Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Inspections

My last post focused on taking care of all the details after the actual house lift. We are still realizing that there are a lot of details that we did not foresee.

Our home at the beginning of the lift.
For instance, the inspection process. We figured that once the electrical or plumbing work was finished that an inspector would come out and let us know, yes or no, that we had passed the inspection. Well, although that might be true in theory, the process is a little more complicated. For instance, what if the inspector goes on vacation? Or what if the inspector's staff forgets to forward on the report to the county? Or what if the inspector and the county agencies don't agree?

The foundation is cut away from the house.

One of the strongest recommendations we can make for this whole process of lifting our house and then reconstructing the building on its new framework is patience. Cold, hard unflinching patience that still smiles in the face of delays. Patience will win friends in high places and prevent rushed decisions that might cause regret later. Patience will force you to become creative and find new and sometimes better solutions to problems. 

Our house in the air. (Notice the leaves on the cherry tree)

We are not finished with our house raising project and I suspect we will be at it for another year or more. If this surprises you, remember that we have been working with this project for over three years. We have learned that rushing is just not a good idea when you are dealing with a structure that is already 71 years old and that we are improving to hopefully last another 100 years. So, we have had to live as gypsies for the last three plus months - I don't think that is a very long time considering the radical improvements we made to our home.

Eight feet up!

Thankfully, the main contractors we found to help us rebuild our home after the lift have been an exceptional team of hard-working individuals who care about the quality of their work; Triumph Electrical, H & B Plumbing, and Dean's Construction, These contractors and their teams found ways to bring our outdated and now, 8-foot-in-the-air-home, back into code without charging us our life savings. Their level of expertise, willingness to communicate, and ability to work around our unpredictable timetable was commendable. I think each of them went beyond the contracts we set with them and did extra on their own time to help us. We can easily recommend each of them.

Our new block walls going in very carefully.

The town of North East's government was almost as excited as we were to raise our house. They advised us of local procedures and policies to keep our house lift legal and safe. Their encouragement sometimes was just what we needed to keep the project application process moving forward. We were happy to have their team of professional and kind people working with us over the years.

Block walls are growing as our yard gets greener.

The officials at the county level have worked with us with great patience as we learned how their procedures work. I commend them especially on their communication skills. There is nothing like being frustrated and sending out an email to a government official, only to have a quick response back with almost always a simple solution or at least the effort to help. Since we were the first FEMA financed house lift project in Cecil county, new lines of code were necessary and of course that took time both to be drafted and then to be approved by their legal team. Just figuring out how to process the grant funds through the local government on the county level to give to an individual homeowner was a learning process. I can thank them now, but during the process, I must admit I was not the nicest person to them as we waited for approvals. Again, I will mention the virtue of patience!

Walls are in place ready for supporting steel beams to be removed.

On the state level, from the very first inquiry we sent out as to the feasibility of our project, we only met with a positive and encouraging team of professionals. Over the years that we took to apply and then wait for FEMA funds, the MEMA team kept us updated and encouraged that we were on the right track. When we needed to up our game and improve our application, they advised us how best to improve our chances of getting the approval for funds. 

Fresh clean walls!

So as I write this, we still have inspections to pass and I am sure more details to work out. Our relatives are anxious, concerned that we are moving too slowly and that we should do more pushing, but I remind myself that we are not in a rush. If they persist in asking for a move-back-in date, we smile and say, "two weeks!" in reference to the classic Tom Hanks and Shelley Long movie, The Money Pit.

No more muddy crawlspace!

If you were to ask me why being patient pays off, I will tell you that by slowing a building process down, you have time to be creative. For instance, instead of popping standard, single hung, vinyl clad windows into our new openings, we have decided to go with glass block. After a short search, we found a source of reclaimed vintage glass block from a 1950's school. A store owner collected hundreds of them to use in his own business, but never used them. He was happy to sell them to us for a very reduced price. How fun is that? We have lots of little projects that we hope to be just as creative with in keeping the character of our home.

Our walls are secure and ready for windows and flood vents.

So we are learning, step by step, as we finalize the inspection process that good things usually take time. Stay tuned as we come nearer to completion of this process of lifting our old 1950's block home out of the murky flood waters of the Chesapeake Bay.