New Homes & Rebuilds in Ocean, Monmouth & Atlantic County

Getting in your House…Stairway & Elevators to Heaven II

Greetings NJ – 

Hope this post finds you well.  

Today we have some excellent additional comments about accessing your home, compliments of Scott Lepley, who is an excellent architect in Forked River. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Scott for almost 20 years and have found him to be an excellent resource for anything construction or development related.

Thanks to all our new readers for comments and input – every bit of information is helpful.

Our Rebuilding after Sandy seminar was rescheduled due to the fact that we needed to book a larger space based on demand. We will most probably hold it at the end of April at Kate & Ally’s Restaurant in Lacey Township. The good news is I was able to consult directly with a number of people who were going to come, who had specific concerns and questions about their homes. A new date will be forthcoming.

Before we jump back into entrance options, remember that if you are in an A flood zone, providing your existing foundation will support the additional weight of building up, you most probably do not have to install pilings. Your home can be lifted directly up and blocked (as opposed to being lifted and moved) while a new foundation, complete with adequate flood vents, is constructed underneath it. The house is then lowered onto the new foundation. If you are lucky enough to be on a crawl foundation, you have an existing floor system. If you are on a slab, a new floor system must be constructed before the house is lowered back onto the new foundation.

As of this writing, if you are in a V zone, you still have to install pilings for a new foundation. So you generally have to lift and move the house, demolish the slab or existing foundation, install new pilings, construct a floor system and move the house back onto the new foundation. At the rate that FEMA is moving on establishing the new zone classifications, and with the number of townships who are planning to appeal them when they come out later this year, I would estimate it will be at least 1 year before any new zones are promulgated upon us. The good news is we have existing elevations which we can use and you are grandfathered once you receive a building permit, regardless of what FEMA does in the future.

Once again, we are recommending building to Advisory Base Flood + 4 (as opposed to BFE+2), to allow an extra margin if FEMA does make the elevations more stringent in the future.

Back to entrance options.

As we said the other day, you have essentially 2 options when you raise your home – stairs on the exterior perimeter of your home, or a stairwell to be included within the footprint of your home. There are pros and cons to both approaches. The third (more costly) option is an elevator.

If you choose to locate the main entrance stairs to the home in front of the home, you have added an architectural element to your design, as well as saving precious square footage within your existing living space. The stairs and entry themselves add dimension and character to your elevation, and if done in composite decking and vinyl or glass rail, are an attractive choice.

That being said, with a 9’ elevation, stairs will extend out from the house approximately 12 feet. While this doesn’t definitely affect your setbacks (generally entrance stairways may or may not be included in setback restrictions based on the individual township), it does cause you to endure a 13 or 14 step stairway outside in the elements on your way into the front entrance. In other words, there is no covered access from your car into your home.

A good budget range for an exterior stairwell is between $4,000 – $7,000, depending on the materials you use. Composite or exotic wood decking and vinyl or glass rail add to both material and labor costs.

We spoke briefly about elevators in the last post and I would like to elaborate on that item here. An elevator is an alternative that may be considered for both current or future handicapped access, as well as general convenience. It is also a selling feature for your home, since you completely open up the field of buyers that can consider a raised house.

With an elevator, you will need a place in your home for the equipment, so plan on at least a 4’ x 4’ area which will have to be taken from somewhere within your home. The elevator will park above flood elevation when not in use and in the event of a power failure, the elevator will still return to the lowest level (ground) to let you out of the house.

As far as cost is concerned, elevators with 2 stops start at around at $15,000 plus the cost of the additional pilings underneath, the actual elevator pit, as well as the necessary electrical work. Plan on about $20,000 – $22,000. An additional floor, or stop, adds another $12,000 or so.

Regarding the option of an interior stairwell located under the house, this can be a more cost effective option especially if it is being constructed underneath an existing stairwell to an upper level. Again, you have the advantage of a covered entrance protected from the elements at grade level, as opposed to an exposed entrance 9 feet up in the air.

An additional downside which should be considered (and which I neglected to mention in my last post) was the fact that you will have to go down a flight of stairs to let visitors in or see who is knocking at  your door, since your front entrance will now be at ground level. You can mitigate this with a video intercom and door buzzer, but that is a cost in itself. That may be an inconvenience you do not wish to endure.

As far as a budget range, an interior stairwell, if built under an existing stairwell going to an upper floor, should be in the $3,000 – $5,000 range, so there can be a small savings over an exterior entrance.

Let’s rebuild New Jersey as soon as we can.

Be well.


Rebuild, Renovate, Raise or Repair Your Home from Storm Sandy

Rebuilding NJ One Home at a Time…

Residential Construction & Development for over 20 years in NJ

314 Rt.9, Forked River, NJ 08731 Mailing: PO Box 627, Forked River, NJ 08731

609 693 8881 x 102 Fax: 609 693 3802 Cell: 732 300 5619

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