NJ home can be raised and lowered to avoid flooding

"I'm going to put it up," John Bianco said as we stood inside a prototype home he built in the backyard of his business offices in Verona, New Jersey.

He pressed a button on his phone and almost instantly you could hear the buzz of a motor starting.

"We're gonna go up to an inch, then we're gonna go up to two feet, four feet," Bianco said.  "And this particular building, we can do it to eight feet."

You could feel the house starting to rise, slowly, but steadily, inch by inch.

"Prior to a hurricane event or a flood event, you can lift the home up safely. So no floodwaters enter the home and after the flood event is passed, you can lower the home back down," said Phil DeStafano. He and Bianco are CEO and Chief Operating Officer of the company they founded called High Tide Home.

They are literally raising the stakes for home building. Their company invented a house and an app to elevate a home at the push of a button on your phone.

After about 20 minutes the house eases to its desired height and we're all standing on the porch - eight feet off the ground.

"Eight feet is the FEMA standard right now. That's why we built it to this level," DeStafano said.

"After Hurricane Sandy, I had taken a ride down to the Jersey Shore and looked around. My parents have a house down there," Bianco said.
He thought there might be a better way to protect homes from severe flooding. So in his spare time, when he's not working as a general contractor in the Essex County area, he started working on this invention.

"Just help the average person by not losing all their personal stuff. and if you have a business, you raise your business up. if the storms pests, you might be one of the only businesses that could operate," Bianco said.

A decade later, he's turned his idea into reality.  

"After trial and error we came up with the idea to go with electric screw jacks, there's no hydraulics in it," Bianco said.

Instead of hydraulics, there are patented electric screw jacks inside cylinders in each corner with cameras underneath so a homeowner can watch as it elevates off the ground.

It guides the home, mounted on a footing, sitting on a steel plate, with a battery backup, into the air.

Think of it like a corkscrew opening a wine bottle.

"It's almost like a corkscrew with a little motor on it. and it's turning a gear that's making this thing twist up and it's pushing," Bianco said.  

There's also a protective curtain to block potential debris during a flooding event. If water fills up down below, a French drain-like system, which are in many basements, will flush the water out.

The company now has a coveted approval number from an organization recognizing safety standards known as the International Code Council.

DeStafano says the new construction of a normal-sized single-family home with the electric screw jacks, costs about as much as building a home on traditional house stilts- like what you might see at the beach right now.

"There's plenty places that aren't coastal flood lines, locally here by Fairfield in Verona. there's flood zones from the Passaic River during northeasterners that come up the coast, there's a lot of homes here that constantly get damaged. That's a perfect scenario to build one of these," DeStafano said.

They also insist it can be done for larger structures or to retrofit existing homes.

"We actually have a few people that are interested in building a few homes already on the Jersey Shore, and we're about ready to engage in that," DeStafano said.