Friday, March 31, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project: Preconstruction Phase

I am happy to write that we are finally ready to say that our preconstruction phase of our house lift is just about finished. But before I jump into explaining what is next, let me regress...

Our property does flood!

About three years ago, we received our yearly flood insurance statement in the mail. I read over the information and didn't see anything unusual or different and went on to read through the enclosed pamphlet since I had a little extra time while I ate my lunch. The pamphlet was an explanation of the FEMA programs available for homeowners required to buy flood insurance.

Our old river birch shade tree had to come down.
Our home is in a floodplain. We have known this first hand as most years we have a couple of floods that bring water up to our back door. We have a stream just about ten feet from our backdoor and when there is heavy rain it fills up to the top of the banks. To complicate our situation, our stream dumps into the top of the Chesapeake Bay which is tidal. Whenever we have a high tide that coincides with heavy rain, our home is in jeopardy. 

Cecil Tree Service did an excellent job of carefully bringing down our sycamore.

More wood for next year's heat.

On a whim of courageous curiosity, I emailed MEMA and asked if we might be eligible for assistance. Quite to my surprise, almost immediately I was answered back and told that there were several programs that I could look into, one of which was the Flood Mitigation Grant for folks who were forced to pay higher insurance premiums since they lived in a floodplain.

We were thrilled and jumped into the application. About six months later, all the information was in place and we submitted our application in October. Silence. So much silence. Winter came and went, spring and then summer and back into fall. Persistence kept us asking only to find out that our contact person was out of contact with our application and that we had been approved several months previous! 

Eric is removing the roof from the back porch which was not going to be lifted.
Our focus went from the state level to the county since they were the dispensers of our grant money. One slight problem was that our county had no experience with handling a citizen's grant. Legislation had to be written, lawyers consulted, and agencies assigned to work the project. None of which happens overnight and so we persisted and learned. 

We lost our general contractor that was going to run the project and so we looked for another. Several contractors were super excited to join us in the project but their costs were just too high. We realized that our initial contractor whose bid was the basis for our grant application did not give us a true number for the cost of our project. For us to go back and reapply with new numbers would have taken us another year at best and even then, the funds might have dried up.

Here's the stream that runs just a few feet from our house.
Two years of negotiating with the state, county, town and several agencies and learning the legalities of our project slipped by and finally, we were able to get a workable plan. We as the homeowners were considered the general contractor (who didn't need to get paid) and the primary vendor for the county. We had to submit three quotes for each part of the work and the best quote won the bid. But our numbers were tight - very tight! 

Fast forward to today. We are one week away from the official start of the Braley House Elevation Project, but really we have been working on it for three years! The Building Permit is taped onto the front of the house, we have our blueprints approved and stamped. Our landscaping is removed. The back porch is gutted and the front breezeway deframed. Massive trees have been either cut down or trimmed back to make room. What's left? I have to empty the refrigerator, pack our clothes and anything we might need for the next two months and move into our sailboat, docked at the end of our driveway.

Stay tuned for my next update!