But in the following months, Baumgardner, 20, would see an opportunity for himself and for the Jersey Shore to rebuild. He left school to start a house-lifting business with the help of his father, George Baumgardner, owner of Baumgardner Construction Company.
As he launches his new business, Baumgardner is busy trying to distinguish himself from the other opportunists who followed Sandy to the Jersey Shore.
And in the house-lifting business, the stakes can be high for choosing the wrong contractor.
Baumgardner says property owners have to look no farther than Little Egg Harbor Township to see what can go wrong. There, a two-story home slid off supporting beams as it was being elevated, injuring three workers and collapsing into a single story. Read more about the home that collapsed in Little Egg Harbor.
In Monmouth County's Highlands, another home slid off its foundation during a lifting operation and damaged a neighboring home.
Baumgardner touts expertise, equipment and education as three elements that can help distinguish his company from others.
EXPERTISE AND EQUIPMENT
From Louisiana, Baumgardner brought in Rod Scott, a contractor with 20 years of experience in flood restorations, the last six in lifting structures on the Gulf Coast. Scott is familiar not only with the projects but with FEMA regulations and grant programs — including incentives for historic structures.
The crew also includes John Matyiko III, a third-generation house mover, experienced with operating the equipment in the house-lifting process.
Baumgardner has a special piece of equipment — a unified hydraulic jacking system — that helps synchronize and monitor the separate jacks that lift the beams supporting homes. He said the system helps prevent accidents such as the ones that occurred earlier this summer in Ocean and Monmouth counties.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ocean City had 17,091 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies before Sandy struck. The policies provided $3.7 billion in coverage and charged $10.2 million in premiums.
With the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 requiring the NFIP to become self-sufficient without relying on federal subsidies, property owners whose homes are below elevations recommended in new FEMA flood maps face the potential of dramatically increased premiums.
For any of those owners considering elevating their homes to meet new elevation guidelines, Baumgardner recommends the following process:
- Update elevation certificate: Know your home's current elevation.
- Check FEMA map and call insurance agent: Know where your home's current elevation is in relation to the new FEMA maps. Understand how this might affect future flood insurance premiums.
- Consult an architect or engineer: Have an expert look at your home's foundation and structure to determine considerations for the house-lifting process.
- Call a general contractor and house-lifting company: Baumgardner recommends using a contractor to help navigate permitting, utility lines work and post-elevation work. Check any house-lifting contractor's insurance certification.
"Everybody kind of exhaled," Baumgardner said. "But unfortunately it's not over."
Even the less-restrictive "AE Zones" require elevations of 8 or 9 feet that many homes may not meet. The "V Zone" guidelines require homes to be constructed on pilings — an added expense at $400 to $700 per piling for anywhere from 20 to 50 pilings (depending on the size of the home), according to Baumgardner.
But engineers might determine that the soil beneath a home in an AE Zone might not be able to bear the weight of a concrete or block foundation, he said.
While every house is different and house-lifting contractors must consider the construction of a home (brick, wood-frame, etc.) and the width of the perimeters (room to place supporting beams and move the home), Baumgardner said a general guideline for estimating the cost of lifting a (wood-frame) house is to multiply the base square footage of a home by $15.
Factoring in permits, engineering and contractor fees outside of the house-lifting process itself, Baumgardner says owners can expect to pay $50 to $80 per square foot of a home's footprint.
The costs are substantial under any circumstance, but so are the potential increases in flood insurance premiums over time, Baumgardner said. And experts like his company's Rod Scott can help owners understand available grants and flood-insurance ICC (increased cost of compliance) programs.
Baumgardner started Baumgardner House Lifting about a month ago and is one of five house-lifting companies selected by the state Department of Community Affairs for the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program.
The company is licensed to work anywhere in New Jersey and currently has jobs in Atlantic City, Ventnor and Beach Haven — with some under contract in Ocean City.
Baumgardner is a graduate of St. Augustine Preparatory School in Buena Vista Township. He was a scholarship offensive lineman at James Madison University.
He said his parents were not thrilled when he suggested leaving school in his third year to start a house-lifting business, but when he persisted and provided a pro forma financial plan, he ultimately won the blessing and the assistance of a family with more than 65 years of experience in the local construction industry.
For more information on the new company:
- Time-lapse photography of the house-lifting process