Pensacola and Gulf Breeze are cities in Florida that are highly desirable for water front living. Unfortunately, in many cases, to have the lifestyle of the water, one cannot simply build a home on a regular concrete foundation. Due to the flood plains and elevations of land to water, most homes must be elevated off the ground so that they do not flood in the event of major rain or storm surge from a hurricane.
That is where piling houses come in. Placing the house on pilings well above the water’s high tide line will minimize the risk associated with flooding. A typical piling in the Pensacola and Gulf Breeze area is driven into the ground 20’ and protrudes out of the ground approximately 10’. The butt size at the top of the piling where the beams hold the house are typically 8” to 12” thick and taper up to a thicker base. Obviously, this is a standard and some soils may need to be longer and some loads will require the piling to be wider based on structural and geo technical engineering.
But how does the piling get 20’ into the ground anyway? The holes for the pilings are augured to start. Then a hose is placed in the hole and water is used to jet the dirt out of the way of the piling. The piling then drops to around five feet of its required depth. Typically, the remaining five feet of the piling depth is driven with a large compression hammer that pounds the pilings into place. Similar to a mason using a sledgehammer to drive a stake into the ground to hold a form board for a foundation.
So there you have it. That is how it is done. Now, what do you do if you want to build or add on to a piling house. Here is a short list:
1. Locate your new lot first and get a survey.
You will need to know your boundaries for the property, but also where the wetlands are. Wetlands are your “no go zone.” You can’t build in that area
2. Get engineering.
You will need to get a geo technical report so that the structural engineer can calculate the size of the piling, both length and width. If the geo technical report shows that the soil below the surface is not dense enough to hold a house, you need to pass on the lot or build a concrete pier house which is a discussion for another page. This occurs a lot in Milton, FL near Exit 22.
3. Find a builder or architect to design your home.
If both the surveys and the engineering are good to go, then it is time to design. Look for a builder with piling house experience to design the home if they are a design-build firm like Addison Riley, LLC or hire an architect that has completed piling home projects. Piling homes are complicated and you don’t want to hire someone doing this for the first time.
4. Talk to your builder about the design before you send the plan to the structural engineer.
When thinking of cost, remember that the squarer the home is, the less costly it will be. The more bump outs you have for architectural features the more pilings and beams you will need. If budget is no options, then carry on with your desires.
5. Quote the job.
People always ask what the price per square foot for a piling house is. Well that is not an easy question to answer. If the house is a box without a lot of bump outs, labor is readily available, the handrails are treated lumber, and the cladding is fiber cement siding, the cost can be around 180-190 a square foot of living space. On the other hand, if the house is three stories with a tile roof, stucco cladding, stainless steel cables for handrails, and the exterior walls bump in and out all over the front, the cost can creep up to $220 a square foot or more.
When you are ready to start your endeavor call Addison Riley, LLC. We will walk you through the process step by step.
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