By Walter Smith
During my freshman year of college, I met Henry. We became friends for life. Years later, Henry purchased a vacation cottage in Ocean City, New Jersey that was built in 1889. It is the only original cottage of that age on the beach. It has a great location, wooden shingle siding, and a wonderful wrap around porch. The house is divided into two sides. Each side has three floors and three bedrooms. My wife and I have visited Henry and his wife, Ann, many times at their beach house, and we have fond memories of these times.
When Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey shore, the cottage suffered about a foot of mud and water rampaging through it. The front and back doors were knocked off their hinges. A neighbor who stayed for the storm filmed the storm washing the dining room table out of the front door. It was posted online, found by CNN, and broadcast on national television. Henry’s son saw the broadcast and quickly emailed a copy of the video to his father. You can watch the video below.
A week or two after Sandy, Henry and Ann went to their cottage and started the cleaning up process. They hired a mini excavator to remove the three feet of sand that had washed into the backyard. Henry, with the help of a neighbor, used buckets to start removing the sand that had washed under the house and up against the floor joists. Ann started working on removing the six inches of sand and mud from inside of the house using buckets and a shovel.
On Election Day in November 2012, four young men from central Pennsylvania approached my friends. They said, “We have watched you two work way too hard, and we want to help.” They had a small loader that they used to dump the sand and mud into in the front of the house and then hauled it to the street with the machine. Two of them worked inside the house and two of them worked under the house. In four hours, they helped my friends remove the majority of the sand and mud. The four young men would have stayed later but they had to return to Pennsylvania to vote. They refused to accept any money – “they had just wanted to help.” (Community and goodwill is alive and well!)
The floors were torn out, the kitchens were gutted, and the plaster and lathe walls were removed to the ceiling. The cottage looked naked.
Vaspoli Builders were hired to underpin the house with thirty helical piers and underpinning brackets to support the four-by-twelve foot wooden beams that the house rested on. Vaspoli installed steel angles to reinforce the wooden beams. In the back of the house, they replaced three major beams with pressure-treated-wood laminated beams.
Steve Vaspoli and his crew leveled the house with the helical piers and did a great job of replacing what little was left of the hundred-year-old wood piles. Most of the original piles were washed away by the storm. Henry and Jack, a carpenter friend, proceeded to add additional floor joists and wall studs to reinforce the framing of the house. A plumber and electrician were called in to rough in the new electric and plumbing. Air conditioning was installed in the house for the first time.
Finally it was time to start putting the house back together. Henry and Jack put a new sub floor and wooden floor in both sides of the house. Then they hung the drywall and installed new kitchen cabinets, appliances, and flooring in both kitchens. The job was completed with new kitchen floors and repairs to the porch.
The house still has the original look, but is up to date on all accounts. Henry, Ann, and Jack deserve an award for their perseverance in preserving this wonderful, old cottage. Helical piers will support them and the house for a very long time.
Walter Smith is Danbro Distributor’s Installation Field Specialist and Territory Manager for Central & Northeastern PA, Hudson Valley and Upstate NY, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. With over 20 years in the helical pile industry, Walter guides all new installers through their first job.