If you already own the land (or have narrowed down your property search to a desired parcel you do not yet own) we are able to gather some preliminary information about the building site that will inform the home design, home location and orientation on the site, and the overall project budget. If you have not already obtained estimates on the cost to improve the building site, Bay Lakes Builders has several trade partners specializing in site improvements to provide site visits, construction strategies, and cost estimates for each unique building site.
When we refer to "site improvements", we are generally referring to the following:
- Clearing the site to create an open area around the building footprint
- Installation of the driveway, which is often subject to municipal design requirements
- Servicing the home with utilities (gas, water or well, sewer or septic, electric, etc.)
- Importing or exporting fill material
- Excavating bedrock (where applicable)
- Installing retaining walls or egress wells
- Flood zone, shore land, or wetland requirements
The cost to clear trees, brush, and stumps from a wooded site will understandably cost more than building on an open site. On deeper building sites where the home is located further from the road, a longer driveway and greater length to extend electrical service (and natural gas service, if available) will add cost. Rural properties with a road-side ditch may also require a culvert to comply with established drainage plans.
Where municipal water or sanitary sewer are available to a building site, there can be substantial variations (over $2,000 in some cases) in hook-up fees from one municipality to the next. Where municipal water is not available, drilling a well and providing a pressure system and water softener will provide more substantial upfront expense with lower ongoing operating expense. When municipal sewer is absent, a private on-site waste treatment system (POWTS) will be required. Before we can arrive at costs for a septic system, there must first be a soil test prepared by a qualified soils specialist to determine the appropriate system location on the building site and the type of system design the soils will accommodate.
Pre-existing soil conditions, site elevations, and drainage contours may also have an impact on the type and quantity of fill material imported to (or exported from) the building site and the amount of earth-shaping done with mechanical equipment. Sites with bedrock close to the surface (particularly those building sites in Door County or along the Niagara Escarpment) will require more careful upfront planning to craft a strategy for working with the bedrock. Due to the cost-prohibitive nature of excavating bedrock, in some cases a slab-on-grade or crawl space may be preferable to a full basement as it pertains to the building foundation.
For building sites with steeper slopes, coordination with a landscaping contractor may be prudent to address an aggressive pitch by means of retaining walls or terracing. For sites lacking adequate natural pitch to provide daylight basement windows, other strategies involving area wells or egress window wells may be incorporated.
Will the slope of the building site accommodate exposed basement windows? A full walkout lower level? A patio at grade? Or will building a substantially more expensive deck be required? These are all important questions with answers that will ultimately have significant bearing on the home design and construction costs.
Bay Lakes Builders is also experienced in coordinating with local engineers, surveyors, municipalities, and county zoning officials on complying with challenging site improvement and building construction requirements inherent to properties near waterways, wetlands, or located in flood zones.
There can literally be tens of thousand of dollars in site improvements from one building site to the next. Bay Lakes Builders is experienced in understanding what makes each building site unique, how best to design a home to fit the building site, how to craft a practical construction strategy, and how best to forecast those site improvement costs related to the building site in order to "right size" the house itself.
Beyond the costs of the site improvements listed above, depending on the municipality and county the site is located in, there will often be other requirements affecting the site and home design parameters. Such ordinances may include:
- Erosion control measures
- Culvert type and size
- Driveway design
- Municipal sidewalks
- Storm water management plan
- Setbacks (front yard, side yard, and rear yard)
- Building size and height
- Fence, deck, and accessory building requirements
In the event local ordinance creates an unnecessary hardship for the ability to improve the property, Bay Lakes Builders can work on your behalf to apply for a variance to the local ordinance, building, or zoning codes. An "unnecessary hardship" means that no feasible use can be made of the property without the granting of the variance, that the hardship is something which is unique to this property and not the owner of the property, that the hardship is not self-created, and that the hardship is not economic. For those building sites with unique restraints to building (frequently related to setbacks), Bay Lakes has successfully worked with local officials to complete the necessary applications and attend municipal hearings to obtain variances on behalf of their clients.
Keep reading to learn more about the actual home design process...
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