Building your own home is both exciting and nerve-wracking! Doing it right is a matter of patience and ensuring you fully understand the process. Once your plans have been approved, and the land is purchased, you can be forgiven for wanting to break ground asap.
However, there are a few essential things to do before you start laying the foundation for your new home. Neglecting to take care of these things can end in disaster, so even though your contractor will probably take care of most of it, it’s worth knowing the processes. In this way, you can discuss in advance what needs to be done and be safe in the knowledge that your future will be built on strong foundations.
Visit the Site with Your Contractor
Before any digging starts, it’s essential that you pay a visit to your plot with your contractor in advance. This saves them from going in blind and gives you both a chance to identify potential issues and deal with them before they become a major set back. Discuss concerns regarding things like water run-off or steep slopes, and ensure that the plans are achievable in reality, not just on paper.
Carry Out a Soil Test
The type of soil a plot of land has can vary drastically, and it’s essential that you know what yours is made of, as some types are completely unsuitable for construction. Knowing the type of soil your plot has enables you to make the best choices regarding how your home is constructed while giving you peace of mind that your home will withstand the elements.
A soil test has to be carried out by a qualified engineer, who will typically conduct two tests. The first is a test to see how your soil reacts when compacted, and the second is a perc test. A perc test gives the engineer an understanding of how your soil absorbs and distributes water. There have been cases of entire blocks sinking due to poor soil that collapsed after heavy rainfall, so this is a very real problem that must be addressed before construction begins.
Check for Underground Utility Lines
You will also need to check that there are no underground utility lines running through your plot. Neglecting to check this can have terrible consequences if a pipe or cable is snagged. In the US, you can call 811 to be directed to your local survey service, who will let you know if there are any lines or pipes under your plot or not. If so, they’ll carry out a survey and identify and stake out the lines, letting constructors know where they can and can’t dig.
Ensure Your Utilities Are Hooked Up
Speaking of utilities, before you begin laying foundations, it’s a good idea to ensure you’re hooked up and ready to go. In most developments, utility hookups will be stubbed at each plot, ready to extend into the new homes upon completion. However, if you’re building on an undeveloped plot, you’ll need to arrange for utilities to be brought to your land. Not only does this let you know exactly where you can run power lines and pipes from and to, but it also makes construction easier.
Understand the Building Codes
Building codes and regulations differ from place to place, so it’s always good to double-check before you proceed with breaking ground. Pay close attention to measurements such as setbacks (which detail how close to property lines a structure can be), and double-check the regulations regarding maximum height, proximity to neighboring structures, etc.
Arrange a Professional Survey
Your house plans probably contain a plat map — a to-scale map showing the divisions of land and plots. However, it’s wise not to trust these completely, as they can often be outdated or inaccurate. Instead, arrange to have a qualified surveyor come to your plot and measure out exactly where your land starts and ends. You might find you’ve gained land that wasn’t on the map, though the opposite may also occur. Either way, it’s important to know, as if your boundary lines are incorrect, you might not actually be building to code.
Get Your Plans in Order
Finally, digging foundations may require you to hire several constructors who will need to work together. It’s important that each and every worker has an identical copy of the plans, to avoid mistakes with measurements and location.
Communication with your construction team is key, and for the most part, a good general contractor will take care of the previous points. However, by personally knowing what needs to be done before breaking ground, you can be sure your home is being built in the best and safest way.