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Home > Communications > Newsroom > 2007


Cameron Home Tour Offers Ideas for Hurricane-Resistant Gulf Coast Living
September 27, 2007

CAMERON – Rebuild on piers or a pad? That question was a priority for Pamelia Villa of Moss Bluff who came to a recent LSU AgCenter Tour of Homes in Cameron Parish.

Villa’s home had been smashed by two trees blown down during Hurricane Rita. She rents a mobile home now, a step up from the small trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I’m still paying a house note, flood insurance and homeowner’s insurance,” she said.

But before building a new home, she is trying to figure out the best construction methods and materials.

“We’re trying to do it right the first time,” said her mother, Lollion Elmer, also of Moss Bluff.

Villa asked Carla Richard, whose new Cameron home was on the Sept. 23 tour, about different ways of building a home to comply with elevation requirements.

Richard said she preferred piers because climbing stairs is no different than walking up a small hill. Richard also had an elevator included in the new home to make it easier to haul groceries and other items.

Villa said she favors building on a ground-level foundation, but she’s still considering piers.

Richard and her husband, Bryon Richard, moved into their home on June 22. It has several features, in addition to the elevated structure, that help with its storm resistance. These include an elevated air-conditioning unit, an unvented attic insulated with sprayed-in foam, short roof overhangs, impact-resistant windows, vinyl siding and a wind-resistant nailing pattern on the shingles.

The foundation is made of 10-inch square, treated wood pilings driven 12 feet into the ground and wrapped with brick veneer. The bottom of the lowest horizontal beam is 14 feet, 2 inches above sea level. The home is only a few hundred yards from the beach. The Gulf of Mexico and passing shrimp boats can be seen from the elevated front porch.

“This is a very peaceful place,” Richard said.

The homes of Margaret Jones at Cameron and the McCall Family of Grand Chenier also were on the tour. Both have been elevated.

In the Jones home, the piling foundation consists of 36 10-inch square, treated wood pilings, each 20 feet long, driven 10 feet into the ground. The pilings are surrounded by a concrete collar and connected to a slab with steel reinforcement bars. The foundation includes fiber cement siding, a standing-seam roof, impact-resistant windows, fiber cement decking and stairs, and an unvented attic with sprayed-in foam insulation.

The McCall home is supported by concrete pilings tied together by beams. A grid of trenches between the pilings was filled with reinforcement bars and concrete, and the piers are connected to the home with 1-inch diameter bolts. Also, steel rods connect the foundation to the top of the walls.

Earl Quarles of Lake Charles said he was impressed with the homes on the tour.

“I’ve seen three beautiful homes that are well-constructed,” he said. “I’m glad these people are sharing their homes.”

Quarles’ home has been repaired from damage caused by the roof being blown away, he said. Now Quarles wants to build an addition on his home, and he said the tour gave him some ideas on construction material, particularly windows.

Dr. Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist, was stationed at a visitor’s center on the site of the former AgCenter office. Featured at the site was a series of drawings displaying the “Chenier House,” a demonstration home that will replace the local office of the LSU AgCenter. The home will be a demonstration model featuring hurricane-resistant construction and energy efficiency.

“It will use the most cost-effective methods,” Reichel said. “It will be high-performance and as affordable as possible.”

Reichel said most of the questions posed Sunday centered around foundation issues and how to comply with building codes.

One of those who came looking for advice was Bob Seat of Johnson Bayou, who moved to the area five years ago after retiring from his job in Indiana. He said he wants to build a new home similar to the Chenier House.

Seat said he will be required to build at least 15 feet above ground. He and his wife, Sherry Seat, currently live in a camper.

“I got some money from the Road Home program, and I’m getting a little antsy to get started,” he said.

Giles Gilliam of Lake Charles and his wife, Helen Gilliam, had a beach house at Gulf Breeze wiped out by Rita. For now they have a recreational vehicle at the site, but they came to the tour to get ideas.

“If possible, I’d like to rebuild,” Gilliam said.

Mike McBride said the homes on the tour confirmed he’s on the right path by using concrete piers to rebuild at Holly Beach, in addition to a stronger framework.

“Miss Rita visited us and left nothing but the pilings,” he said.

Mary Hebert of Bell City said Hurricane Rita left her family home in Cameron Parish intact but damaged. She said the family is rebuilding it as a camp. She stopped by the Jones house to see what ideas she might incorporate into the reconstruction.

“We’re doing it ourselves,” she said.

Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, said he was impressed with the tour, and he supports holding similar tours across the Louisiana coastal parishes.

“I thought the program was excellent and the homes and homeowners selected were very effective models for sustainable rebuilding,” he said.

Coreil, who began his career as an area fisheries agent in Cameron Parish, said he was encouraged by what he saw. “It gives you hope for a better future for Cameron Parish.”

Cynthia Richard, LSU AgCenter housing agent in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, said the homes are good examples of hurricane-resistant construction, highlighting several forms of fortified foundations.

“The tour of homes was beneficial because we were able to celebrate three families who have successfully rebuilt and provide hope to those families who are still in the planning stage.”

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