AS SEEN IN THE OCTOBER ISSUE OF
HOUSE AND BUILDING MOVER MAGAZINE
By Greg Patterson, President, Progressive Construction of Long Island
When running a business as fast paced as house jacking, you live by numbers: How many square feet? How high is it going? How long? How wide? How many cribs? How much steel is it going to need? How much does it weigh? How many days is it going to take? But if we take time to connect with the family we are working for, we are reminded about the numbers that truly matter. Such was the case with Peter & Sue Beis of Massapequa, NY. As the New York Rising Program winds down, many people are scrambling to get their homes in the air before the looming deadlines hit. When my partner Gary Onorato and I first met with Sue Beis, officials were requiring homes to be in the air by September 1, 2017. Our schedule for the summer was filling up fast and signing a large, complicated house was a definite risk, but after talking to her, we knew we needed to help. Gary is a 25 year veteran of the construction industry and a lot of this job would wind up on his already full plate, but he jumped into this huge project enthusiastically.
Peter is a private investigator and Sue is a special education teacher. They have five children. Both Peter & Sue have been involved with an organization called Operation Hearts and Home for over 10 years. In those years, they have hosted dozens of children from foreign countries to come here from orphanages around the world for medical care. Peter & Sue’s son, Mo, originally came to them from Ethiopia through this program over three years ago. In addition to medical care here in New York, Operation Hearts and Home sponsors missionary trips abroad. They are dedicated to improving the lives of children worldwide through educational programs, medical care, sponsorship and direct humanitarian aid. They are a small organization that makes a big difference and the Beis family is very dedicated to helping them succeed. Even while out of their house for the project, they still helped five teenagers from the Ukraine, two of whom are blind. They will go back to the Ukraine with the incredible gift of being able to see.
On July 17, 2017, we arrived at Peter & Sue’s house with our gear and equipment. As is often the case on the South Shore of Long Island, we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to run into on this project, since the house had at least six additions! Sue grew up in the house along with her eight siblings. Since the house was in such a great location, they added on rather than moving out of the neighborhood they loved. When her father decided to sell the house, Sue and Peter purchased it and have raised their five kids in it. When it came time for the house to be lifted, her brother stepped up to act as the general contractor. The first snag we hit was in the original garage. It had been turned into a mother-in-law suite for Peter’s mother. She lived with the family for eleven years before she passed. At the time of that renovation, the floor system was built on top of the original garage slab and a new garage was built in front of it. To get the main beams in, we had to break through the concrete floor of the new garage, disassemble the wooden floor system in the old garage and jackhammer through it, as well as tunneling under it in spots. While going under a slab in many parts of the country is just business as usual, that is not the case in Long Island. Slabs are not uniform and are almost never monolithic pours. Massapequa in particular has raised the level of the roads more than once, resulting in slabs on top of slabs. Along the way, we also discovered a brick wall inside the sheetrock which had to come out in order to slab separate the space.
The next major hurdle was the severe space restriction in the crawl space. At just about 18 inches, the crew had their work cut out for them. Six additions meant not only floor joists running in different directions, but also additional footings at just about every turn. Slabs had been poured on top of slabs. Entry ways had been changed six times and resulted in not one but FIVE sets of concrete steps under the house which we had to get through. Our amazing crew spent over two weeks on their bellies with chipping guns, breaking through old foundation walls, whittling away at long forgotten porches and digging cribs. When all was said and done, a full 20 yards of concrete came out BEFORE the house was even jacked.
Did I mention the mud? Like much of Long Island, the house was just a stone’s throw from a canal. This means that the water table is high. Combine that with poor soil conditions and digging in the cribs becomes extremely important. Most houses here need to have the entire foundation removed, and this one was no exception. New plans called for several grade beams to catch all of the load bearing points that accompany a house with numerous additions. Cribs needed to be dug in about four feet below grade to allow for a safe demolition of the foundation and installation of 67 helical piles. Our crew chipped concrete and dug cribs on their bellies in standing water. When the tide came in, the water would rise. Every day for two and a half weeks, the boys came home even more tired, wet and dirty than usual.
Sliding beams for a big house is always a challenge. This one needed four mains and they needed to be 90′ long. A 50′ and a 40′ were bolted together to get the length we needed. Luckily, the house is set back from the road and the front lawn gave us plenty of room to slide them in. Unfortunately, the side yard was not spacious on either side. Measuring just 8′ on one side and 20′ on the other, the cross beams presented a much bigger challenge than the mains. With a lot of maneuvering and maybe just a few curses, we got them in.
When lift day came around on August 3rd, we knew that 20 cribs at ten feet high would call for more than just our normal six man crew, so we called in some reinforcements. Even my dad came out to help on this one. With every push, the crew scrambled to reset and by 5:20, the house was all the way up. Peter, Sue, her brother, her dad and her kids all stopped by throughout the day to check on our progress. Sue even got to push the lever herself on our very bright green JSJS 12 jack machine. To smoothly lift the 145 ton house, we teed off two more jacks for some added muscle. Just as we were finishing up, the ice cream man came by. Dad was there to treat the whole crew to ice cream cones. Nothing like Mister Softee on a hot day :). As the boys packed up, we got out a ladder for Sue and her brother Joe and they climbed up for a picture on one of the mains.
Once the jack crew packed up, it was time for the demo and helical crews. Our sister company, Helical Honeys dove into the job. When I say “dove in”, I mean it! Once the foundation was pulled out, the water problem became even worse. We removed another 140 yards of concrete and brought in 250 tons of RCA to stabilize the soil. Even with all of the RCA, our crews still slogged through mud and water to get this complicated helical job done. By August 14th, we had completed the second phase of this huge project and were ready for the concrete crew to come in. By the end of August, the footings were poured and by the first week in September, the walls were done also. By the time the walls were poured, just about every member of the Progressive team had pitched in on this one. Dad even met with Peter, Sue & their kids at the house the next day for a photo shoot. From what we hear, they are going to use one of the photos for their Christmas card this year.
This project held a special significance for our Progressive family because it was the last job that Dan Happe was on. Dan graduated from Binghamton University this past May with a degree in engineering. For the past two years, whenever he was on break, he worked with us. His name is pronounced “Happy” and it fits him to a tee. His quick smile and willingness to do anything to help, made him a favorite of everybody and we were sorry to see him go. His new employer is more than lucky to have him and I have to say, we are pretty proud of him. What’s his new company? The United States Navy accepted him for flight training, a program that gets thousands more applications than there are available spots. He is in Pensacola right now training to fly fighter jets. We’re pretty sure that boot camp will be a breeze for him after seeing how hard he worked jacking houses.
So, as you can see, we threw around a lot of numbers on this one, but when it came right down to it, Peter & Sue’s numbers were the ones that made this project important.
- Sue and all eight of her siblings were raised in this house
- The house has been in the family for over 50 years
- Peter & Sue have been married for 31 years
- Peter’s mom lived in the house with them for 11 years
- Peter & Sue’s five kids were raised in the house: Kristen, Julie, Erin, Phil and Mo.
- Three and a half feet of water filled the house during Sandy and turned their lives upside down
- Sue has been a Special Education Teacher in Mastic, NY for 30 years
- The dozens of children from Operation Hearts and Home that Peter & Sue have hosted over the past 10 years
A house is just four walls and a roof. Family makes it a home. We were proud and happy to help out Peter, Sue, their kids and their entire extended family. One of the best compliments we have ever received was from Sue as we were touching base with her for this article. She said, “I can’t believe it, but I haven’t been stressed at all since you guys started working.” So glad to hear it, Sue.