Stilt Houses: 10 Reasons to Get Your House Off the Ground

Here are 10 homes that raise the stakes, plus advice on when you might want to do the same

By Rebecca Gross  /  Courtesy of Houzz.com

Stilt houses date to prehistoric times and can be seen in a variety of forms worldwide. New about them are the innovative and diverse ways in which they are being designed and built. Stilt houses are well suited to coastal regions and subtropical climates. They protect against floods, maximize views and allow homeowners to build on rocky, steep or unstable land. They also keep out animals and vermin, provide ventilation under the house and minimize a house’s footprint. Here are 10 houses on wooden, steel or concrete posts or pillars that will help you understand the reasons to consider taking your house to the next level by building on stilts.

1. To build on a sloping suburban site. This neat one-bedroom studio in Brisbane, Australia, is raised above the ground on steel posts. Considering the potential for rain in the region, and the home’s site on a sloped suburban hillside, elevating the house on stilts made sense to reduce flooding, water damage and weakening of the house’s foundation. Its position higher up in the trees allows a beautiful outlook from the house.

2. To build on an unstable foundation. On a sandy dune in Fraser Island, Australia, this stilt house makes the most of sea views. The wooden poles are driven deep into the soil below the sand, anchoring the house to the ground and ensuring maximum stability. 

A curved roof mimics this slope, while the platforms upon which the house is built imitate the deck of a yacht or cruise ship.

3. To build on a steep coastal site. This two-bedroom vacation house sits on a steep coastal site overlooking the scenic Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. While the house follows the slope of the land, steel posts elevate it. This allows for a minimal footprint on the ground and magnificent views from the house.

4. To build on uneven ground. In Scottsdale, Arizona, this minimalist, modernist house hovers above the desert floor. The steel column stilts are subtle, but in varying heights, they allow for the natural undulations of the land and the local flora to remain untouched.

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5. To build over water. Inspired by Japanese architecture and its emphasis on integration with nature, this house in Maine engages both the land and water elements of its lakeside location. The living space of the house juts out over the water, supported by 14 structural steel columns. This not only makes for an unusual living space, but it also lessens the house’s mass and footprint on the fragile shore.

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6. To maximize views. In beautiful Margaret River in southwest Australia, one section of this house has been elevated on stilts, leaving the hillside and flora undisturbed where possibleThe design of the house takes advantage of its site. Extending the home out toward the Indian Ocean — with empty space below — has enhanced the feeling of looking out over the coast. Large glass panes allow for panoramic views.

7. To ventilate underneath the house. Many of the original homes in Queensland, Australia, are elevated on wood “stumps.” This allows for ventilation and cool air to flow under the house, protects the main structure from termites and other pests, and enables the natural flow of water in times of torrential rain.

8. To enhance sustainable design. On Australia’s Sunshine Coast, this house has been designed with space and energy efficiency in mind. It is a series of geometric volumes neatly fitted together on varying levels with stilts of differing heights. This has created areas of shade and sun that naturally warm and cool the house throughout the day. Much of the home was built on stilts to minimize its environmental impact before, during and after construction.

9. To protect against floods. Biloxi, Mississippi, on the Gulf of Mexico, is prone to floods. To mitigate any flood damage, this house is elevated on 20 concrete pilings and wooden stilts. The raised position also takes advantage of views over the bay and provides space underneath the house to shelter vehicles and equipment.

10. Because you can … and it’s stunning. And finally, a great reason to build a stilt house is because you can. On the coast of South America, this stilt house navigates rocky and steep hillside terrain, leaving the land untouched. Its stone facade and timber structure blend beautifully with the coastal landscape, while its curved walls mimic the slope of the hillside.