Situated between Meeting St and Nassau Street in downtown Charleston lies Star Gospel Mission serving their flock of the homeless and disadvantages and trying in their way to offer a more certain future to those who need it most. Part of their mission is to provide workforce accommodation at rental rates that retain affordability. To this end, they are developing a project at 83 Nassau Street, located behind the Mission, and we are working with Star Gospel to create four small transitional housing units that will serve as the first step to a secure future. 83 Nassau St is an 1840's historic home on the East Side, in a deplorable condition.
An introduction to this project can be found in a previous blog. Our request from Star Gospel Mission, located on Meeting Street, was to assist in the build of transitional housing for their congregation, and 83 Nassau was identified as the building to serve this purpose. We are converting it into four independent apartments that will serve as a first step in the ladder from homelessness to a more stable and productive life. Like much of downtown Charleston, 83 Nassau St. lies in a flood zone and would benefit from the foundation being raised. Our early conversations with Pastor Bill Christian of Star Gospel pushed the advantages of raising the building both for security, to remove the constant flood threat and to reduce operating costs, particularly insurance. A functional and accessible crawl space is also a good move.
So having promulgated a good idea, it was left to us, Simplified Construction, as the General Contractor to make it happen. This is where it gets interesting. As with many properties in downtown Charleston, the house was in an awful state of repair. We have no clue how long it's been empty but do know that an internal demolition was undertaken two years ago and its been open to the elements ever since. The first floor is rotten with the beam ends destroyed. The footings have all but collapsed. The first floor walls are also a termite nest or at least they were at one time in the home's past. The second floor is a better story, and roof structure looks sound.
STEP ONE - STABILIZATION
The first action is to stabilize the structure by adding sufficient internal cross bracing so that should it get a tropical storm or Lord forbid a hurricane, then it won't turn to matchwood taking the nearby neighbors with it. The second action is to create a solid point to lift against. Lifting against an old rotten rim beam is not advisable and similarly, raising from the second-floor beams also brings issues of stability and working height. We decided to remove the old rotten floors and replace with newly treated doubled 2"x10" joists throughout the house. The new floor was built on the old footings at first was anything but level. However, in repairing or strengthening the walls, we made sure each jack stud was the same length so that when the house rests on a new level footing, then the second floor will also become level. We also replaced the rim beam at the second-floor level to make sure everything was attached before the house moved.
STEP TWO - DIG OUT FOUNDATION & INSTALL JACK
The next task was to dig out under the house and slide two solid steel girders through the entire length. We will use this to keep the house together when lifting and also for the jacks to bear upon as they spread the load across each of the new floor beams. Once inserted, we excavated underneath for the lifting jacks and first shoring blocks. This house will take eight large hydraulic jacks to lift it to the new height. Each 16 ton jack works independently allowing us to level the house and remove both a pronounced lean and twist to the floor. Initially, the jacks push their blocks down into the ground until there is sufficient compression to limit further movement. Then the house begins to rise and up she goes with the gentle nudge from a backhoe to keep the walls plumb if they start to wander.
STEP THREE - LIFTING BEGINS
This VIDEO clearly illustrates the slow and steady painstaking pace that it takes to safely do the lifting.
A chain" come-along"(hoist) or bottle screw would work just as well, though we prefer to stay outside of the building for the obvious reasons. Once it's high enough to allow blocking underneath the house, we feel a lot happier, and the structure is secure pending further lifting. We did notice a distinct horizontal bow in the side of the house before the lift started. This bow did not right itself as the house was leveled so we will jack the center section back out before securing it to new footings. These old balloon framed homes are fairly forgiving of forced movement so we should achieve this without further damage.
Lifting houses is now a commonplace part of any major renovation in downtown Charleston. If timed correctly, the additional cost and time is not so significant, and the final result a much improved, level and upright home now thankfully free of flood risk. All in a days work really!
Seated on a new foundation, the next stage will move into installing windows and doors (already delivered to the site), attaching the exterior trim and and replacing the roof which we fit new soffits. I like this part of the job, major changes made in a very visual format is much more uplifting than prep, permitting and demolition work.
You can follow this series on our blog HERE as well as other construction projects we have in the works including additional historic renovation projects we've recently completed in and around Charleston, and our custom new build in Palmetto Bluff, in Bluffton SC.
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