Selecting the building site for your future log or timber home is your first and most critical design decision.
Choosing the appropriate site for your dream home is a lengthy complex process not to be taken lightly.
A/Before you buy a property…you need to ask many questions.
- Is the site buildable? Are you allowed to build a log or timber home? Check with local building department for the right zoning for your project (contact planning commission in Europe) and contact subdivision home association if applicable to make sure what you wish to build is allowed.
- Is the allowable building envelope large enough for the size home you are planning including garages, outbuildings, access driveways, leach fields and landscaping?
- Is the building site accessible by large trucks to deliver long logs and timber and all other building materials? Will you be able to drive safely to your home any time of the year, under all weather conditions?
- What are the covenants, set backs, easements and right of ways attached to the property? Getting variances to change any of the above is costly, time consuming and at times unrealistic to achieve.
- What services are available (electricity, gas, sewer, phone, cable…)?
- If sewer connection is not available, can you install a septic system? Contact health authorities to learn about feasibility, costs, past percolation tests… Hire a septic engineer to ensure a proper septic system can indeed be installed and at what cost.
- What type of soil is present at the chosen building site? Expansive, unstable soils can be a problem. If solid rock is present under proposed site be aware that blasting and anchoring foundation to rock can increase cost significantly. What is the soil bearing capacity? Has any geotechnical analysis been done in the past?
- Earth quake faults and sink holes are important issues that if suspected must be addressed by a professional geotechnical engineer to assess extra cost of development.
- If building by a lake for example, ask about the high water mark. How much will it cost to design and build a proper drainage of storm water around the building? Is the site located in a flood plain?
- If you are in a rural area and are not connected to a municipal water system, what is the cost of drilling a well and most important what is the water quality and quantity available in your area. Ask neighbors and local well drillers. To obtain a building permit you will likely need to prove a year round minimum gallon per minute flow.
Those are basic questions among others to ask before you sign anything. I have done hundreds of site visits with our customers in my career and at times one of those points above has become a painful issue that has delayed or outright stopped a future home owner’s dream.
B/If you already have a piece of land, you are looking for the best building site for your future log/timber home on your property?
If your site offers a view to a lake, river, ocean, mountain range… then most likely you have decided on a site that will maximize that view.
If you can combine this view catching site with a gentle slope as much south facing as can be possible, then you already know site location and orientation of your home.
A gentle slope with about an 8’ drop from front to back is great for water and air drainage. It will allow for a walk out basement that gives you cheap extra living space with a view. A sloped site is generally better than a flat site as basement excavating will provide you with that extra fill to use around the house for landscaping and shaping good drainage around the foundation.
A very steep slope will on the other hand require excessive digging and make the building phase more costly as it would be harder to work on the house from all sides.
A fairly flat area is needed to install a septic leach field.
A south facing slope is best as in winter the final grade of the land is more perpendicular to the sun rays (northern hemisphere) and thus would be warmer. The design of a log home on a south facing slope will maximize the house passive solar energy potential and sun light.
If the site is not south facing then the design of the house needs to be more creative to catch the view and still catch some sun from other directions.
In hot summer climates, trees bringing shade to the south-west and west side of the home are very desirable.
Deciduous trees to the south will shade your home in the summer and let the sun light and heat thru in the winter.
Prevailing wind direction may change with seasons and can be specific just to your site due to topography of the land. If your site is treed, then look for the direction large trees have fallen. I advise you spend a full year visiting your land to familiarize yourself with all weather conditions.
Prevailing winds should be taken into account when designing your log/timber home. Your designer/architect should use that information to add more roof overhangs and covered decks for example on the wind swept side of the house to protect exposed wood.
Air drainage requires attention as cold winter air needs to move freely around your home and not be trapped and create a frost pocket on one side of your home. Low laying land and valleys are prime sites for frost pockets.
If you are planning to build your home on a ridge or hilltop, (great location to catch view and maximize air/water drainage) please plan for wildfire raging up the hill from the prevailing wind side by adding fire breaks like road, water ways, irrigated garden…and land clearing if necessary.
If you plan to build close to a lake, river, seasonal stream or marsh then inquire where the 100 year flood plain is located and move your site well above that line.
In colder climate, be aware of the shorter construction window available. From personal experience, a tightly planned construction schedule on paper rarely happens as predicted at the building stage. Construction delays are all too common as many trades are involved in the process.
C/ Planning your building site for the future…
Prepare a master plan on how you will likely develop your land in the years to come by adding swimming pool, pond, trees, garden, greenhouse, orchard…
Take extra attention to what could be built or planted by your neighbors that may block your view or destroy your cherished privacy (visual, smell, noise and light).
A good relation with your neighbors is well worth the effort.
D/ Your building site and your health.
Your new log/timber home is possibly going to be the place you and your cherished family will spend considerable amount of time indoor and outdoor. A healthy building site should therefore be a priority second to none.
Avoid building close to high voltage power lines, cellular phone and microwave relay station. Electromagnetic fields are dangerous; however we do not see them, they will hurt you, your children and pets. If requested public utility companies should provide you with site measurements for background fields at your site. Wind power is becoming more popular since the energy crisis. Wind turbines should be built far away from your home as we are now learning of wind turbine syndrome which may increase stress, headache and sleep disorders.
Do not build close to industrial areas and upwind from agricultural land where fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides are used. Get your well water analyzed for contaminants and level of purity.
Assess level of noise and light pollution at the site before deciding to build. If in doubt seek the help of a professional.
Know the history of the site. Industrial and agricultural toxins may be in the soil. If in doubt hire a licensed environmental inspector. That up front cost is minimal compared to clean up costs later down the road…
Spend lots of time on your land at different seasons and trust your instinct. A place where you feel that “positive energy” that makes you happy is likely the right choice.
Remember that the location you finally choose for your future home will go through dramatic transformation as you build. Trees may be cut down (check first for possible tree cutting local restrictions) and animals may be displaced.
No matter what you do, there will be a significant ecological impact from your actions.
Should you care?
May be, It is usually better to get along with all your neighbors.