Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NJ Builder Corrects Modcoach about Sandy Aftermath

Yesterday I received the following email from a NJ modular home builder very politely correcting my article Small Builders Have Advantage After Sandy.

Three things became evident after reading his comments. First, he brought up a point about foundations and infrastructure that I should have known; secondly he survived the storm and is ready to help his neighbors; and lastly, if you're going to correct Modcoach, please do it as pleasantly as he did. We all wish he and his family the best after his terrible ordeal.

Dear Modcoach;

In regard to your 11/10/12 article, "Small Builders Have a Huge Advantage After Sandy", I believe your heart was in the right place but some of your facts were just not correct.

I live on a New Jersey Barrier Island in the town of Lavallette.  Lavallette is the next town north of Ortley Beach which was really hammered by Sandy.  Lavallette was hit pretty hard too - I stayed there for six days after Sandy, then we voted ourselves off the Island.  My family has been building homes from the same location for over 64 years, my company 47 years and myself almost 33 years. 

To qualify my opinion, please see:

Our website:



I agree with you that there is great opportunity for small builders in the "After Sandy Recovery" - we are one of them and look forward to helping our community.

In your second paragraph you state that in a lot of cases the existing foundation may be reused.  I disagree with that statement.  Many of the existing foundations were built years before the IRC-2009.  Many were built below the FEMA Base Flood Elevation of today.  Many required foundation pilings but because of lack building codes many years ago, no pilings were installed. And many were severely damaged due to scouring and the floating debris field. I know this from first hand inspection. Virtually 99% of the foundation remains that I have seen will not meet the current FEMA regulations nor the current IRC-2009 requirements.  Many are on non-confirming lots.  Almost every foundation that remains should be completely removed and reconstructed to the most current building code.

The modular time advantage may be lost to the development of new zoning and freeboard requirements most every New Jersey coastal town will surely be addressing.  A number of the local zoning ordinances are based on average lot depths and existing conditions that just don't exist anymore.

At the Jersey Shore, there are all sorts of infrastructure problems that need to be addressed before we can even think of building new homes - it will take months to a year.

Entire municipal buildings have been destroyed with all their records, computers, desk, chairs, etc.  It will take time for them to set up their government and be able to address issuing building permits for new homes.  I can see emergency repairs for repairable homes but new homes on the Coast will be a months away at the least.

Almost every modular home we've built survived Sandy intact with either very little or no damage except for some flooding.  And then there were some that were not so lucky. We have a dramatic photo, on our Facebook page, of a Sica Built modular home that stayed anchored to the concrete block foundation - when all the homes around it were destroyed - some modular homes built by our competition.  Even though the first floor suffered destructive sheet flow flooding and debris field damage, this modular home stayed anchored to the foundation "Jersey Strong".

Fortunately our business location was completely undamaged by Sandy and we've had electric back on for a week - now our first thoughts are when are they going to open up the Barrier Island so we can move back home - we've been told it may be some time yet.

This morning, we spoke to the building department in Surf City, which is a small town on LBI. We have a home that was about two weeks away from Certificate of Occupancy when Sandy hit.  Another Sica Built home completely undamaged - 1' of water in the crawl space but due to our flood mitigation techniques - no damage at all.

The building department told us since were one of the very few with an open building permit, we may finish the new home and apply for C of O.  The building department advised us that they will not be accepting any new home building permit applications anytime soon.

Al Sica
SICA Homes


Anonymous said...

I agree with him. I have viewed most of the coastline and see about 80 percent is foundation failur. Norm Hall Simpson Strongtie.

Anonymous said...

Without seeing the what it looks like first hand, you can't imagine how much work is going to be needed. I am so sadden by all the destruction.

Anonymous said...

Financing will also be a real issue. Don't expect FEMA monies to cover the costs of re-building. And the SBA Loan program is difficult. They ask the builder to take a lot of risk, and forget curbside payment.

Northern NY was hit by Hurricane Irene 15 months ago. Most folks are still waiting for FEMA.

Anonymous said...

As a factory rep in the northeast, several builders have asked if I thought the storm would bring more business...on this Al Sica and I are in complete agreement.. If you see a new home being built within a year,, I will be amazed...