If you are still interested in lifting your beach house along the New Jersey coastline, thorough due diligence may save you both money and time. One important step is hiring a reputable house lifting contractor. Ideally, it would be one that has been recommended by someone that has successfully lifted their house. In New Jersey, you will be required to have a survey of your property prepared within the last year, as well as a National Flood Insurance Program Elevation Certificate prepared by a licensed surveyor. If you do not already have these documents, you will need to hire a surveyor to prepare these documents. You will also be required to hire a licensed structural engineer to evaluate the existing foundation and on-site soils to determine if the foundation is adequate to reuse or if a new foundation design is necessary. Once the house is lifted the structural engineer may also have to visually inspect the existing foundation prior to lowering the house. The structural engineer will also have to prepare a house lifting plan and may have to monitor the installation of any piles or helical piles. If the structural engineer does not prepare site plans, you may also be required to hire a licensed civil engineer to prepare any site plans necessary for local municipality review before construction. Finally, you will be required to hire a licensed architect to prepare floor plans and elevations. Ideally, a lifting contractor should already be working in coordination with a team of local professionals, but since Super Storm Sandy this has not been the case in some instances and this has affected both the cost and time it takes to lift a house.
Second, you should make sure your lifting contractor and a team of professionals, have a good understanding of the local zoning regulations and requirements for lifting structures. Although the governor of New Jersey signed the “Automatic Variance” law after Super Storm Sandy, there have been house lifting projects required to go before the local Zoning Board of Adjustment to obtain relief from variances created because of the house lift. If you own a home with an existing deck with the house instead of rebuilding the deck, you may be surprised by some zoning ordinances. Some local zoning ordinances allow decks to be within the required yard setbacks if they are a maximum height of 18-24 inches. If this is the case and you lift your house with the existing deck, you will most likely be required to go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for relief from a variance. This would cost a homeowner both money and time, which could have been avoided with proper due diligence and planning.
In addition to knowing the zoning regulations, the lifting contractor and design professionals should have a good understanding of the FEMA regulations. Each local ordinance requires house lifting and new construction to follow the latest Flood Damage Prevention requirements, which depends on the FEMA Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for your house, the FEMA Flood Zone that your house is located within, as well as if your house is located within the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA). If your house is in the FEMA VE Zone or a LiMWA, it will require deep pile foundations, either standard pile foundations or helical pile foundations. In addition, if you are planning on enclosing the ground floor of your house it will have to be designed with break-away walls. Flood vents are also required for any ground floor below the BFE that considered enclosed.
Hopefully, you are now aware how complicated the house lifting process is and how a lot of money and time can be wasted if the homeowner, lifting contractor and design professionals are not knowledgeable about the federal and local regulations.
Please contact D.L. Howell with any question pertaining to your local municipalities regulations.