A portion of the house lifting process

Many people dream of living on an East Coast beach. While beachfront property might be colder in the areas we serve — Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, NewHampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — it’s worth it to see the beauty of the ocean and the sunrises over the water.

While it’s lovely to live on the beach, numerous problems can arise. The reality can be difficult if you’re having to deal with a foundation that’s starting to succumb to the elements. Let’s take a look at the primary reasons beach house foundations can cause problems for homeowners…and what Payne Construction Services can do to help.

Hurricane Swells

Perhaps the greatest threat to most coastal homes in the Northeast is that of hurricane swells. While homes that are far inland suffer from flooding due to excessive rain, it’s those on the waterfront that can be hit hardest by hurricanes. These are the images that make the news, as water directly from the ocean buffets homes.

Hurricane swells can bring with them incredible levels of pressure. Many times it’s not the initial blast of water that destroys a home’s foundation, but the pressure from all sides as the water lingers. That’s one reason traditional slab construction is not allowed in homes close to the ocean; the greater the surface area touching the foundation, the more likely it is to fail.

Standing Water

Once a swell or heavy rain brings water to the foundation of your house, the sandy ground might not absorb the water very well. Leaving water around for too long can cause problems with any foundation if it becomes waterlogged. As we all know, saltwater can destroy just about anything given enough time!


Part of living on the coast means having to deal with the wind. While that’s a selling point for anyone who loves the crisp ocean air, it’s also important to remember that those strong winds are putting constant pressure on one particular side of the house. If the house isn’t properly fitted to the foundation, decades of winds can cause it to be unsteady.


It’s also important to think about the way the wind can whip the sand against the foundation of the house. If you’ve ever heard of sand blasting, you know very well that sand can chip away at foundation and cause pits in whatever is supporting your home. While the amount they take off might not be much, it could allow freezing water into crevices. This will force supporting structures to break, which allows even more freezing water in.

Of course, having too little sand can also be a problem. As sand wears away from the base of a house, it can lead to depressions that in turn lead to standing water.

Shallow Foundations

Building a house on sand just isn’t an option, even if a house looks like it’s directly on the beach. Houses are actually built on beams that are driven down to the underlying bedrock.

Unfortunately, many times these beams simply aren’t driven deep enough in order to keep a house sturdy. Maybe the contractor was trying to cut corners, or maybe the old standards were enough for the world at the time…and then the world changed. If you have beachfront property, it’s very possible you’ll need to have new beams drilled to strengthen your house.

What Can Be Done?

The most common solution to protect coastal homes from ocean swells is to lift them. Many homes are already on post and beam foundations, but with rising sea levels and more intense hurricanes a homeowner can discover that the initial height just isn’t enough anymore. We can lift the house gently and put new supports underneath so that water will flow under a home instead of gathering around it.

How high should a home be lifted? Many factors determine the height, but you’ll want it higher than the highest swells that you’ve experienced. It’s also important to get it above base flood elevation, or BFE. This essentially means getting the home above 100-year floods, and can be determined by the elevation of your land and your proximity to areas that can flood due to rainwater (canals, rivers, and streets).

Contact Payne Construction Services Today!

While any home can have foundation problems — whether due to flooding, improper mixing of concrete, or poor weather conditions on the day it was poured — the foundations of houses on a coastline are considerably more difficult to create in the first place and keep in good condition over the long-term. In short, beach houses need stronger foundations, so when you notice any problems you really shouldn’t put off getting it fixed or replaced.

Payne Construction Services has a long history of house jacking. In fact, our family has been lifting houses on the East Coast since the late 1950s…it’s how we got our start! Today we can lift and move houses of any size, ensuring they have the base that will help them survive the harsh environment. Contact us today with questions or to get the process started!