Ask the Architect

Our house isn’t high enough


Q. We have a big problem. Our house was lifted and is now sitting on its new foundation, but at the wrong height. Our architect and contractor were recommended by the NY Rising program as preferred professionals, but a few months ago, the contractor, without saying a word, ran off to Texas with our job unfinished. Then our architect, who took much longer, because he left the outside stairs and many other things out of the plans, quit just after we learned that he didn’t show the house at the right height. It seems that the laundry room, which steps down from our family room into our garage, was really the lowest floor, meaning the house was supposed to be 14 inches higher so that it was out of the flood level. So now we can’t move back, the NY Rising architect and contractor have left and we don’t know what to do. What do you recommend? We are desperate to get back in our house.

A. You have a big problem, and I hope it can be solved without a lot of anguish, but I have little faith that NY Rising is going to take any responsibility for its recommended architect or contractor. When NY Rising announced that it had preferred contractors and architects, I was disappointed and skeptical. Whenever I see one of those magazine articles about the “best” dermatologist, “best” lawyer, etc., I wonder how anyone believes it, but people do. The best is an opinion. Preferring or recommending select NY Rising sanctioned professionals gives NY Rising some responsibility, though.

You should consult an attorney. Your contractor, if they took funds and did not deliver the service to their contract, has committed a crime that should be followed up with the NY Rising Program, the Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs and the district attorney’s office. The architect isn’t out of the woods, either. Offering to solve the floor-level issue, correcting the plans and even helping you locate another contractor are possible solutions. If not, reach out to the State Education Department’s Office of the Professions.

I’m confused as to how the building department of your jurisdiction didn’t notice the floor-level issue as well. This problem with floor-level adjustments throughout the design process isn’t uncommon, and we professionals have all had issues with agencies’ differences when it comes to identifying the base flood level, whether it’s the Federal Emergency Management Agency or New York state or NY Rising levels, and local jurisdiction levels taken from either crown of road or base of house. It can be confusing, but the determination is ultimately decided and approved by your building official. Solving this problem is going to take cooperation from the architect, NY Rising and your building official. At this point, consult another architect for possible solutions for relocating the laundry space or adjusting the floors internally. It may be the most feasible way out, rather than lifting again.

© 2018 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.