Renovation Challenge: Flood Zone

Myers Logo & HurricaneWe recently received a call from a homeowner in an area of metro Philadelphia that is a notorious flood zone. In fact, this property owner told us his Schuylkill River waterfront property has been flooded out three times during the past five years alone! This homeowner called us after learning that his insurance company was going to “total” his house unless he could find a way to renovate to flood-proof it. His goal is to be able to power wash the debris away after any future flooding and quickly get back to living. That kind of solution is common at the shore, where we see houses on pilings and with blow-out walls on the first floor. However, the following elements are at play here:

  • This house is in a historic area, so The Philadelphia Historic Commission will need to approve the homeowner’s plans.
  • The home abuts neighboring houses, so engineering a solution has to take into account the neighbors, as well as the load when the water and mud come through.
  • The zoning/use allowed for the building requires plan approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
  • Because it is a waterfront property, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to want a say in what solutions are developed and approved for construction.

This is one of the most complex projects we have seen in recent memory because so many disciplines need to be on the same page at the same time in the same space. Adding to the intricacy of this renovation are any potential government regulations for lead, asbestos, watershed protections, neighborhood, city, and engineering issues for structure or unusual circumstances, and so on. This is in addition to the usual various systems that have to be designed and worked into the residential space — such as electrical, water, sewer, and HVAC — and, of course, it has to be a great-looking design that stays on budget.

During our 30 years in this business, we have learned that we like complicated stuff like this because we find it interesting and exciting. This is exactly the type of puzzle we enjoy solving.

Related reading: Fairmount Historic Whole-House Renovation

His and Hers Art Studio; Project Update

Now that the ice and snow have receded, lots of progress is happening at our His and Hers Art Studio Project.

January was very tough on the masons who had to try to work between snow and ice storms creating new window and door openings, create new roof lines, and to shore up walls!

Now that the masons have blocked everything out, the framers have been fast at work framing up roofing and setting the window and door framing. They’ve also begun framing the interior wall structure which will hold insulation and OSB for the final wall finish.

The home owners will use this space as painting studios. So they will need to hang their canvases on the walls while they are working on them. It’s very common for painters wot work on the walls and they typically prefer plywood or OSB to drywall which doesn’t have much holding strength.

Some of the fine points are where to set the new windows in the masonry openings, and where to set the floor levels. This is because we are installing new walls windows and doors “plumb level and square” in a raw concrete and brick building with many lumps and waves in it. This is one of the differences between working in new construction vs remodeling. In remodeling you are always setting up the next guy who has to remodel or repair in the next decades. And you are always looking to “work with” and accentuate the old characters of a building.