Thursday, October 8, 2009


Once we knew what state and town to live in, we ultimately fell in love with a single lot—seven acres of green pine and white birch trees, south facing and sloping, with a “million-dollar view” of the Franconia Range. We were in heaven. But crashed back to Earth when we realized we had to make sure the land we wanted to build on was, in fact, buildable.

Here’s the checklist we used to make sure the plot was up to par:

Soil composition – Could the soil handle sewage and support a foundation? A perc test result proved it could handle sewage, and the custom-built homes nearby told us a foundation was possible.

Gorgeous grime.

Drainage – We steered clear of low laying areas and flood plains. The site we ultimately chose was in danger of neither.

Orientation - It was essential that the land face south for optimal solar gain (have I mentioned that yet?), and if it didn’t, our home needed to. We got lucky. The lot (and view!) faced south. In addition to a compass, we used a Solar Pathfinder provided by our architect to determine this.

The compass showed us where south was:

The Solar Pathfinder showed us a full year’s worth of solar radiation data on the spot. We could tell what time of the day each month our house would be shaded by trees, obstructing our solar gain. The trees you see on the Pathfinder in the image below are second generation. They can easily be cut down and used for fueling our wood stove.

We used a Solar Pathfinder for solar site analysis.

Access – The proposed building site would be right off of a road—perfect for bringing in supplies and equipment.

Utilities – Electricity and phone hookups were available, but it would be up to us to dig a well and septic system.

Easements – The lot had no easements that would affect our utilities, rights-of-way or views.

Topography – A steep hillside, boulders, trees and other natural landscape can hinder construction. The lot featured second generation trees, rocks AND a steeper than normal grade! (You can’t win them all.)

Just a few pebbles on the site...

Restrictive covenants – The lot did come with covenants. The only sections in the covenants that were of any concern to us were building square footage and house color. After a closer reading (you can’t paint your house bright red…OK, we didn’t want to anyway!), and better understanding of how “covenant rules” were enforced, we were no longer concerned.

The lot passed the test!

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