Having Trouble Getting It Up?

This is a Cape Cod house - well, technically we're on the other side of the bridge, but Bourne carries over, so I still can say I live on Cape Cod. Anyway - this Cape Cod house has a Cape Cod basement.

What's a Cape Cod basement? You don't want one. A Cape Cod basement is an unfinished partial opening or crawl space under the house. And when I say unfinished, it's a nice way of saying, it's dirt and rocks. Some old Cape Cod homes sit up on cinder blocks, some older, like ours, sit on a bed of rocks. That's right, rocks. Some other Cape Cod homes sit right on the dirt. Makes you feel real stable and clean, doesn't it?

Why don't you want a Cape Cod basement? Well, even if you do like dirt, you don't like what it attracts into your house. Direct contact with soil can cause insect and termite problems as well as rot. If you've got a partial opening in your Cape Cod basement like we do, a place where you can actually stand and hang out... though why would you want to.... you've got a warm little critter house, situated nicely under yours. Our critter - the snake.

That's right - snakes. And because our walls and floors pass through right to the basement, these guys can slither their way right up into the living area. Though our snakes are harmless, they're not the most pleasant of house guests and they refuse to pay rent.

What's the Cape Cod basement solution? Lift the entire house and pour a proper foundation. Now some of your eyeballs may be popping out of your head right now. How can you lift an entire house? What happens to all the stuff inside? What if it falls? How high do they lift it? Can I still live in it while it's up in the air? All these issues ran through my head too when the idea was first suggested to me.

The Process: Here's what happens when you lift a house -
  • First, of course, you want to turn off, disconnect, and clamp off everything. What do I mean by everything? All electrical wires, all plumbing pipes, all everything tethering the house to the basement. (Mike and I have to do that, but that's ok cause we connected it all and we can do it again. You people in the blog world may have to hire someone if you're not too handy)
  • Then, they run some heavy duty beams under the house. A kind of scaffolding seat that the house will sit on as it goes up. This is a long process in itself, especially if you have a large home.
  • After that's all in place, the house starts going up - slowly! It's not like they're going to yank it right off its frame because that would cause all sorts of damage. It takes a long time, perhaps even an entire day, to lift the house up all the way - Just enough for the foundation guys to get underneath.
  • Then the foundation guys go in with the forms, basically the molds that will shape out your basement walls. We want to pour 9ft walls instead of standard 8ft walls because that would allow us to later finish off the basement, thus increasing our square footage. (A little more money, but well worth it.)
  • Next they pour it, it dries, and the house is placed neatly back on top. The floor of the basement can be poured later.
  • At the end of all that, you have to connect up everything you disconnected.
  • The whole process takes about a month and you can't live in the house while it's happening. And why would you because your water and stuff are all disconnected.
Sounds great, Jess, what's the trouble? Well, we had first planned on lifting the house when the interior was completely torn apart. Makes sense, doesn't it? Less chance of damage to walls when there are no walls! Famous Cape Cod house lifter Bob Hayden visited our house and told us $10,000 to lift it up and put it down again. Very reasonable. However, we couldn't get anyone to do the foundation. Our calls weren't returned, people who were supposed to visit the house did not, and finally we recieved an estimate that was so out of the ballpark that we figured he just didn't want or didn't have time to do the job. Damn independent contractors! Especially here on Cape Cod where millionaire 2 week vacation home owners on Nantucket get first priority while born and raised year round Cape Codders get squit.

That's my soapbox and I'm sticking to it. Anyway. Now the walls are up and we've been living in the house since Christmas time 2004. When we mentioned the above sob story to our carpenter friend, he suggested we call Hayden back and ask him to do the entire job start to finish. We'd never thought of that and called him right away about 4 months ago. Again he came out, listened to what we wanted, and gave us his impressions of what it might cost. $30-35,000 - expensive, you may think so. But just think of all that regained floor space and the convenience of a basement, plus the benefit of getting rid of the snakes and insects and blah blah blah described above. We measured around the house and sent him the measurements so he could give us a definitive number.

Well, it's been over a month since I sent that along and he still hasn't gotten back to us. I called him two weeks ago and he never returned my call. I'm going to call him tonight. I have his name written on my hand in fact! Without a definitive number, I can't go and get a loan, which I'd need of course. URG! How frustrating! I want this done and I'm not taking "No," or "I don't have time," or "It'll cost you $500,000" or non-returned correspondence anymore.


Anonymous said...

My parents had their house lifted and a full walkout basement built under it over 25 years ago, in MN. They had a partial basement like yours. The bugs etc. were to much!!!
We were able to live in the house while it was being worked on. I don't understand how. Walking in the house was weird, the house would move slightly - kind of like a boat or ship - when the men walked in it.

It was a big project - but worth it!!

Julie in NJ

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