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Red house jacked up to add space - front view.

Featured Project: All Jacked Up

You never know what you’ll find, or what you’ll have to do, when you’re renovating an old house. It’s part of the fun of getting to take something apart and putting it back together to give it new life.

We’re renovating an older home in the Burnsville area, and needed to figure out how to maximize the home’s footprint.

Then we had an idea.

Jacked Up for Usable Space

Together with the homeowners, we decided to turn the 6’11” walkout basement into a usable, highly functional living area. Achieving this ambitious goal meant lifting the house even higher and extending the foundation height by 38.5”. The process involved jacking up the house. Similar to jacking up a car, but much more intensive.

When we add to a house, it usually involves building upward with a new story or an addition outward. It doesn’t happen often that we gain square footage by adding from the bottom. The process was fascinating.

How to Lift a House

Pneumatic jack with steel beam jacking up a house.

This complex process makes us geek out as builders. The engineering that went into jacking up the house was fascinating. We are blessed to have great partners for structural engineering, foundation work, and the actual lifting of the home.

First, we completely deconstructed the house’s full masonry chimney. Next we needed to locate load-bearing walls and determine the best points for lifting. Finally, we had to brace the home to prevent it from racking when we lift it. Identifying load points was critical, because lifting at the wrong place would cause the home to become unbalanced and fall. And was not something we wanted to happen.

Once we understood where we needed to lift the home, we created holes in the foundation and inserted steel lifting beams. These beams provide support during the lifting process. Proper positioning ensures the weight of the house is evenly distributed. Two beams ran front to back and six went left to right over the top of the main two.

Next, hydraulic jacks were positioned under the beams, and these jacks are what lifted the house. The jacks were able to raise the home 24” at a time, while adjusting the supports along the way. However, the lifters went in increments of 8” and added cribbing in case of an issue. While it took a week to set everything up and get the house ready, we were able to lift the house 40” in one day. It was an exciting day!

The cribbing towers under the steel beams provided support for the jacks and stability during lifting. The lifting process was monitored continuously, and adjustments to the hydraulic pressure were made to maintain balance and prevent tilting. Once the lifting was completed, the cribbing towers became the support for the structure during the foundation work.

Once the foundation work was completed, the house was lowered onto the new foundation, it achieved a new height of 38 ½” above the previous foundation.

Fun Facts about Jacking Up a Home

The next time house jacking comes up at trivia night, whip out these facts:

  • House jacking dates back thousands of years, with ancient civilizations using various techniques to lift buildings.
  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “house moving” was popular in the United States, involving lifting houses off their foundations for relocation.
  • The force needed to lift a house depends on factors like construction, weight, and desired elevation height – sometimes requiring forces in the hundreds of tons.

It Looked Easy, Almost

Once everything was complete and put back together, the homeowners were thrilled with the new, functional space. Now the once 6’11” walkout basement boasts 9’6” ceilings. Basically doubling the home’s square footage, while adding a completely new floor that doesn’t feel like a basement.

We loved working with a team of experts who made the precise nature of the work look almost easy.

See more pictures below!

While renovating an older home can be a challenge, teamwork, clear communication, and trust in the process lead to an excellent result for the homeowners. Ready to give your home new life? Call us for a free consultation.

Red house jacked up to add space - side view.

House jacked up to add space - basement view.

House jack in action - basement with concrete walls.