Imagine building or buying your dream home on a rolling hillside – breathtaking, isn’t it? However, the process of bringing that dream into reality is what brings some complications.
There are unique challenges that come with having a home on sloped land. So, in advance of making a decision, it’s important you familiarize yourself with some of the issues in order to avoid surprises.
Why Should You Consider Building or Buying a Home on a Sloped Site?
Before delving into some of the complications for foundations on hillsides, it’s worth considering why people accept the risks. Here are some of the common reasons why many consider having a house on sloped land:
- Stunning views. Some of the world’s most coveted homes are built on slopes. You may get to enjoy clear sky views above, wooded forests below, or stunning vistas of green valleys in some cases
- Extra space. Homes built on sloped lots allow for extra space that can serve as another floor of the home
- Privacy. If you are looking for premium seclusion, then having a home on a sloped lot is the way to go. Often, you may be able to find a location that’s far off the beaten path
- Natural Light. Homes built on a hillside are often perfectly located to benefit from maximum natural lighting. And, as you probably know, natural light comes with many health benefits like higher productivity, better sleep, and better mood
Building on Sloped Land – How Do You Do It?
You can build on sloped land using either of two ways.
One of the ways is by using the “cut and fill” method. With this method, you’ll need to level out the ground by adding or removing soil, or both, for the foundation. Soil may be needed to “fill” the plot and level the foundation, or it may be trucked in or used to shore up the retaining walls.
Of course, as you’d expect, this can be an expensive process compared to building a regular home on a flat surface.
What Are the Main Challenges of Having a Home on Sloped Land?
The biggest challenges to having a home on sloped land boil down to two things:
- The Gradient. The gradient rating of a sloped lot can give you a rough idea of how challenging the home can be to build. An incline that is less than 10 percent is considered to be “slight,” meaning it’s the easiest to build on. An incline of between 11- and 20 percent is considered moderate. But anything exceeding an incline of 20 percent is deemed to be steep. As a matter of fact, costs start to go up dramatically beyond about 15 percent. Risks go up and the building work becomes complicated and difficult, especially in regards to a house foundation
- An Upslope or Downslope. Building on either plot can also prove to be a challenging task. Both of these plots will normally require an extra amount of cutting or even blasting in order to construct the foundation on a stable surface. Add the transportation and disposal of soil and rocks to that as well. It’s also important to note that building on an upslope plot is more challenging than building on a downslope plot
What Should You Expect in Time and Cost if You Build Your Home on a Slope?
As already mentioned, an incline exceeding 20 percent is considered steep. However, homes built on gradients of as us much as 50 percent aren’t exactly unheard of. Nonetheless, the costs of building such a complex foundation system usually exceed even the cost of building an entire house on flat ground.
But even for plots that are moderately sloped, more specialized work is usually required. Such work includes using specialized excavation equipment for blasting, using retaining walls or terraces, and making use of customized solutions when it comes to septic and drainage systems so your foundation isn’t compromised.
So, all this points to two things – more cost and building time!
What About the Drainage System?
Have you ever seen the effects of mudslides or even footage of it? If you have, then you may understand why proper drainage for both surface and subsurface water is key.
When you have a house on a slope, runoff water is something that you’ll need to address in order to preserve your home’s foundation. In doing so, you should remember to factor in public roads and neighboring properties. Also, you’ll have to ensure that retaining walls are waterproofed to prevent water from pooling there.
Construction of swales and culverts may also be necessary to help in channeling runoff water to stormwater drains.
What Is the Impact of Soil Erosion on Slopes?
When it comes to having homes on hillsides, erosion is a significant concern for your home’s foundation. Of course, the biggest instigator of erosion is rain, as it bites into the soil and carries various debris such as rock and soil with it downhill.
It goes without saying that homes built on hillsides with little or no vegetation are at significant risk of erosion. Erosion can damage your home’s foundation over time, lowering the property value unless significant repairs are made. Of course, this can be quite the expense depending on the scale of the damage.
A slope applies more downwards pressure to the foundation than a home built on flat, solid land. In the worst-case scenario, unaddressed erosion-based foundation problems for homes on slopes can even pose a danger to those living there.
Are you considering building on a sloped plot or buying a home there? If you are, seeking professional help is key to ensuring your home is grounded on a structurally sound foundation system. Granite can recommend a structural engineer.
Granite Foundation repair offers a free inspection of your home. If any damage is discovered, we can provide you will reliable, long-lasting repair solutions. Get in touch with Granite Foundation Repair to learn more!