How to Move a House

There are two ways to do it, take it apart, move it and reassemble or move the whole building in one piece. If you chose not to de-assemble, chimneys have to come off, overhead wires and trees along the way may have to be moved. Be advised.

Historic Molette Plantation House Going Mobile in Alabama

Historic preservation issues, renovating and moving a house almost two centuries old can lead to unconventional solutions. Chris and Jodi Laumer-Giddens are the husband and wife team behind LG Squared, an Atlanta-based architectural firm that was initially called in to help design the HVAC system for the “Molette Plantation” house that was built in 1825.

The house, which is in Dallas County Alabama, was already scheduled to move to a new location and was slated for an addition when LG Squared became involved. As they began working on the project, the designer’s role expanded. “The owners originally contacted us to design the mechanical system but after some additional site visits we took a closer look at the building envelope by doing some energy modeling,” says Chris.

How she looked, back in the day.

Because the owners wanted to keep the existing section of the house as close as possible to the original design, they had already chosen single pane windows which effected the game plan for the HVAC system. “Since we couldn’t change the windows, we really focused on the rest of the systems,” says Chris.

Engineering a tight building envelope in the heat of the deep south became more complex as the design team was charged with preserving the interior paneling and saving the exterior siding on the existing house. Each piece of original siding was carefully removed, course-by-course, as missing boards were replaced with new ones manufactured to the same specifications.

Keeping it real on the inside.

To work around the vintage-style wall construction, compensate for the heat gain from the windows, circumvent moisture issues and hold costs down; rock wool insulation was selected for the walls, followed by a layer of insulated sheathing covered with a ventilated rain screen. All seams in the sheathing and gaps around window openings were taped or sealed with an adhesive in an attempt to turn the house into a giant “beer cooler.” Insulated sheathing was also used on the roof to seal off the lid of the cooler.

How to build a house-sized beer cooler.

The design team suggested a mini-split system for heating and cooling but using the ductless variety on interior walls was voted down for aesthetic reasons. “Ducted mini-splits give you almost the same efficiency as the ductless and you don’t see them,” says Chris. The project uses four air handlers hidden above the ceilings, each controlling one zone of the house. A tankless water heater and a energy recovery ventilation system are also part of the mix.

The addition joins up and gets sealed together with the original.

The homeowners, David and Eleanor Chetham, who live in Atlanta, plan to use the house as a weekend getaway and eventually retire there. The house has been in their family for seven generations and has been moved once before, to make room for another house. The most current move for the 80-ton building, removed it from a flood plain, took six-hours and covered three miles of country roads bordered by cotton fields.

Because the original section of the house didn’t have a kitchen or bathroom configured into the original floor plan, those rooms are going into the addition along with a dining room and living area. The upstairs of the addition will contain a guest suite and the master bath. The old section of the house will be devoted to a family room and den on the first floor with the master bedroom and another bedroom on the second floor.

Can’t have a house in the south without a big porch.

LG Squared worked with local builder Steve Johnson of Renovations Plus, based in Marbury, Atlanta to come up with a plan to blend the old section of the house with the new addition. “They will look almost identical, with the new section coming off the center of the original house,” says Chris, “it will also have a back porch with a lower roof and a front porch that matches the rest of the design details.”

The project is now finished and served as a learning experience for everyone involved. “It’s very challenging to take a building with no insulation, and incorporating modern requirements into a house that was built without any requirements at all,” says Chris. “We were also able to come up with a floor plan that exceeded the owner’s expectations.”

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