80-ton house raised on stilts to escape flooding

Sarah Coles
House raised on silts
House raised on silts

After last year's flooding devastated many parts of the UK, some homeowners faced the horrible fact that even after they had cleared the carnage from the latest flood, it was only a matter of time before their home would be wrecked by water again. One man in Wraysbury, Berkshire, was faced with this grim future, and came up with a highly unusual solution: he decided to put his house on stilts.

Yaron Ivry (58) spent £125,000 and endless time and energy repairing the damage caused by the floods. He realised that because his family lived between the River Thames and an artificial water channel, there was a real risk that their home would flood again. So rather than leave his home in the hands of fate, he decided to raise it on stilts, so it was 4 and a half feet higher. He then filled in the gap with an enormous basement designed to be regularly flooded without causing any damage.

The Daily Mail revealed that the building was placed on a steel cradle, which spread the load evenly over the ground floor of the building. Over ten days, it was raised by computerised jacks at a speed of three inches an hour. Although the doors and windows had to be braced, the contents of the house made very little difference to its overall weight, so everything remained inside.

The work has been a headache, and has cost £70,000, but he told the newspaper that not only had it saved them from the threat of flood, but it had also improved his property's value from around £1 million - to closer to £2 million.

Not alone
This project takes a groundbreaking approach, but this family is not the first to see stilts as the answer. Sam and Dawn Ray, from Sandhurst in Gloucester, put their home onto stilts in 2012 after being flooded three times. Instead of lifting it, they came up with the ingenious solution of knocking the ground floor down, and leaving the supporting pillars in place - effectively converting their home into a bungalow on stilts. The project cost them a reported £100,000.

In January this year, the director of the Institution of Civil Engineering suggested that homes on stilts could be one solution to the increased threat of flooding. Keith Jones said: "There is evidence now from around the country of people when they re-build their properties thinking, 'Instead of my front door and my garage being on the ground floor I will leave my garage on the ground floor, but I'll turn my bedroom into my lounge so when there's flooding I'll look out onto the floods rather than be sat in the water.' Let's be imaginative."

It's just one of a variety of approaches which could make homes able to withstand flooding as an every-day part of life. Back in May this year, the Environment Agency suggested that houses could be built to withstand floods in the future - as they are in other flood-prone parts of the world. Lord Smith pointed out that it was impractical to ban building on flood plains, but suggested looking to examples elsewhere - such as the homes in Holland which are designed to float when the water levels rise.

But what do you think? Are these homes the answer? Or is it up to the government to stop floods rather than make it easier to live with them?

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