Offering an opportunity to boost lumber package sales by up to 30 percent, raised floor systems can be a great volume addition to stick sales, especially when prices are running on the high-end of the commodity swing. Compared to concrete slab and slab-on-grade foundations, raised floors systems rest floor joists on a network of piers typically 16 to 24 inches above the ground. However, convincing contractors to alter their construction techniques with an alternative foundation method and getting them to buy additional loads of 2x10s and 2x12s isn't always such an easy sell.
“I would love to sell raised floor systems because it would obviously increase my lumber sales,” says Jim Price, president of single-unit Ed Price Building Materials in Baton Rouge, La. Price says he has previously found great success with selling raised floor systems in markets in Tennessee, but concedes that the majority of construction in his current market is on concrete foundations, and getting contractors to abandon the slab mind-set is extremely difficult. “The benefit to the pro dealer is obvious,” Price says. “But the contractor needs to see a savings advantage, in turn, if they are going to do things differently.”
To help pro dealers win builders over, the Kenner, La.–based Southern Pine Council (SPC) has developed a 48-page design and construction guide detailing the architectural, structural, and environmental benefits of building a wide variety of home styles using raised floor systems. Working off of the contractor buzz generated by a raised floor display at their booth at the 2004 International Builders' Show in January, the SPC fast-tracked development of the guide for a March release to pro dealers and has been engaged in an outreach blitz for the past four months.
“The looks of a building are better with a base, or as Frank Lloyd Wright explained: with a bottom, a middle, and a top,” says Baton Rouge architect Kevin Harris, who works extensively on custom homes and remodels encompassing raised floor systems and assisted SPC as a technical and architectural adviser during the development of the raised floor guide. “If you build with a raised foundation, you automatically have that base, and you are building it higher so it has more presence on the street. It's a far better way to achieve curb appeal than by trying to oversize [the façade of a house] like french fries at McDonald's.”
Beyond architectural appeal, “there are lots of advantages to the raised floor,” says Harris. “With moisture you are right on the ground with a slab, and if you get 18 inches off the ground with the bottom of the floor joist and have open circulation, the humidity level drops enough to where you don't get mold growth or wood rot.” It also provides increased protection from termites and allows for easier access to wiring and pipes.
In addition to sections highlighting these and other value-added sales options of raised floor systems, the SPC raised floor guide contains construction and insurance cost comparisons between raised floor and slab and slab-on-grade foundations. The guide also includes four case studies and information on soil and site preparation, design loads, span tables, and floor framing.
For a free copy of the raised floor guide, contact the Southern Forest Products Association at 504.443.4464 and request publication #411 or order online at www.southernpine.com.