The dilapidated 1920s bungalow was almost a perfect candidate for a Blog Cabin renovation. Loaded with antique character, it had never been altered or remodeled, so the project could embrace its original old-house charm while completely modernizing the building with features selected by DIY Network viewers.
The only problem was its location. The home sat on a narrow lot on a busy Main Street in central Florida. That'd be perfectly nice for an everyday home, says project designer Dylan Eastman, but Blog Cabin is all about creating a vacation getaway set against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape.
The DIY Network team decided to relocate the building. It picked the home up and moved it to a secluded 5-acre lakefront property seven miles away, just outside of the town of Winter Haven—a mecca for water sports and outdoor recreation that's only about an hour drive from Orlando's theme parks.
Though it was weeks in planning, moving the 55-ton home took just a day and drew a large crowd of spectators to watch the extraordinary parade crawl along the road—complete with a police escort, utility trucks working out front to temporarily move extra-low power lines out of the way, and a chain-saw wielding worker standing on the building to trim tree branches as necessary. Here's how move was accomplished:
Since the rotted porches and swaybacked roof would have to be completely rebuilt anyway—and made the building too wide and tall to squeeze down the narrow roads and under any power lines—a demolition crew removed them. Then it punched several access holes in the brick foundation.
Pat Burdette, of Modern House and Building Movers, used a pallet loader to slide two 12x12 inch steel I-beams through those foundation holes and directly under the main carrying beams of the wood–framed structure. Below each beam's ends, he inserted giant hydraulic jacks. Then he fired up his truck-loaded pump to pressurize those jacks and raise the beams—and hence the house—3½ feet into the air.
As the house rose off its foundation, Pat carefully adjusted the pressure in each jack to account for heavier and lighter portions of the building, so it rose straight up. "People think the house must shift and rock during a move," says Burdette. "But customers leave their dishes in the cabinets all the time—and one even left a soda bottle out for the whole move—and nothing has ever broken."
After the foundation was removed and the surface under the building was smoothed out, four heavy-duty wheeled dollies were rolled under the I-beams, and positioned carefully to ensure that the house would be evenly balanced among them. Pat slowly lowered the jacks so the I-beams—and the house above—rested on the dollies, each of which had eight wheels to support the load and a chain "come along" for towing and steering.
A tractor-trailer truck cab was connected to the front dolly's come along and slowly, slowly pulled the house off of the lot where it stood for 90 years. With a team of men steering each of the other dollies by hand, the oversized load moved onto the road.
Utility crews temporarily disconnected traffic lights and low hanging electric lines as the house proceeded along its designated route. And one house mover stood on top of the structure with a chain saw to trim tree limbs that overhung the road and blocked their path. Other than scraping a telephone pole slightly where the road was extremely narrow, the move went off without any problems and the house was positioned on the new site before nightfall.
The house-movers built temporary cribbing from giant wood timbers, and jacked the I-beams up off the dollies and onto that cribbing. That left the house about 6 feet above grade, so the foundation crew could hand dig and set concrete block footings and a foundation directly under its exterior walls.
"We couldn't lay the foundation first because we wouldn't have been able to roll the building over it," says Dylan. "Plus, we needed to take our dimensions straight down off the house, which we knew was out of square. Trying to set the foundation from measurements taken at the old location just wouldn't have worked."
Once the foundation was built and its concrete had cured, Pat's crew returned to jack the structure off the cribbing and set it down onto its new base.
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