When choosing a lot to build a house, a builder must consider soil, underground water, and land features in order to make a wise choice. For this reason it is important to be well informed and to get an expert to assist you. Your home builder or contractor should assist in selecting the lot, but in some areas further expertise may be required.
Exploring a lot for construction requires soil testing, slope considerations, environmental concerns, and consideration of the water table. Building site features can impact the cost and longevity of your home. It may be a factor in choosing a home design, as well.
Let’s go over the considerations you’ll need to think about.
Soil testing provides information on soil composition, absorption and drainage rate. It will also determine if your lot will support a home structure and accommodate a well and septic tank. In general sands and gravel drain better than clay and silt. Clay over solid stone however, has a way of staying in place once it is settled after construction. Each soil type has its own advantages and problems.
Most any land on a slope will erode, and land recently disturbed by construction is more likely to erode. When normal drainage, absorption and water flow are impeded by structures, paving and landscaping, the arrangement of top soil can change as drainage patterns re-route. Soil composition plays a part in erosion, but water and slope are also major factors. All soil has a saturation point, once the ground becomes saturated water begins to move to the lowest point. This is called runoff. Unless soil is protected by plants and a good landscaping plan, the soil is often loosened and also moves downhill. On gentle slopes erosion is usually slow and negligible, but on mountainsides it can be sudden and catastrophic.
The water table is simply a measure of how deep one can dig below dry earth, before reaching water and saturated soil. It is important to identify the water table before pouring the footings, so that your home sits on dry solid ground. Engineers and site planners test before building large commercial buildings. Tests for homes are often less exacting, but it is important to know the approximate water table before building.
Mountainous areas are often considered prime real estate. Fabulous views from mountain tops and the coziness of sheltered valleys as well can be beautiful home sites, but there are risks in mountain construction. Homes can literally slide downhill, and occasionally onto other homes due to erosion. Valleys can become flooded, during heavy rains, and when snow melts, and the water runs down hill. Eroded soil, can also fall onto the lower lots.
Building homes on the slope between mountaintop and valley can be tricky, and land preparation often includes a process called “cut and fill.” Rock and soil are cut from the tall side of your lot, and used to fill the slope to level the lot. This process can be precarious in slopes of over 30 feet. Moved soil and stone will not be as stable as it was in its natural position. One alternative to using cut and fill is to build the home on different levels, like a split level using the natural slope of the land, so that both levels of the home are actually ground level, but connected by a stairway inside. Another option is to construct the home on stilts, or to construct a tall foundation wall to hold up the house on the lower side. Building a home on a steep slope can be both breathtaking and risky. When considering mountain construction it is important to ask experienced soil and water experts in your area for advice.
I hope this article on choosing a lot to build a house was informative for you.