“Challenging” building lot = Crappy building lot
The lot has its limitations - lots of them. But the price was right and walkout basement opens up future expansion.
I live and work in an area of challenging house lots. Glacial boulders, ledge, slopes, high ground-water table and large trees often drive costs up. Sitework costs can sometimes exceed $50,000 and this lot is no exception.
This 1.75 acre site is the last remaining lot in a neighborhood built out in the early 1960s.
It’s passed through several owners over the years including a couple other builders. Frankly, it’s a crappy lot. The grade drops off about 9 ft. from the road level and the rear of the property is a swamp. There is a limited building area bounded by zoning setbacks off the street and property lines and a wetlands setback. The setbacks force the house to be built on the low part of the lot. This means that excavation–if you can call it that–only amounts to scratching off the top soil. A lot of fill will need to be hauled in (more money) so the grade at the front of the house will align with the first floor and garage. If I cheated on the fill and didn’t bring the finish grade close to the top of the foundation level the house would look like it was sticking out of the ground too high.
The house won’t have a nice street orientation. The street makes an ‘S’ curve along the lot frontage and the septic system location forces the driveway curb cut in an unnatural spot. And the buildable area’s triangular shape and my desire to orient the house for the best PV exposure mean the house will be cocked to the street. This wouldn’t look unusual if the house was set back off the street but the wetlands setback forces the house to be placed as close as possible to the street.
On the plus side, the sloping lot gives us a walk-out basement along two walls. We’ll pour tall walls using ICFs for an 8 ft. tall ceiling so the basement won’t feel cramped. And the retaining walls and terraced grades will add character to the side and back of the house – making the best of what the lot has to offer.