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The Importance of Rainscreen Systems

Protecting Your Home From Damaging Moisture

Furring strips are vertical pieces of wood that create a ventilation cavity when placed between the insulation and siding. They are part of an overall rainscreen system preventing moisture from damaging a home.

The Importance of Rainscreen Systems

While we all want a home that is comfortable and beautiful, we also want a solid structure made of durable materials that will last for years to come.  But the durability of our homes is threatened by environmental factors, especially wind, rain, heat, and humidity.  Incorporating a high-performance rainscreen system will help protect your home from the damaging effects of moisture.

What is a rainscreen?

A rainscreen is not actually an individual product, but part of a wall construction system.  Its overall purpose is to protect the wall sheathing from moisture that gets past the siding.   Rainscreen systems typically consist of the following components:

  • Exterior cladding (siding)
  • Ventilation and drainage cavity
  • Insulation
  • House wrap (drainage-plane material)
  • Air barrier
Rainscreen is an wall construction system that prevents moisture from damaging a home's wall sheathing.
Diagram of rainscreen system. Image by Tom Diamond and Garland Industries 

Perhaps the most important component is the ventilation and drainage cavity which provides space between the siding and the house wrap. This space is typically created by applying vertical furring strips (called strapping) over the drainage-plane material. The siding is then nailed to these wood strips.  

Furring strips are vertical pieces of wood that create a ventilation cavity when placed between the insulation and siding.  They are part of an overall rainscreen system preventing moisture from damaging a home.
Furring strips. Image by Ryan McCoon and Habitat for Humanity

Newer rainscreen products, such as Slicker, achieve the same effect by using a three-dimensional matrix with vertical channels.  These products come in a roll and are laid over the entire surface of the wall, providing a continuous space for drainage and drying.  When compared to a product like Slicker, wood strapping is generally less expensive from a material cost but is more expensive to install from a labor standpoint. Other drawbacks of strapping include the creation of hot spots along studs and trapped moisture from wood-to-wood contact, which can lead to reduced air movement and a greater potential for mold.

Slicker rainscreen provides three-dimensional matrix with vertical channels to provide a continuous space for drainage and drying.
The Slicker matrix provides airspace and vertical drainage channels across the entire wall. Image by Benjamin Obdyke/Slicker

Why would you want a rainscreen?

A rainscreen is important because the ventilation cavity promotes residual water drainage and airflow.  Any moisture held in the siding, or that seeps underneath due to wind-driven rain, will diffuse and evaporate.  If there are ventilation openings at the top (as opposed to only a weep holes at the bottom), the rainscreen provides a path for rising air.  According to homebuilder Martin Holladay, research shows that this type of ventilation is a powerful drying mechanism.   Because airflow is promoted, rainscreens have the added benefit of keeping your siding cool which prevents premature failure.

Homebuilder Mark Averill Snyde suggests the airspace provided by a ventilation cavity is especially important to prevent “capillary action.”  He compares this process to a grade-school science experiment during which a stalk of celery is placed into a glass of colored water and the water is observed to move quickly upwards. The same thing can happen to homes without proper ventilation and house wrapping. 

An example of capillary action, where water is drawn quickly upwards. Rainscreens help to prevent this.
An example of capillary action, where water is drawn quickly upwards. Image from Wikipedia.

Isn’t house wrap sufficient?

Some builders and homeowners believe house wrap (such as Tyvek, Typar, and #15 or #30 felt) provides a sufficient barrier.  But for many homes, especially those in wetter climates, it’s not enough.  The primary function of house wrap is to drain water that penetrates the siding through leaky joints or capillary action.  However, house wraps lose their water repellency over time and do very little to reduce air infiltration due to heavy winds.  Once water penetrates the house wrap into a wall, peeling paint and rotten siding often follow.  According to Joseph Lstiburekis from Building Science Corporation, back-priming wood cladding and trim and adding a ventilation cavity reduce the impact of moisture.

In addition to a rainscreen system, other methods to protect your home from water damage include:

While a rainscreen system is important for most homes, it is especially vital in climates that are wet and hot.  Some experts advise rainscreen installations for all houses in areas with an average annual rainfall of 50 inches or more.  Many coastal areas get that much rain each year, so if you’re planning to build a beach home make sure you discuss rainscreens with your contractor.

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Beautiful pergola in a forest-like backyard. Make the most of your outdoor space.

Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

Summer has officially arrived and for many homeowners that means long days spent in the backyard.  Outdoor living will be even more enjoyable if you create your own personal oasis that is both functional and beautiful.  So what follows is The Coastal Cottage Company’s top five tips for making the most of your outdoor space.  We’ll especially focus on patio areas because they are one of the most desired features for new homebuyers.

Prioritize Comfort

We take pride in our homes and often spend a lot of time decorating and remodeling the interior.  But we typically don’t think as much about our outdoor spaces.  Rusted patio furniture, mildewed cushions, and splintered decks are not inviting.  So when designing your patio, focus on comfort.  What would encourage you and your family to spend more time in your backyard?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Choose outdoor seating that is as comfortable as your indoor furniture.  You are no longer limited to the plastic cushions from your childhood that made you feel hot and sweaty!  
  • Lay down outdoor rugs to make being barefoot on wood or cement feel more comfortable.  There are so many options, including sisal, bamboo, and canvas.  For inspiration, check out this collection by Houzz.com.
  • Screen in your porch or deck to prevent pesky bugs from bothering you and your guests.  If you have a wood deck, don’t forget that bugs can get in through the cracks between planks.  Consider stapling screening to the underside of the floorboards or lay down a heavy outdoor rug.
  • Comfort is not limited to how your outdoor space feels, but also how it looks.  Boring concrete slabs, dead plants, and beige cushions do not encourage you to linger.  Use your outdoor space as an opportunity to be creative and integrate styles you never would inside your house.  For example, paint concrete a vibrant color.  Choose wicker furniture or Adirondack chairs rather than the typical plastic furniture.  Incorporate funky patterns like chevron or stripes.  The sky’s the limit!
Back porch overlooking pool with built-in grill. Make the most of your outdoor space.
What does your dream backyard look like? This outdoor space was designed and built by The Coastal Cottage Company.

Think Durable

While comfort and style will encourage you to use your outdoor space, choosing durable materials will allow you to enjoy the space longer.  Wind, sun, rain, and sand can all have ill effects on furniture.

  • Look for weatherproof furniture and accessories that can resist mildew, fading, rotting, and rusting.  
  • For furniture, plastic is durable but fades easily in direct sunlight.  While wood also fades over time, the weathered appearance is actually attractive (unlike faded plastic).  Hardwoods (such as teak, cedar, and redwood) tend to be the most durable and long-lasting, especially when regularly treated with protective oil or sealant.
  • For a more modern or industrial look that is lower maintenance, aluminum furniture will not rust or fade.
Beautiful home with pool and patio. Make the most of your outdoor space.
This home features a lovely pool deck with patio furniture, chimenea, and pergola. Home designed by The Coastal Cottage Company.

Create Drama with Lighting

Effective lighting can make your outdoor living space safer and more aesthetically-pleasing.  Depending on the types of lights you use and their placement, you can transform your backyard into a romantic or magical getaway.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use uplighting to highlight trees or architectural details.  Uplighting involves placing lights below a focal point, such as a spotlight at the base of a tree, pointing upwards towards the branches.
  • Illuminate walkways, rails, and steps with landscape solar lights which will help prevent people from tripping in the dark.  Using solar lights will also help you reduce energy costs.
  • Hang string lights to set an enchanting tone.  Lanterns hanging from trees also add a bit of whimsy to your backyard.  Nylon lanterns provide a much more durable option than traditional paper.
  • Fire pits are another way to add both lighting and coziness to an outdoor space.  Fire pit tables are a great option for a smaller space and double as a piece of useful furniture. Those who like a DIY project can make their own pits using fire brick, which is designed to withstand high temperatures. Another popular and attractive option is the chiminea, which is an outdoor fireplace that has a short chimney. Whatever type of fire pit you choose, it’s a good idea to consult local fire codes to make sure it’s legal to have an open fire in your community.
Uplighting trees. Make the most of your outdoor space.
An example of uplighting. Image by Stoneworx: http://stoneworxpa.com/

Give Yourself Some Privacy

Most of us live in close proximity to others. But even when you enjoy your neighbors, you still want privacy when relaxing in your outdoor space.  Try these tips to create a private hideaway:

  • Install an awning, canopy, or pergola. Not only do these provide shade, they also can block the view of neighbors looking down on your backyard from a second story.  As an added benefit, awnings made of polycarbonate panels block UV rays, better protecting your skin and eyes.
  • Add some outdoor drapery panels to your patio or balcony. Waterproof sailcloth is a great choice.  If you don’t already have an overhead option for attaching a curtain rod, consider using a very simple wood frame to hang them on.
  • Trees and shrubs are often the best option for providing a privacy screen.  Make sure you consult an expert when choosing the type and placement of trees as many varieties grow quite large.  The Arbor Day Foundation provides useful advice.

Maximize the View

Whether your backyard overlooks trees and grass or ocean waves, it’s important to make the most of your view.  Simply being in nature has been shown to have numerous health benefits, so take advantage of your outdoor space.  Try to remove as many barriers between you and your view so you can soak up maximum scenery.

  • For example, steel-cable or clear-glass railing systems take a minimalist approach while still complying with safety codes.
  • You could even consider eliminating the railing altogether (if building codes permit and you don’t have small children).
  • Pocket doors can open an interior room to the outdoors, creating an open-air retreat.  If considering this option, make sure you account for wind, bugs, and sea spray if you’re by the water.
  • Louvered shutters are another option that provide more privacy and protection from bugs, but can easily be opened to reveal your spectacular view.
Maximize your view. Make the most of your outdoor space.
Who wouldn’t love looking at this view everyday? Home designed and built by The Coastal Cottage Company.

We hope these ideas inspire you to invest in your backyard and create a space you and your family will enjoy spending time in.  And if you’re selling your home, keep in mind that 83% of homebuyers indicate having a nice patio is a desirable, even essential, feature.  So let’s pledge to make the most of our outdoor spaces this summer and design the oasis we’ve always wanted!

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for The Coastal Cottage Company


Laying Concrete in V-Zones

During a hurricane, Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with.  The intense precipitation, flooding, and high winds strip materials from buildings, including siding, roof shingles, doors, and windows.  These airborne debris are a major contributor to home damage and human injury.  Therefore, when building on the coast, it’s imperative that your home is compliant with V-zone building codes.  One building material to be very careful with is concrete.  

Large pieces of broken concrete can damage buildings and harm people. Image by Mark Wolfe, courtesy of FEMA

Forceful waters and high velocity winds can cause concrete slabs to hydroplane, flip, or break into large chunks that could damage buildings and injure, even kill, people.  As a result, building codes require such slabs be of frangible concrete.  This means they are designed to break into smaller pieces which will sink rather than travel.  So when constructing driveways, pool decks, and patios, it’s important your contractor follows these guidelines:

  • No reinforcement should be used
  • Slabs should not be thicker than four inches
  • Slabs must remain structurally independent of the building
  • Control joints must be spaced at 4-foot squares to encourage even breaking

When laying cement in V-zone areas, proper control joint spacing and depth are essential.  According to the Portland Cement Association, placing control joints in the concrete surface at strategic locations creates weakened planes allowing the concrete to crack evenly.  Spacing the control joints at 4-foot squares ensures the concrete will break into smaller pieces which will cause less damage during hurricanes.

Control joints may be tooled into the concrete surface at the time of placement or they may be sawed into the hardened concrete.  Regardless, control joints should be cut to a depth of ¼ the slab thickness.

Control joint. Image courtesy of Portland Cement Association.

Not only is this control joint approach safer, it also produces a more aesthetically pleasing appearance since the crack forms below the finished concrete surface. This method can reduce the amount of hairline cracks on the surface of the cement.

So, when building your vacation home or remodeling to add a backyard oasis, make sure you only work with licensed contractors who are familiar with V-zone construction and the importance of cement control joints.  If you’d like to learn more about concrete, check out our post about reducing surface cracking.

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Concrete Crack Prevention

Concrete Crack Prevention

Concrete is appreciated by both builders and homeowners for its strength, versatility, and affordability.  But if you’ve ever had a concrete driveway or patio, you know the frustration of discovering cracks where the surface was once smooth and pristine.

Despite its many benefits, given enough time, all concrete will develop cracks.  But there are methods for reducing the extent of cracking.

So why does concrete crack and what can you do about it?

Too Much Water in the Concrete Mix

While water is necessary to create a pourable mix, sometimes too much water is added.  This becomes problematic because the more water added, the more shrinkage occurs as the water evaporates.  Shrinkage causes the concrete to pull apart, creating fissures.

To reduce the amount of cracking, make sure you know the advised water to cement ratio for the grade being poured.  A knowledgeable contractor will recognize that while it may take more effort to pour a stiffer mix,  a lower water to cement ratio results in less cracking and greater durability.  If you’d like to calculate the proper water to cement ratio, the Concrete Network provides helpful information. 

Rapid Drying

While you don’t want a mix that is too wet, you also don’t want to allow the concrete to dry too quickly.  The shrinkage caused by rapid drying results in greater cracking, so it’s important that the cement is cured.  Ask your contractor how he/she intends to cure the cement, as there are a few methods.  The most common is to flood or mist spray the concrete.   When this is done for seven days, the resulting slab will be about 50% stronger than an uncured slab. 

Lack of Control Joints

Control joints are planned cracks that permit concrete to expand and shrink as temperatures change.  According to builder Tim Carter, properly placed control joints allow you to influence where and how your concrete cracks rather than leaving it to chance.   Ask your contractor about the joints he/she intends to cut to ensure they are deep enough, spaced properly, and cut at the right time (typically within 6 to 12 hours of pouring).

Concrete Crack Prevention
Control joints in concrete slab. Image courtesy of ConcreteNetwork.com

Insufficient Subbase and Subgrade Support

Many homeowners assume that concrete is strong enough to support itself but slabs need foundations much like houses do.  According to Matt Clawson, contributor at Houzz.com, driveways that bear heavy loads will require thicker slabs and more reinforcement than backyard patios.   There are a few levels of support that can be used beneath concrete slabs.  The subgrade is compacted soil; the subbase is a layer of gravel that sits on top of the subgrade; and the base course is the layer of material directly underneath the slab or vapor barrier.  

Concrete Crack Prevention
Levels of concrete slab support. Image courtesy of ConcreteNetwork.com

According to the American Concrete Institute, slabs should, at minimum, rest on a uniform and well-compacted subgrade.  However, soil quality must be considered.  If the soil is too wet, doesn’t drain well, or is not easily compacted, then additional support may be needed.  A subbase and base course can provide a more even foundation as well as reduce the amount of groundwater that seeps up into the slab.  Also, depending on how much weight will likely sit on top of the slab, steel rebar or fiber-reinforced concrete may be recommended.

While you cannot prevent all cracks, having a better understanding of the mechanics of concrete will allow you to ask your contractor the right questions.  Experienced professionals should be able to answer your questions and articulate a plan to reduce cracking.

Stay tuned for our next post about laying concrete in zones vulnerable to flooding and high winds! 

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Southern Shores Flat Top Cottages

Flat Top Cottages of Southern Shores

When you think about Outer Banks architecture, you likely imagine pastel-colored beach houses with expansive, wrap-around porches, sitting atop wooden pilings.  But in the mid-20th century, a different type of vacation home was popular.  Known as flat-top cottages, they are characterized by their no-pitch roofs and clean, mid-century modern lines.

Flat Top Cottage Aycock Brown
Flat top cottage in Southern Shores, circa 1955. Photo by Aycock Brown, courtesy of North Carolina Modernist Houses

Frank Stick, an artist and conservationist, is credited with designing the flat-top cottage.  Stick studied at the Chicago Art Institute and his paintings appeared on covers of popular magazines like Field and Stream and the Saturday Evening Post.  In 1929, he and his family settled on Roanoke Island and helped to establish the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.  Stick also played a vital role in establishing Cape Hatteras National Seashore as the United State’s first national seashore, which protects significant portions of OBX barrier islands.

Flat-top cottages David Stick and Frank Stick
Frank Stick (right) with son David Stick (left). Image courtesy of North Carolina Modernist Houses

After World War II, Stick turned his attention from painting and philanthropy to architecture.  In 1947, he bought 2,800 acres north of Kitty Hawk, including four miles of Outer Banks oceanfront.  Timber was scarce due to the war, so Stick chose to build with concrete blocks made of local sand.  Inspired by island-style homes in the Florida Keys as well as the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the home facades and floor plans are clean and simple. The flat roofs feature extended overhangs, which offer shade, while the large windows let in ocean breezes.  Many of the cottages feature local juniper-wood paneling, ceiling beams, and hurricane shutters.

Flat-top cottage. Image by Marie Walker, courtesy of My Outer Banks Home

Stick built 80 of these homes in a community called Southern Shores, which was incorporated as a town in 1979.  Currently, less than half of the original flat tops still exist.  Some were damaged by hurricanes, but most were replaced by multi-story vacation homes as owners’ tastes and needs changed.  The flat top cottages that remain are treasured by their owners as important parts of OBX history and iconic examples of mid-century architecture. 

Each year the Southern Shores Historic Flat Top Cottage Tour takes place in April.  Click the link to purchase tickets.

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company


Nags Head Cottage Row

Nags Head: Cottage Row

The Outer Banks have been delighting visitors for over 100 years, but Nags Head is the original tourist attraction.  

Perquimans County plantation owner Francis Nixon is credited with starting the summer vacation tradition with his family in 1830.  The idea spread to other families living across the Roanoke Sound who were seeking an escape from the inland heat.1    

At the time, the ocean air was thought to relieve the “yellow chills” brought on by malaria which was prevalent on many plantations.  So when summer arrived, entire households — including livestock — would move to Nags Head.2   Hotels were built for the onslaught of tourists as early as 1838 and by 1850, visitors could walk along a boardwalk, dance under a pavilion, and even enjoy a bowling alley!3 

Boat Arriving in Nags Head with tourists
Image courtesy of the Town of Nags Head

The first oceanfront cottage was built around 1855 by Dr. W.G. Pool of Elizabeth City, who bought 50 acres for $30.  It’s said that Pool then divided the land into lots and sold them to the friends of his wife for one dollar each so she’d have companionship while at the beach!  By 1885, 13 cottages were built.4  

In the early 1900s, self-taught carpenter Stephen J. Twine repaired and enlarged many of the original summer houses.  Then between 1910 and 1935, he built cottages that would come to represent the Nags Head style of architecture.  These homes formed Old Nags Head Beach Cottage Row, which is now a National Historic District.

According Marimar McNaughton, author of the book Outer Banks Architecture, the Nags Head style is a blend of the original Outer Banks structures and the Arts & Crafts bungalow popular in the early 1900s.  The cottages’ timber-framed exteriors were clad in shingles or weatherboard and topped with gabled roofs with dormers. They also featured wrap-around, single-story porches with built-in benches, wooden storm shutters, and breezeways. The porches, windows, and doors were all strategically designed to maximize cross breezes off the ocean.  With these homes, each design element had a purpose.

Nags Head Unpainted Aristocracy
Image courtesy of Our State Magazine, Emily Chaplin, & Chris Council

Only six of the original cottages remain today.  They are rustic, weathered, and practical, yet elegant in their simplicity, inspiring the moniker the “Unpainted Aristocracy.”5  After sheltering generations of families and enduring over 100 years of storms, they melt into the sand and seagrass that surround them, as if they have always been there.   

Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Conditioned Crawlspaces

During the summer, the Outer Banks are filled with sunshine and family fun.  But it’s also the season we crank up the air conditioning and our utility bills skyrocket. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects warmer temperatures this summer and the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts an increased use of electricity for air conditioning.  So what’s a vacation homeowner to do?

The Coastal Cottage Company recommends researching conditioned, unvented crawlspaces as a option for improving energy efficiency. 

Despite the popularity of vented crawlspaces, many building professionals recognize that a conditioned, unvented crawlspace is the best option for homes in particularly warm and humid climates.  A conditioned crawlspace is constructed and insulated so that it is part of the conditioned space of the house.  

Conditioned Crawlspace
Image courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Outer Banks’ summer air can increase moisture in crawlspaces.  Given the region’s high humidity, that moisture may not dry out and could cause condensation on cooler crawlspace surfaces such as floor joints, foundation walls, and air-conditioning ducts.  According to Peak Energy, this can lead to mold growth and dry rot.

Conditioned Crawlspace
In 2002, Advanced Energy studied a group of 12 houses in North Carolina. The 8 homes that had unvented crawl spaces had relative humidity that stayed less than 60% all summer.

According to the Building Science Corporation, benefits of conditioned crawlspaces include:

  • More efficient cooling and, thus, lower energy costs.
  • Decreased condensation and, thus, lower likelihood of mold growth.
  • Improved structural integrity due to less moisture.
  • Lower maintenance.

So when planning your Outer Banks vacation home, consider chatting with the Coastal Cottage Company about a conditioned crawlspace!

Blog by Jessica T. Smith

The Currituck Club

Corolla, NC is known for its breathtaking ocean views, lush wetlands, and pristine shoreline enjoyed by wild Spanish mustangs. What you might not know is that amidst this natural paradise is an award-winning golf course and gated community with endless amenities.

The Currituck Club, originally built in 1857, was one of the first hunt clubs in the Outer Banks.  During that time, the Outer Banks were revered waterfowl hunting grounds popular with wealthy industrialists from the north and east coast.  Today, the Currituck Club is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and stands on a 15-acre Audubon Society Cooperative Sanctuary.

The same landscape that attracted 19th century steel and railway magnates also appealed to Rees Jones, 1995 Golf World Architect of the Year.  He designed an 18-hole golf course that blends seamlessly into the coastal terrain, which includes sand dunes, maritime forests, and the Currituck Sound.

“At The Currituck Club, Rees Jones has brought to life his philosophy of golf course design – to create an environment for the game of golf that is challenging, fair and aesthetically pleasing, using as his canvas the type of land where golf began.”¹

The championship course was rated one of the “10 Best New Places You Can Play” by Golf magazine and one of the “Top 25 Courses in North Carolina” by Golf Digest

Image courtesy of Club Corp

While golfers will find the Currituck Club heavenly, there is so much more to enjoy!  Take a leisurely bike ride, play a rousing game of tennis, or watch a movie on the big screen at the pool.  The Club offers amenities to entertain any vacationer, including five pools, seven tennis courts, fitness center, lawn games like bocce, and beach valet service.

Residents will also find daily living relaxed and easy with many conveniences. A Harris Teeter Grocery Store is located within the neighborhood, along with restaurants and retail shops.  A complimentary trolley will even pick you up at the foot of your driveway to take you to the beach!

Currituck Club Pool Deck
Image courtesy of Village Realty OBX

So whether your ideal vacation is jam-packed full of activity or simply enjoying a book on the beach, the Currituck Club’s blend of Outer Banks’ history, unspoiled landscape, and modern comforts has everything you’re looking for.

See what the Coastal Cottage Company could build for you and come home to the Currituck Club!

Click here for home plans!



Blog by Jessica T. Smith


coastal foundations

Coastal Foundations

Why we use piling foundations along the Outer Banks of NC. 

coastal-piling-builder-steel-foundationIf you have ever visited or lived on the Outer Banks, you may have been wondering why the homes are built on pilings or “stilts”. You’re not alone, you might be surprised how often this question comes up.

Before moving to the Outer Banks, my wife made me promise that we wouldn’t live in a house on “stilts”.  She wanted to live in a “normal” looking house like the one she had grown up in.  Sure, this seems like a reasonable request, but the fact is there are very few homes on the Outer Banks that have traditional masonry foundations. The majority of the homes on the Outer Banks are built on “stilts” or piling foundations.

So why are they built on piling foundation’s you ask? Well most of the reasoning revolves around the Outer Banks topography and flooding. Wood piles are the most economical way to elevate a house above potentially high flood waters.  Living in an area with relatively flat topography surrounded by water the risk of flooding is always high.  Relatively minor sustained winds can push ocean and sound levels onto normally dry areas.  Higher winds can magnify and compound the damage caused by raised water levels.  Elevating homes above these waters can reduce damage and ultimately save homes that would otherwise be destroyed. 

Piling foundations also provide a deeper, more secure foundation than conventional masonry foundations. Typical foundations like masonry and concrete tend to be shallower.  As a result, they are more susceptible to shifting sands, erosion and undermining. Pilings, on the other hand, are driven deep beneath the sub-grade and are not as affected by surface erosion by wind or flood waters.

How do pilings support a house? Foundation piles support homes in two ways.  First, piles support the house load through “skin friction”. Skin friction is the resistance of the soil, typically sand in our area, along the sides of the pile to downward pressure.  And secondly, through the piles “end bearing”. The end bearing is the ability of the pile to resistance downward pressure at the “tip” or bottom of the pile. The combination of skin friction and end bearing provide substantial bearing capacities capable of supporting the unique homes on the Outer Banks.

Do you need to build on a pile foundation? This depends on the property location and flood zone. The minimum elevation for a home may vary based on design flood levels and lot location typically designated by FEMA. A qualified engineer or builder can help you decide what foundation type is best for your lot, home and the flood requirements.

coastal-foundations-outer-banks-pilingsIn conclusion, homes on the Outer Banks vary widely in terms of construction type and appearance.  Many architects and engineers over the years have come up with unique ways to minimize the “stilt look” while maintaining the benefits of pile supported foundation (as my wife required ours to be). Piles also provide a relatively economical way for home owners to achieve extraordinary views including spectacular sunrises and sunsets. So the next time you are visiting the Outer Banks and someone says “I wonder why all the homes are built on those stilts…”, you will have the answer.  

 -blog provided by: Barrett Crook – Kitty Hawk Engineering, PLLC  www.kittyhawkengineering.com


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