What You Need To Know About Raising Your Home Above Base Flood Elevation After Hurricane Harvey

Since Hurricane Harvey, Olshan has gotten hundreds of calls from homeowners in areas like, Bear Creek, Beaumont, Bellaire, Braeswood, Cinco Ranch, Champions, Conroe, Cypress, Eastex, Ellington, Galveston, Jersey Village, Klein, Lake Jackson, Port Arthur, Kingwood, Memorial, Meyerland and Northshore, looking to elevate their homes above Base Flood Elevation (BFE) to protect against future flood hazards. Many of these homeowners also experienced flooding during other events of heavy rainfall, such as the Tax Day floods.

Recently, Chris Cates, General Manager of Olshan Foundation Repair in Houston, TX sat down to discuss the most commonly asked questions regarding Home Elevation in response to Hurricane Harvey.


Over the last 2 months since Hurricane Harvey, you guys (Olshan Foundation Repair) have fielded a lot of questions about Home Elevation projects, trying to help Houston area homeowners recover and get the answers they need in order to continue their recovery. So we wanted to ask you just a couple of questions today, but before we get started, can you tell me a little about your background?

I’ve been in the foundation repair industry for 29 years. As far as Home Elevation goes, the first home I was involved in elevating was over 20 years ago and it was an 8ft lift.

What types of homes can be elevated? People want to know if their type of home can be elevated.

Any type of home can be elevated as long as it has sounds construction. Slab homes, pier and beams or block and base homes can all be lifted.

Some people have asked if you can lift a post tension slab vs a standard concrete and rebar .

Certainty as long as its built to standard construction specs, we can raise a home.

What about commercial buildings?

Absolutely. Commercial building can be raised as well.

Is Home Elevation safe?

Yes, if it’s done with a qualified contractor that understands the process totally. Home Elevations are very safe.

What factors should a homeowner consider when they are talking to Home Elevation contractors?

The first thing, if anybody is going to raise your home they need to understand the entire process.

The process starts with paperwork, a Base Flood Elevation Certificate, and that will determine — if your home is in a governing municipality — exactly how high you will be required to raise the home, which in most cases is 1ft above Base Flood Elevation.

So, you need a contractor that understands the permitting process. Understands the area they are working in, isn’t new to that soil conditions in the area, and are not new to what it takes to put in a good support system in those soils. They need to certainly be fully insured and really need to understand the entire process.

We’ve seen a lot of new companies come into town from other states after Hurricane Harvey, I know Olshan has been in business since 1933. When it comes to choosing a Home Elevation company, does reputation and time in business factor in?

Well, the last thing you want to do is give a deposit to someone that doesn’t fulfill what they need to do as far as your project goes. Make sure the company you are considering is financially sound. Make sure they are accredited by the Better Business Bureau. And do the due diligence that you would with any contractor.

You talked about permitting, and I know there is permitting and engineering involved in Home Elevation, how does Olshan help facilitate that process for the homeowner?

If we’re doing a Home Elevation or Foundation Repair job, we take care of the permitting process. That process on a Home Elevation requires an Engineer, engineer spec drawings, paperwork with the city, and depending on the governing municipality and what their requirements are, we work through that process for the homeowner. Sometimes that can be tedious, it might take weeks to get done, but that’s something we do for the homeowner.

You talked about several weeks for permitting, how long does a Home Elevation project take?

From start to finish, a Home Elevation project will take anywhere from 60-90 days, if it’s a lift that we refer to as an “elevated lift“, which is when a home is lifted 5ft or more above ground.

in-ground liftCan you talk to me more about the 3 different types of lifts available when it comes to Home Elevation?

As I said before, the lift requirements may be governed by your Base Flood Elevation.

So lets say, if your home is sitting a foot below Base Flood Elevation, and you need to raise your home 1ft above Base Flood Elevation, you’ll have to raise your home 2ft in total.

In-ground Lifts. An example of what we call an in-ground lift; if you have a grade beam that has 26 inches of grade beam and its sitting close to grade, we’re able to raise that home without coming out of the ground.

We refer to that as an “in-ground lift“. In-ground lifts are much less expensive than elevated lifts, because you don’t have what we refer to as the “build-back” around the exterior of the home after the home is elevated several feet.

The second type of Home Elevation is when the home comes up to 5ft out of the ground. That’s going to be anywhere from the point of the home clearing the ground, up to 5ft.

Those types of lifts require a build-back around the exterior and offer a wide-variety of options to enhance curb appeal, accessibility and functionality.

5ft home liftHigh Lift. The third type of lift is what refer to as a “high lift”, and that would be anything over 5ft.

We can do build-back around those that totally encompass the foundation, or for exceptionally high lifts, we can set it on concrete grouted columns, which is similar to what you might see in homes near the ocean in Galveston that are setup on piers.

For all 3 types of those lifts, from beginning to end, the engineering is incorporated into Olshan’s design before the process ever starts?

Yes, before a shovel is ever stuck in ground we have to get a permit. That permitting process will require a design by an Engineer and an approval by the municipality that will grant the permit.

Olshan CSTOne of the things I’ve heard people question regarding the extremely high lifts, there seems to be a concern from homeowners about safety, but the Engineers are incorporating all those calculations into the design, for future wind storms and that type of consideration?

Yes, there are homes that are on the coast that require specific wind storm permits, so anything that is required by the specific municipality, Olshan will take care of for you.

If there is a homeowner or commercial property owner out there that is interested in learning more more about Home Elevation, what should they do?

You can call our office and we will do free a 1-on-1 Home Elevation consultation with you. One of Certified Structural Technicians will come out to your home and examine your situation, and help you determine if Home Elevation is something that is feasible for you to do. If so, they will work hand-in-hand with our team of Home Elevation experts to design a repair plan and project timeline.

There are two things the homeowner can do to make things easier; an Elevation Certificate and a set of plans of your home, that’s important to see how the home was constructed.

Chris Cates is the General Manager for Olshan Foundation Repair in Houston, TX. He has 29 years of industry experience, and has served in the past as President of the Foundation Repair Association. His experience also includes; Boilermaker and Certified Welder, C. F. R. S. (Certified Foundation Repair Specialist), C.S.T. & C.C.S.T. in Foundation Repair, Drainage and Water Management, Certified Lead Renovator.
For more information, email [email protected]. 5902 W 34th St, Houston, TX 77092
Chris Cates, Olshan Subject Matter Expert

Chris Cates

Chris has been in the foundation repair industry since the late 80’s. He has 40+ years of experience designing foundation repairs plans of all types and sizes. Chris’ work and expertise has been featured in the local Houston media several times, including appearances on the CW39 News, Click 2 Houston News, ABC 13 News, The Sealy News and The Houston Business Journal. Chris’ important work in research and development, played an integral role in the development of a patented repair method (US Patent #10,428,516 B2) designed to stabilize damaged tilt walls. Chris Cates is recognized as an innovator in the industry both locally and nationally.