“Driving posts is much more cost effective than bringing in fill dirt.”
RAISED WOOD FLOOR CASE STUDY:
Formed in an effort to respond to the devastation of the senior housing market by Hurricane Katrina, Bay Homes has established a reputation for building affordable, high-quality, low-maintenance residences along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Structures in coastal high-hazard areas are required to be elevated above the base flood elevation (BFE). To raise its houses in low-lying areas, Bay Homes uses a treated wood pile foundation on homes that are as low as 3 feet off the ground. Bay Homes’ Peter Russell says that people want their homes raised, even where it may not be required by the BFE. “Because of past hurricanes and water issues, and knowing that Mother Nature can do some ridiculously quirky things, people like it just for peace of mind. That’s a big reason why we maintain it throughout all of the structures that we do.”
“There are a lot of advantages to the raised wood floor beyond just getting over the BFE,” says Russell, noting that an elevated living space is isolated from moisture and pests. Russell also says that, on occasion, Bay Homes will raise a house upwards of 8 feet – even when the BFE is only 3 feet – because a homebuyer wants to use the area underneath the house for parking or a patio.
When a house is required to be elevated, according to Russell, a treated wood pile foundation is faster to build than a concrete slab placed on fill dirt that has to be compacted. “In a lot of scenarios, it makes a lot more sense to elevate the house rather than bringing the elevation up with dirt,” says Russell. “What we are doing is much quicker. We don’t have to wait to set up forming and for concrete to cure. We can drill and set the posts, and put in the wood I-joists and have the walls framed in two days with the trusses on.”
When building an elevated slab, Russell says, “it can take a week or two just to get the foundation in place. So if you really want to punch production out, you can go with drilling and setting the posts... Our own personal best record (for completing a house), from breaking ground to finish, is 18 days. It was a 1,176-square-foot three-bedroom house. That was pretty phenomenal!”
Russell says that treated wood pile foundations are also less costly for the builder. “Driving or setting posts to raise a house is much more cost effective than bringing in fill dirt to elevate a slab.”
Faster and less expensive construction helps Bay Homes produce homes priced in the $69,000 to $89,000 range as part of its affordable house program. “It is truly an affordable house,” says Russell, noting the current unique market conditions and a readily available labor force that can play to a builder’s advantage.
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