when I first had the idea to build, I talked to many people about the process and costs of building a home and it seemed that nobody was ever able to give me a straight, comprehensive answer.


I often think about when I first had the idea to build, I talked to many people about the process and costs of building a home and it seemed that nobody was ever able to give me a straight, comprehensive answer. I could never understand why…it seemed like it would be such a simple thing. Well, after everything I’ve learned, I now understand that because each piece of land is very different, with all the possibilities and variables involved, that there is no one size fits all answer…hey… while I’m at it doesn’t it seem like the more you learn about anything in this world, that there is never a one size fits all answer for anything? Well, I’m glad no one could give me that answer, because if they did I might have thought, “What am I thinking??!! How in the heck are my wife and I going to do this?” and maybe I would have talked myself right out of it!

There was a lot to do: surveying lot lines and easements, creating a topography map, testing soil and geology, septic system design, well design, grading plans and the list goes on.

The first thing The Kim and I did after verifying the geology and septic before purchasing the land was to have the whole five and half acres surveyed. This entails hiring a company to come out to your land with a helicopter to take aerial photos of the parcel, as well as a team of surveyors to tromp through the brush and physically mark the boundaries of your land with stakes. When they are done the will also produce topography map that shows your lands boundaries, contours, elevations, easements (like telephone poles or roads), as well as any monuments like streams, big rocks, etc. This topo map is to scale and is used by just about everyone that will be involved in building you project. Your architect will also use this to position and design your house.

As I mentioned in previous sections, during escrow we had to do some geology testing to ensure that building area is stable and that it would also support a traditional septic system. The results of the testing came back good but there was one problem…for the geology results to really matter in getting house plans approved, the tests have to be done in the exact location of where the home would be built. The same goes for the septic system perc testing. The location of the septic system holes have to be a certain distance away from the proposed house and the number of holes one needs for proper water and toilet drainage for the house are based on its proposed size, in terms of the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Well, when The Kim and I were buying our land we had no idea what we were going to build during the escrow phase nor did we have any idea of where any structures would actually placed. Now that we had Steve designing us a home on a different part of the parcel then where we’d originally done the testing, we had to have the geology and septic testing done all over again…this time it was actually based on the proposed house location, size and number of bathrooms and bedrooms. Damn!

Live and learn…as I’ve said in just about every other section, if I was doing this all over again, the first thing I would do before even looking for land would be to hire an architect. In our situation, if we would have hired Steve from the get go we could have dragged him out to the land during escrow. He would have been able to give us a much better idea of where to do the testing and we could have had our basic size, room and bathroom requirements worked out in advance. It could cost you more money up front to hire an architect a bit sooner but it would be better than spending all that money doing testing two times!

This time around on top of the testing and inspecting of the land, a fair amount of reporting analysis is done and what you end up with is an inch or more thick bound report that becomes the “bible” for your land. Everyone from the landscape architect, civil engineers, structural engineers, builders, contractors and permitting agencies need to get a copy of it.

In addition, after performing the perc test, the Environmental Health engineer is working on putting together plans for the septic system . Once the plans are ready, those plans get submitted to the Health Department along with our land “bible” for approval. If everything works out we have a place to go to the bathroom…that is important!

Also during this time The Kim and I were trying to figure out how to get water up to building site. We are about 800 feet from the nearest water main. Seems pretty close right…all we had to do was tap into the water main and run some pipe up along side of the road to our property. No problem right? We thought so, but after further investigation we found out that the road that borders our property is a State highway and because it’s State maintained they don’t want a private citizen’s water pipe going along side their highway.

The next option was to run the water from the main away from the road…across private property, our neighbors first and then to ours up to the building site. This option is slightly complicated right now by the fact that in order to run our water pipe across our neighbor’s property, we need him to sign a legal easement stating that he gives us the right to do so. So far we haven’t been able to get a straight answer out of him as to whether he will decide to allow us to do that or not.

Our last option is to drill our own well. With this option we wouldn’t have to be on a public water system, pay for a costly water meter (last time I checked it was about 13k to buy a water meter from LVMWD…no really a water meter!!), nor would we have to worry about solving the previous two options. In this scenario, theoretically all we have to do is drill a hole, stick in a lining, put in a pump, a water tank and we are hydrated! As of now…for us this seems like the best option and if you check out the plans and elevations you’ll see a big water tank near the bedroom wing. I hope we hit some water!

So far that’s it for that land improvements…we are currently in talks with some civil engineers to come up with a grading plan.

For any current updates please check the Latest News blog.

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