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Thursday, March 30, 2023
Raising the roof: Circle Street house floats in midair as basement is installed below it
Tom Janzen, left, and Matt Hozack look forward to seeing the house at 10 Circle St. lowered onto its new foundation.
The house before the foundation is put in. (Supplied)
The raised house at 10 Circle Street. (Evan Loree)
The raised house at 10 Circle Street almost looks like it's floating. (Evan Loree)

Nope, it isn’t floating. Best take another look.

A house on Circle Street appears to be floating in midair at first glance but actually it has just been carefully raised off the ground. 

Chris De Foa, whose family owns the home at 10 Circle St. in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is having a basement installed and it turns out contractors have a novel way to get around, or in this case under, the problem.

“It’s all being raised up at once equally. And there’s no sudden jerking,” said site manager Tom Janzen.

Still, De Foa said he and his family spent “weekend and weekends” clearing their belongings from the house.

He described the mini-move as “quite painful.”

De Foa and his family bought the house in 2020 and a massive white oak tree that towers over the house was a big attraction.

The family opted to preserve the look of the house but add the basement instead of “plowing it down” and rebuilding.

“It has some character,” De For said. “I think an older home has character, opposed to something that’s just a new build.” 

Matt Hozack, vice-president of Sente Building Group in Virgil, said the team raised the house on Jan. 12 and expects it to be back on its newly poured concrete foundation by Valentine’s Day.

No one was harmed in the raising of this roof – but it’s a job that required a special kind of heavy lifting.

In all, it took workers about two days of prep before they could start the laborious task of slowwwwwwly raising it.

House raising is not uncommon but it is a specialized skill in the contracting world, explained Hozack.

“You have to know what you’re doing.”

Hozack said they recruited a licensed subcontractor, Danco House Raising & Moving of Pefferlaw, Ont., to supply the equipment needed to get the house airborne. 

But first the team had to dig four holes around the foundation area to make room for hydraulic jacks that were used to raise the building. 

Then the workers slid large blue steel I-beams underneath the floor along the long sides of the house, he said.

These were then stacked on top of cross beams on either side of the home.

With the holes dug and the house resting on the steel frame, the powerful hydraulic jacks were placed underneath each corner where the steel support beams meet. 

The jacks then raised the whole building inch by inch.

“They (Danco) have a truck that comes in, all their lines run into that truck. Inside, that truck has all their hydraulic pumps,” Janzen said. 

“Then when they press one button, all four corners just go up at once.”

As the building rose, the workers installed wooden beams in a Jenga-like formation around each jack to support the structure.

“They did it in about five hours or so,” Janzen said. 

When it was done, the house was about five feet off the ground, leaving enough space underneath for contractors to build the foundation.

Workers used an excavator and a compact skid steer to dig down nine feet. After that, Niagara Falls concrete supplier Cotton Inc. poured the foundation.

House raising isn’t the only way to put in a basement, but Janzen said others methods are “probably not as efficient.”

He described a process where builders can get under the house and dig “little sections at a time” and then pour in sections of foundation individually.

“That’s more of an older way of doing it,” he said. 

The equipment contractors can use today makes house raising a more viable option.

Janzen said there should be “zero change” to the structural integrity of the house because the raising is so slow and the process doesn’t remove any load-bearing parts of the foundation.

Once the house is back on the ground, the team has some plumbing and electrical work to do, but De Foa said it should be live-in ready by late summer.

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