Should you elevate your whole home or not? CAN you elevate your whole home or not? You’re considering the prospect of house leveling for your crawlspace foundation repairs and it has come up that elevating the whole house might be a good idea because it is too low to the ground.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have run across many crawlspace foundation homes throughout our 35+ years in business where we suggest raising the whole home during the house leveling/foundation repair process. We know what kinds of homes are good and bad candidates for this process and can tell you how we decide.
This article will review and explain the criteria we look for in making a recommendation to elevate your home during house leveling. We will also cover the kinds of homes where elevating the home just won’t work and why.
Good Candidates for Whole Home Raising
When you were thinking about getting your crawlspace foundation repaired, you probably were not thinking that the whole home needed to be raised.
There are particular situations where we might recommend that the whole house be elevated. Here’s a list of the criteria that would be most eligible for possible whole home raising.
- Block and base home can be elevated.
- Homes with wood siding can be elevated.
- Block and base homes without slab additions can be elevated.
- Smaller and regularly shaped homes can be elevated.
- Homes less than 18 inches from the ground should be elevated.
If your home is a good candidate, there are actually some very beneficial reasons to elevate your whole house. So if your home meets all the criteria above, then definitely check out, “House Leveling: 8 Practical Reasons to Raise Your Whole Home.”
But now it feels like I should elaborate on each of these qualifiers a little, so I will.
1. Block and Base Homes Can Be Elevated
Many people call all crawl space homes “pier and beam” but technically, there are two kinds of crawlspace foundations. The two different types of crawl space homes are “pier and beam” and “block and base”. Pier and beam homes cannot be elevated while block and base ones can.
Pier and beam homes are made with a continuous exterior concrete beam that supports the entire perimeter of the home. This beam penetrates into the ground and you can’t significantly elevate a home that has this kind of ground-penetrating structure. It simply wouldn’t work right.
Block and base homes rest on a series of supports and often have a cosmetic skirting on the perimeter. They kind of look like they are “up on blocks” and that’s because they are.
The block and base crawlspace home is a perfect candidate for whole-home raising because the primary structure is already resting on stacked piers that can easily be raised to a higher elevation all around.
2. Homes With Wood Siding Can Be Elevated
If your home is a block and base home, it also very likely has wood siding, wood-like siding, or it could even be vinyl or metal sided. All of these kinds of block and base homes can be elevated during the raising process.
Any crawlspace home that has brick siding cannot be elevated during house leveling. Brick-sided crawlspace homes are typically pier and beam homes anyway.
3. Block and Base Homes Without Slab Additions Can Be Elevated
Slab additions to a block and base home would completely prevent any type of whole home elevation. Slab foundations penetrate the ground and cannot be raised beyond their original elevation.
So even if you had a block and base home with the right kind of siding (meeting criteria 1 and 2), you could not elevate the home if a slab addition were added on at some point in its lifetime.
4. Smaller and Regularly Shaped Homes Can Be Elevated
Smaller block and base homes that are square, rectangular, or some other fairly simple footprint are the most easily elevated home types. Not that you can’t elevate a home that is larger or more complicated in shape but then cost and time factors become a greater issue and might bump the larger homes out of being a “good” candidate.
Anything that makes it harder, takes longer, or comes with a greater risk of damage and problems can make elevating a home no longer cost-effective in some cases.
We most often recommend whole home elevation for low-lying homes that are not too big and not too complicated.
5. Homes Less Than 18 inches From The Ground Should Be Elevated
Current municipal building codes require that your floor joists be at least 18 inches from the ground. So anything less than this minimum required elevation is a good candidate for elevation.
Homes sitting way too low to the ground experience problems (which is a big reason why this kind of code is in place). Your home sitting too close to the ground might even be the root cause of we are having to do the house leveling repairs in the first place.
Sometimes, it’s not the whole home that is too close to the ground, but just a section of the home. When your lot is sloped one part of the house is just fine, and the area close to the hill or slope is less than 18 inches. In a case like this, it’s often better to just raise the whole house on a sloping lot to prevent problems from happening again.
Elevating the Whole Home Is Not Possible In These Situations
This is kind of the flip side of the section above (so some of this is going to sound familiar), but here are some times that we can’t raise the whole home. In other words, not every crawl space home would be a good candidate for full home raising or it might not be possible at all. You would have to find another way to improve the conditions under the home in these cases:
- When the home is a pier and beam home,
- When the home is brick,
- When the home has a slab addition, or
- When the home needs to be moved horizontally or has fallen.
If the whole home cannot be raised because of one of the issues above, then the only choice is to cut in through floors to complete house leveling repairs. Further remedies to drainage and ventilation might also need to be taken to prevent your crawlspace foundation problem from happening again.
But let’s elaborate on these 4 things that make a home a bad candidate for whole-home elevation . . .
1. When The Home Is Pier and Beam
Sometimes people get confused about what is a pier and beam home and what is a block and base home. People around these parts call all crawl space homes *pier and beam* but that is technically not correct.
Only block and base homes with cosmetic (not structural) skirting around the perimeter (or no skirting) are candidates for whole home elevation. True pier and beam homes cannot easily or cost-effectively be raised to a higher elevation than the original build due to the structural nature of the concrete perimeter support beam.
Pier and beam homes can only be leveled to their original elevation and if there is low clearance in the crawl space, they must be repaired using the “cut through the floor” approach.
2. When The Home Is Brick
Brick crawl space homes are most often pier and beam homes. It’s unusual, but we have run across a few block and base homes that are brick. Usually, the brick has been added independently many years post-construction, perhaps due to an addition or for cosmetic improvement. Since the brick is not part of the original home structure, it prevents it from being elevated.
A brick exterior is complicated and heavy. Trying to raise a brick-sided structure is just asking for trouble. But if your crawl space home has brick siding, it’s likely pier and beam and therefore not a candidate for whole home elevation.
3. When The Home Has a Slab Addition
When a slab addition is added to a crawl space home, it was placed at an elevation to match the elevation of the original house. When the addition was added, it was also structurally tied in to the original home, so they are now permanently interconnected.
You can’t raise just the crawlspace side because they are connected and stuff will break. You can’t raise just the slab part to a new elevation because slabs don’t do that. So you simply can’t raise the home at all because it won’t work for the original home and it won’t work for the addition either.
4. When The Home Needs to Be Moved Horizontally or Has Fallen
There’s a difference between raising a home to a new elevation and shifting the position of a home horizontally to a new spot on the earth.
There is also a difference between raising a home to a new elevation and putting a home back up on the blocks it has fallen from (this sometimes happens to lightweight block and base or mobile homes in a tornado situation).
A home that needs to be moved horizontally or back up onto its blocks does not need an elevation change or your typical house leveling job, it needs something different.
The kind of job where a home needs horizontal changes is not something that most foundation repair companies can do safely using the methods of house leveling. This kind of job calls for a house mover or in the case of a mobile home, a mobile home specialist.
What Is the Alternative to Elevating Your Home?
Now that we have covered these four situations where a home cannot be elevated during the house leveling process, I know you’re wondering, “Well, what CAN we do then to repair things in these cases?” Good question.
- For a low clearance pier and beam home, your only choice is to cut through the floors to complete any house leveling repairs.
- For a low-lying brick home (which is probably also pier and beam), your only choice again is to cut through the floors to complete house leveling.
- For any pier and beam home, brick or not brick, you might need to also consider improving ventilation and drainage to prevent recurring foundation problems.
- For a home with a slab addition, you would have to cut through the floors to level the crawlspace part of the home. If the slab has also become unlevel, then traditional slab-on-grade foundation repair methods would be used for that part of the home. So you would want to make sure to find a foundation repair contractor that can handle both together (like Anchor Foundation Repair!).
- For a home that needs horizontal shifting or placed back on the blocks that it has fallen from, find a house mover.
- For a mobile home that needs horizontal shifting or placed back on its blocks, call a company that specializes in mobile home installation and repairs.
We Are Ready to Elevate and Level Your Home
We know what homes this elevation concept will work best for and won’t hesitate to recommend it when we think it’s the most beneficial option for you and your home.
Anchor Foundation Repair has elevated many homes in this way over the years and sometimes it’s simply better for homeowners in the long run and that’s what we want for you.
If you’re wondering more about the alternative of the “cutting through the floor” approach instead of elevating everything, read more about it here: Pier and Beam Foundation Repair: Are There Different Methods?