In the New Jersey Shore towns flooded by Hurricane Sandy last fall, house raising is booming. Drive down the shore roads, and you'll see dozens of houses up on blocking. It's risky work. Accidents can happen — and earlier this month, one did.
"Last week, a Kansas Road home collapsed while it was being raised, injuring three workers from Eco-Friendly Builders, of Middletown," the Press of Atlantic City reported on July 19 ("Slow and careful wins race to raise houses after Sandy," by Donna Weaver). "The accident remains under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration."
"Thousands of homes must be raised as coastal homeowners strive to meet higher flood elevation standards in the wake of Hurricane Sandy," the paper reports. "That means a huge increase in demand for house-raising services — and, some fear, an influx of new operators."
Veteran house mover Wayne Yarusi of W. A. Building Movers warned of the risk in an interview with JLC on June 24. "I have seen guys coming down the road who do tile work, guys who are roofing contractors, they're all starting to become house raisers because they think they're going to make money at it. But everything they are doing is wrong. The beam sizing is wrong, how the house is set up is wrong, the cribbing is set up is wrong, the type of jacks they're using is wrong. But people are hiring these guys."
Yarusi says homeowners and general contractors should be careful about liability. General business liability insurance usually won't cover damage caused by house raising activity, he says — so if a house is damaged or destroyed, or a worker injured or killed, homeowners or general contractors may end up on the hook for the loss.
It's not a business to take on lightly, Yarusi says. "To be in the building moving business, you not only have to have general construction insurance, you are in the trucking business because you have to haul in heavy equipment. you're in the rigging business because you are actually doing rigging."
"Before you jump into it two feet first, you better take a hard look to find out if this is something that you really, really want to do," says Yarusi. "Or are you in it for just the money? That's the difference. Somebody who is serious about the type of work, who wants to do it the right way, and set himself up the right way, that's totally different from some guy who is like, 'Oh, hey, I can handle it. I don't want to pay a mover what he wants to raise a house; I can make all that money and put it in my back pocket. Only to find out, there's a disaster: the homeowner's house is going to be damaged if not lost, and somebody's life is going to be taken — all for the goal of making money."