to build underneath it:
- It’s a big undertaking involving multiple trades and building permits – this is not a DIY project
- Requires careful preparation and attention to detail
- The structural integrity of the home may need reinforcing (framing) afterwards
- Things like cabinets can shift during the raise, requiring care and attention
- If your foundation is in good repair and you’re raising the home purely as a real estate investment, your foundation might need updating to today’s standards, adding to the final project cost.
- The associated cost can be a deterrent for some homeowners
How Much Does Lifting a House Cost?
It’s tough to put a price tag on the cost of raising a home, as it all depends on what your goals are, and the size and condition of your existing home. Raising or lifting or jacking up a house costs anywhere from $20,000 for a partial foundation repair, to $80,000 for a crawl space addition, to $200,000+ for a fully finished basement suite with 8-foot ceilings.
The price is separated out for each stage of the process. For example, there is the cost for just lifting the house, then the price for repairing or adding a foundation, then the price for adding the suite, etc. The cost of the building permit to raise a house is also a lot steeper than an average building permit.
The House Lifting Process
The process to lift a house begins with hiring a general contractor or custom home builder who can go through your overall vision with you. They are also the ones who can speak with your local municipality on your behalf to confirm that the vision for your lifted home won’t exceed local building height limits once it is lifted. Having a general contractor in place to execute the house lifting process will help ensure everything goes smoothly.
From there, you’ll require zoning approvals and building permits, which both insist the project will be done in accordance with the BC Building Code. A house lifting company as hired by your general contractor can help get the ball rolling on this. They can also advise you on what is possible, based on your home’s age, condition, and size, so it’s best to consult professional house lifting contractors right from the start.
A house lifting contractor will go over information with you regarding things like your required lift height and plans for new footings, including if you’ll be laying over top of the existing foundation or removing footings and installing new ones.
Planning for a New Foundation
An engineer can verify what kind of foundation you have. Be prepared to budget for a new one if your foundation isn’t up to today’s building standards, even if your motivation for raising your house is not related to your foundation. For example, if your home was built prior to 1990, your foundation is likely a simple vertical wall of concrete resting on a compressed layer of either clay, gravel or rock. Today’s building standards often require a 2-foot wide concrete footing with at least an eight-inch vertical foundation wall rising off it.
Preparing Your Home for Lifting
The next step in the process is getting everything on the exterior disconnected, and everything inside of the home as secured as possible (the grandfather clock and floor to ceiling antique cabinet full of fine china might need to be temporarily re-located!)
A house lifting company will need to make sure the following is taken care of:
- Private utilities are marked and flagged, including your septic tank and underground gas or electric lines
- Furnaces are disconnected
- Wiring is tucked up between the joists or otherwise out of the way
- Any pipes, plumbing, and ductwork that hang below the floor joists are removed
- Removal of old, unlined chimneys
- Removal of decks, patios, platforms, and exterior stairs and steps
- Removal of landscaping that brushes up against the house
- Neighbours are contacted if access to their property might temporarily be required
A portion of your fencing might also need to be removed to accommodate large machinery like excavators
During the House Lift
Home lifting contractors will lift your house using hydraulic jacks and supports called cribbing, or cribbing piles. The lifting is done in stages until your house reaches the desired height. The actual lifting process can be done in about a day if your home is in good condition.
Next comes the excavation in most cases. Lifting a house typically involves digging down in order to create that crawlspace or get the most ceiling height you can out of your basement addition. This requires excavators and often dump trucks to remove the dug-up dirt.
Depending on the age of your home, a drainage expert or qualified contractor might also need to be called in to look at your perimeter drains (weeping tile). This step cannot be overlooked if you’re planning on having occupants in your basement. In Victoria, most old homes don’t have weeping tile, or what they do have is clogged or compromised. This leads to lots of moisture seeping into the basement during the rainy season.
After the House Lift
Once the house has been lifted and subsequently lowered is when sub-trades come in and:
- match the exterior of the addition to the rest of the house;
- reinforce things like framing and anything that might have shifted during the lift;
- add back the deck and patio; and
- re-connect the plumbing and the electrical.
Note that in many situations, this likely won’t be a simple like-for-like re-connection. For example, with more occupants in the home, an upgrade from a 60-amp or 100-amp electrical box to a 200-amp box will likely be required to accommodate new additional appliances and electric baseboard heaters. Likewise for plumbing. The very likely addition of a bathroom on the ground level means replacing 3-inch sewer pipes with 4-inch pipes. It also means replacing the half-inch intake line you might have now with something bigger.
At this point, all the fun of a regular home renovation begins, including getting your living space done up just the way you want it!
A general contractor should be on-site coordinating with all the sub-trades to make sure that as the house is lowered, everything goes into its proper place.
At Lida Homes we are experts at house lifts and know the ins and outs of all building codes, zoning and permits needed to take on your house lift.
Lida Homes specializes in transparency and great communication and also provides a project manager for your house lift project. Labour and materials are charged to you at cost, keeping rates reasonable and fair. And you have access to our design team who can maximize the functionality of your added basement or make recommendations to improve your lifted space.
Contact us to discuss your options when it comes to house lifts in Victoria BC.