Hey there!  So, in last post I gave you a little taste of what was to come this week.  We’ve lifted the whole house off the ground!  Pretty serious undertaking, eh?  Keep reading for the scoop.

As we’ve described in the last two posts, this house has a serious moisture problem that needs to be taken care of before the air sealing and insulation work is completed by the team.  We want to make sure that all the air inside the house will be healthy air, not the moldy air that’s been in it for the last 35 years.  So the next step in healing this home is lifting it off its foundation so the team can give it the moisture barrier it has needed so desperately for all these years.  And that my friend, is no simple task.

In order to come up with an effective, safe course of action the BGC team brought in consulting engineer, Chris Vreeland of Precision Decisions LLC.  (That’s him over on the right)  Chris has 20 years of experience as an engineer and has specialized in mechanical, electrical and structural engineering for the alternative energy market  for the last 10 years.  After careful assessment of the Marrapese home and consideration of budget, Vreeland designed a custom jacking system that would lift the entire house off of the slab.

Vreeland who worked as a millwright (mechanic in a paper mill) before becoming an engineer referenced his experience in lifting heavy cast iron machines that would weigh anywhere from 5-50 tons, when designing the jacking system for the Marrapese home.

“I had done a lot of rigging when I was at the mills, we had really heavy equipment, even though it wasn’t physically the size of a house, it was all made out of heavy cast iron so it would weigh, 5,10, 20, 50 tons, and this house weighs, 15-20 tons…so the sheer magnitude of the weight really wasn’t concerning to me in terms of being able to lift the house with mechanical jacks without using hydraulics, because I had done similar stuff before.  The trickier part was the fact that it was physically so big and I’m used to lifting a large heavy chunk of steal, that has its own strength so you don’t have to worry too much about it bending and flexing.   Jacking any house you’re always concerned with cracking the sheetrock or plaster,” says Vreeland.

Vreeland designed a custom jacking system to raise the house off of the foundation, using heavy thread Acme Rods.  He drew up the system and had them welded together by fabricator Mike Poole. (That’s him below on the left)

(Poole, a former diver & underwater welder, who worked on notable projects such as “The Big Dig” in Boston, counts his lucky stars that he’s alive to tell the tale.  With the statistics stating that most underwater welders will be critically injured or killed within 5 years, Poole was “happy to get out while the odds were still in his favor.”  He went on to work in a few fabrication shops and later started his own business, which is where we find him today.)

Poole says he was “impressed with how BGC invited all the trades people in early on to have conversations and share opinions on how the job should go.  Usually on construction jobs they just tell you what to do, rather than letting you say well have you thought of this?, he wanted my opinion of how I thought it would go.  Normally I would have never even seen the job site.  The way Sean works, bringing everyone in early, then taking everybody’s opinions and forming a consensus…it’s very different (in a good way) from every other construction company or organization I’ve ever dealt with.”

The image below is the design that Vreeland came up with.  The base of the jacks would be placed on the cement footing beneath the slab foundation of the house.

Then the team cranked up each of the jacks by hand, slowly raising the house into the air until it reached  8 inches off the foundation.

When Vreeland revealed his plan to Jeffords, he was surprised at how quickly he was on board.

According to Vreeland, “Most residential contractors deal with wood not metal, so it was
unique that Sean took that approach and felt comfortable with it, it was really great. It was also our first job together, so it was a bit of a leap of faith for him.   Usually contractors don’t like to try new things, so kudos to Sean for having the hutspa to try it.”

Here are some images of the team actually using the system that Vreeland designed.  The lifting of the house went off without a hitch by the way, so hats off to Chris.
At the end of our interview, when I asked Chris if there was anything else he’d like to share with our readers he aptly replied “Yeah, don’t try this at home!”  It’s good to end with a laugh, so I’ll leave it at that for this week.
Next week, check out how the team will install the moisture barrier and radiant tubing for the  floors.  Cool stuff!  Till then, as always be happy, stay healthy & be green!