Patrick Dixon didn't wait long to tear down his Long Beach bungalow after floodwaters turned his living room into a mess of wet sand and seaweed. Looking to stretch insurance and federal grant money, Dixon is doing the work himself, building a three-floor home to replace the single-story house.

Dixon, 33, a strength and conditioning coach for basketball at St. John's University, had put together decks and swingsets while in college. So the city's building department staff "just openly laughed" when he inquired about permits for demolishing and rebuilding it on his own, he said.

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Work on his house, though, is advanced and he expects to finish it this fall.

The $65,000 in insurance funds and a $30,000 federal grant he could qualify for would only have been enough to build a similar home, not a better one to withstand other storms, Dixon said. He borrowed to go bigger and higher, hoping the effort will pay off with a house that's worth more.

He hired professionals for the complicated jobs that required licensed contractors -- pouring a foundation or laying out electric wiring. Since May he's spent hours in early afternoons and evenings to put up frames, strap and nail wood sheathing, and install wood staircases and Sheetrock walls, he said.

He walked onto his balcony during a break one recent afternoon and, catching a glimpse of the nearby bay, explained why the effort was worth it.

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"It's the water, man," Dixon said. "For me there's nothing better than walking out and smelling that sea breeze."