beach stilt home

When it comes to hurricanes and storm surges, what type of structure holds up the best? The answer is stilt homes! Need proof? Check out the homes in the Florida Keys that survived the recent wrath of Hurricane Irma.

Irma’s storm surge was the test as it came in at 12 feet plus above ground. The elevated homes passed the storm surge test whereas many foundation homes were not so fortunate. What makes these stilt homes less vulnerable to storm surges? The open space that stilts create allows water to move in and through the pilings without building up pressure against a large solid structure. Same goes for wind.

But, don’t get overly excited about stilt homes yet, especially older ones. We’ve learned a lot over the years and there’s a big difference in new stilt homes vs. older ones.

Newer stilt homes are built on pilings that are reinforced with rebar and sunk deeply into bedrock. This solid foundation keeps the homes from swaying. And, newer stilt homes are more than 10 feet above the ground.

If you have an older stilt home, or are considering purchasing an older one, here are some signs of trouble to stilts or pilings.

  • Cracks. Older homes on less stable foundations may sway, causing cracks in the building, pilings and foundation.
  • Water Damage. Repeated water exposure can damage both pressure treated wood and concrete pilings. This is especially true with standing water or continued exposure to salt water.
  • Height of Pilings. Many older stilt homes have shallow piling height. This can be dangerous, especially in storm surges.
  • Damage Underground. If the pilings or stilts are not properly sunk into bedrock and have become damaged by continued exposure to water, layers of sand may have washed away and sinkholes could result. Tree roots can also cause problems underground.

Yes, stilt homes are a great solution to safe living on the coast. But remember – your home is probably your single largest investment. Don’t take changes. Have experienced Heavenly Foundations inspect your stilt home before storm season begins!