Are Houses Built On Stilts Safe?

A house built on stilts may seem peculiar to someone living in an urban area. In fact, it may seem more than just peculiar; it may seem unsafe too. Surely one unfortunate knock on the stilts can send the house tumbling down? But, look no further for answers, for we have set out to answer your question if houses built on stilts are safe.

Houses built on stilts are safe. Stilt houses can help protect against natural disasters such as flooding and wild animals. However, these houses are not immune to adverse outcomes. Flawed designs, weak support, and low-quality materials used in construction can make stilted houses unsafe.

If you are considering investing in a stilt house, you might be interested in some advantages stilt houses provide as well as what can make a stilt house unsafe over time. Read on to learn more.

Are Houses Built On Stilts Safe?

As mentioned before, houses built on stilts can be peculiar to those who have not seen them before. And because these houses fall into the realm of the unknown for the average urban joe, walking into a house built on stilts (or investing in a house built on stilts) may elicit doubts as to their safety. So, are houses built on stilts safe?

It might surprise you to learn that these homes are completely safe (even though they might not appear that way). In fact, houses built on stilts have quite literally stood the test of time, dating thousands of years back. Thus, homes built on stilts can safely house individuals or families for years without much cause for concern.

Nevertheless, as with any house, houses built on stilts are subject to the hands of the builders. A house can be unsafe if the design is flawed, if the materials used are poor, or if it is not supported correctly.

One of the primary purposes of having a house on stilts in many parts of the world is to offer added protection against flooding. For this reason, you can often find these houses near the waters, in areas with much rainfall, or hurricane-prone areas like Florida. These houses are not only built near water, though.

You can often find stilt houses anchored away on hillside slopes as they have become a popular choice when building over rocky or unstable land. Overall, compared to a typical home, houses on stilts offer superior protection from the natural elements.

It is not only the elements that these houses can help keep you safe from; in some areas, they have traditionally been used to help guard against wild animals such as snakes and tigers and intruders. 

When Are Houses Built On Stilts Unsafe?

As mentioned before, stilt houses can be particularly unsafe if there are faults in the design, if they lack support, or if low-quality materials were used to construct the house.

For instance, although stilt houses are often touted as earthquake-resistant, this is not always the case. For example, in 1994, the Northridge earthquake struck. Among the damage that occurred during the quake was a collapse of a mire of hillside houses – 13 houses to be exact.

It was later found that the majority of the collapsed homes were stilt houses with floor beams that were not attached to any foundations. This led to the houses sliding down the slopes once the stilts and cross-bracing systems faltered.

Although regulations were later implemented to ensure that stilt houses in that area were attached to street foundations, this regulation may not be mandatory in every municipality. Thus, it is vitally important to be aware of the structure of the stilt house before investing in one.

Additionally, although houses built on stilts can be safe initially, their structural integrity may deteriorate over the years due to wear and tear, the weather, and other factors. Pilings and stilts, for example, can be damaged by repeated exposure to water, not just during a storm surge or flooding.

Additionally, once the preservatives used to protect the wood on the piling deteriorate, pests like terminates and other micro-organisms can infiltrate the wood, weakening the structure.

The preservative on the wood will deteriorate faster if exposed to salt or brackish water, meaning stilt houses standing in water may experience an infestation of terminates quicker than stilt houses on dry land. Pilings and stilts can also lose structural stability underground.

If storm surges, for example, wash away several inches of sand that would ordinarily keep the pilings or stilts in place, the house may lose structural stability. Furthermore, pilings and stilts can lose their structural integrity underground due to sinkholes nearby. 

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Other Advantages Of Stilt Houses

Building a house on stilts has the benefit of offering you a view and a great location. Stilt houses allow you to build where you may otherwise struggle or be unable to, such as on a hillside or on top of the water. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a beautiful setting?

Also, depending on how high the stilt house is elevated,  you can get a better panoramic view above the trees and other buildings in the area. Stilt houses have another benefit that may not seem so obvious.

These houses may feel cooler, which is a great plus if you live in a region where scorching heat is considered normal. With stilted houses, air circulates underneath and around the sides of the house, providing ample ventilation. Overall, this helps to regulate the temperature inside.


Houses built on stilts are generally considered safe. However, design flaws, poor support, and other factors can make houses on stilts less secure. Thus, it is always important to be aware of the structural design of a house before investing in it.

It’s also worth remembering that the elements, as well as normal wear and tear, can contribute to the house becoming unsafe over time. Knowing what can cause a house’s structure to deteriorate over time can help you take preventative measures and perform maintenance as needed.