Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Building a Rural Home - #2: Surveying

When it comes to building a custom or semi-custom home, the actual placement of the home are almost as critical as the construction of the home itself.

When planning placement, there are 3 major things to consider before having the lot staked.


  • We need to place the home in a location that meets County or City regulations and also neighborhood HOA requirements.  This means considering setbacks from the road and from the side lot lines.  
  • On this property, I'm required to be 60' from any of the lot lines so I've set the home back just over 60 feet and centered it on the property to meet this criteria.
  • The placement on the center of the lot also allows for maximum distance from both neighbors and still allows for a barn or shop as this will be located behind the house, not next to it.  But make sure to find out what your Municipal Regulations are as sometimes you must build out building next to the home, not behind it.
  • depending on what utilities are available, you may need to consider things like the location of a gas meter, electrical meter, well water entry or sewer exit and septic systems.  Make sure you know what all you need to contend with and where all utilities are coming from ahead of time.
  • The orientation refers to what angle the house is placed at in regards to the road.  
  • In smaller city lot subdivisions, the lots are usually just wide enough to fit a house with a minimal 6'-10' offset from the side lot lines, meaning that the houses are almost always set parallel with the road.  
  • One rural lots, we have the freedom to tilt the house clockwise or counter-clockwise (as seen from above).  
  • Consider things like sun exposure on the driveway in cold climates to keep ice from building up or keeping direct summer sun out of key windows.  
  • Consider also notable view like mountains or open space that you may want visible from the great room, master bedroom or back patio.  Also, think of where neighbors will have a view of your home and what areas you would like to be most private.
  • Something not often considered is the view from the street.  Keep garages pushed away from the road and allow large entries or attractive stone work to be closest to the road as this is what you will see first.
  • Elevation is sometimes determined primarily by the lot itself and how much dirt you have to work with, but it is often something that can be ditctated wiht some planning.
  • Keep homes high enough to allow propper drainage all the way around.  Importing dirt can get pricey, but a poorly draining house will cost you far more in the long run than a well planned elevation.
  • On lots that allow for garden level or walk out basements, maintaining a good elevation is key to making the most o these areas.
Hire Professionals:
These decisions and others can be made with the aid of a good architect and input from your excavator and landscaper.  Remember, these guys and gals do this every day of their lives and have a lot more insight than you may have as a home owner.  I rely heavily on the advise of professionals to make a job go well.  Put some time into your plot plan and consult the pros that will be doing the actual work to make sure you don't miss any details.

Call The Surveyor:
The final professional to hire is a surveyor.  A surveyor will place wood or steel stakes in key locations to mark the house corners for excavation.  Most surveyors will be happy to mark your septic system, well and lot boundaries as well.  Make sure you get them all marked the first time so you don't have to pay for a return trip. 

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