Fort Myers Beach family rebuilds with quick and affordable modular home after Hurricane Ian

But forget what you think you know about construction, there is a new and affordable way many are choosing to rebuild.

View Original Article on ABC7 >

By Alexia Tsiropoulos

A family on Fort Myers Beach is building a modular home after Hurricane Ian wrecked their home. But forget what you think you know about construction, there is a new and affordable way many are choosing to rebuild.

“It was a 1965 little cinder block house, and it completely imploded,” said Charlie Hornfeck.

He and his wife Leslie moved into their home years before Ian hit.

The Hornfecks could never have imagined this would happen to their home on Fort Myers Beach.

“Standing on top of a pile of rubble a year ago,” Charlie said.

They went back through the bad memories, recollecting a time when they could barely recognize their slice of paradise.

“Our house wasn’t even as high as the storm surge, so it didn’t stand a chance — it was underwater completely,” they said.

The Hornfecks said many of their neighbors on Jefferson Street suffered the same fate. The damage was great, but their drive to ​recover was greater.

“We knew that we would rebuild and that it would be fast,” Leslie said.

Here we are a year later, and things look a little different for Charlie and Leslie.

“The permitting took a little over three weeks,” Idyll Construction owner Mark Raudenbush said.

The couple partnered with Raudenbush to build a new home.

“These homes are more energy efficient, more storm efficient, they will create better capacity for families to be here on the beach,” Raudenbush said.

But this rebuild looks a little different.

“It is a new beginning for the island and it’s a new beginning for my customers and my family,” he said.

Raudenbush works with a company that creates modular homes.

Think of these houses like a giant puzzle, or a Lego piece. It is assembled piece by piece. Instead of building everything on-site, workers create sections of the home in a factory. Once the sections are ready, they are delivered to the actual building site and put together.

“We’ve got about 28 of them right now planned on the island and I’ve been talking to some people today that are probably going to get on board with it as well,” Raudenbush said.

There are two reasons why the homeowners went with this option. They told ABC7 that the first is affordability, the cost of this modular home is about a third of what conventional construction would cost. 

The second is the speed. It took crews less than six minutes to put up just a quarter of this home.

“The crew came in this morning at about 7 o’clock and started setting up and now here we are at 1 o’clock and we’ve got a full three-bedroom two-bath home on the site,” Raudenbush said.

The house fits together like Lego pieces, with cranes lifting the four pieces in place on top of the foundation. The entire operation took just under seven hours.

“It’s very exciting,” Charlie said. “Very exciting to watch those pieces swing into place. It’s awesome.”

Raudenbush said building the house and laying down the foundation took the same amount of time as it took to build this house.

“It took us about two weeks to get the foundation built,” he said. “Meanwhile, the actual construction of the house in the factory was 21 days.”

The owners did not have to deal with supply chain shortages, however, there is still a little bit of work to be done.

“It will take about four to six weeks to finish the on-site work,” Raudenbush said. “We’ve got some stucco work some drywall work and finishing out the mating of these four sections, and the house into one home.”

But after that short amount of time, the doors to this home will be open in March.

“People can come by and see if it is something that they might want to do and hopefully that will also help with rebuilding the island back faster,” Leslie said.

And in case of another hurricane, this home should still be standing afterward.

“It’s built to code now and this construction can withstand 180 mph winds,” Charlie said.

It’s thanks to this new method of construction that the Hornfecks and dozens of other families will be able to keep their homes.

Coming back better, stronger, and safer than they were before.

Originally published on January 9, 2024

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