Monday, March 25, 2013

our homestead: paperwork for the county and finishing basic house plans

When are we building the house? Probably the end of May or early June. Probably early June. This summer. First off, we have to wade through the above paperwork and meetings with the county for a Building Permit. Everything needs to be permitted- everything. From how we grade (shape and dig) our soil for preparing the driveway and building site to how big we plan to build our house and what materials we plan to build with not to mention detailed mapping of our property and how it relates to surrounding properties (location of utilities, drain fields, storm water, etc). We can totally get this all done, but it will take time to research everything. Luckily a lot of the grading and water information will be gathered by our septic and soils engineer, and we plan on working our property layout plans around the majority of the standing timber on our property (for example: we will snake our driveway around trees instead of chop them down). The physical act of building the house definitely seems like the "easy part" the more I learn about the whole process.
My husband and I have been finalizing our basic house plan for our initial build. I call it the initial build as we plan to build on an addition in about 4-5 years. We'll see when the time comes though- we might be very happy in our little house just the way it is. Currently, we're shooting for a single level, 600-800 square foot home with a rustic modern aesthetic. We want two bedrooms and one bathroom, and an open living and kitchen area. We are also considering building a pole barn shop for additional storage and Joe's "man land"depending on what we can afford. If we build a shop, our house will probably be around 600+ square feet (which is just fine with us). Below are a few sketches and some floor plans we're strongly considering at this point. We are also working with a family-friend builder who will be able to turn these doodles into legitimate plans for county permitting.
Photo credit: Family Home Plans

Sunday, March 3, 2013

our homestead: the planning stages

I figured I should take the time to catch up the blog on what step's my husband and I have completed in our homebuilding adventure. We are currently right on track with the whole process and are planning to break ground this late spring/early summer.
First of all,  we had all of our property boundaries recorded and surveyed by Ford Land Surveying. The surveyor marked each of our property corners with a wood and a metal stake, tied off with blue and white construction tape. He also sent us a large plat map of our land, showing all exact measurements, degrees and corners. Now that we know our official lines, we can rest assured that any work we have done on our property will actually be on our property and not impeding upon our neighbor's. I also didn't realize the exact size of our land, as before we had tromped around the property using GPS on my cellphone to find the "corners"...I found we'll have quite a nice sight for a big vegetable garden in the back corner, much larger than I thought. According to the county, we could even put up a fence now (up to 6 feet tall) along our survey line without a permit. We'll probably wait to erect a fence until we put in our gravel driveway.
1. Our top survey mark. Our driveway will probably go somewhere around here.
2. We plan to put our long gravel driveway through the brush here, snaking around the trees.
3. Another survey mark at the "elbow" of our property.
4. My mom charging through the brush to help me find the markers- almost like an Easter egg hunt.
With the survey completed, I was able to contact Brent of Brent Hackney Designs and asked him to begin designing a septic and drainfield system for our project. I had previously had him out to the property in early Autumn to perform our perc test during our feasibility study, and one thing that I immediately liked is how he commented on how cool it was that our property had lots of standing timber and old growth stumps to garden with. Basically, I want to keep our land clearing to a minimum as I want to preserve the woodlands of the property, so I'm glad he was on board with working around the trees.
Joe and I also decided a septic system would be the best choice for us in lieu of a composting system. Apparently, our health district will approve composting systems, but our development depart won't issue you a building permit without a proper septic. If we wanted to build a house under 400 square feet, we could get away with a composting system as you don't need a building permit for that small of a structure, however, since we want to build around 600-800 square feet, we will need a permit.  I'm sure if we put in a lot of hours and effort, we could get a composting toilet system permitted, however, I also really just want to have a roof over our heads sooner than later, and would rather put in that effort to having our actual home structure permitted. Composting systems, or at least, the practical family-sized ones usually come with a huge above ground tank, so we'd probably have to build a bigger structure to house it. Instead, we are going to get a high-efficiency, low flush toilet. I've been reading about pressure assist systems which use a mix of air pressure and less than one gallon of water to flush, and are supposed to be up to 70% more water efficient than traditional flush toilets on the market. Something like the Niagara Power One.
Anyway, back to Brent. We had him out to the property again, and along with his associate's kubota tractor, he was able to find the best soil for our septic and drainfield, and also sighted our well. He chose spots where there weren't trees, including a gentle slope for our drainfield. Our septic will probably be close to our house in the middle to back corner of the property. Our drainfield will go in a clearing towards the very front bottom of the property. Our well will be above the drainfield near the driveway (also in an existing clearing). I'll be able to have our vegetable garden up in the sunny corner as I'd originally planned. Yay!
1. Brent and his associate digging around for the best soil to use.
2. My quick Paint drawing of where everything is going to go.
Now that we have our survey done and our septic/well/drainfield layout designed, we just need to finish up our basic house plans for our preliminary meeting with the county. I'll write more about the nitty gritty later, but basically we need to have professional, to-scale drawings of everything: the dimensions of our driveway, any land clearing or grading we intend to do, the dimensions of our house, etc. We cannot disturb our land (put in a driveway, cut down trees, etc) until we have an inspector out to look at our property. We are getting very close to being done with a general house plan. Once those are ready, we can start getting our building permit packet prepared, and then it's on to the next step.