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Sloped Sites Vs. Flat Lots: Which Is Right For You?

Are you looking for a Rocky Mountain high or a little house on the prairie? Steep pitches and flatlands are the two ends of the property-purchase spectrum. Here’s what you should know about both.


Photo: Elk Ridge Builders

 

Sloped Sites 

It’s no secret that the most sought-after pieces of property for log homes are located mountainside. Nothing delivers the sweeping views log home lovers crave like building in the mountains. Best of all, you often can get a vertical lot at a price that’s not so steep. As dreamy as they are, log home expert Michael Grant says buyers should beware.
 
“I’ve often referred to these building sites as ‘steep and cheap.’ When you can get 4 acres with stunning views for $40,000, you think you’ve hit the jackpot. Not so fast! The sale price may seem right, but the cost to build on steep mountain sites will eat into your construction budget quickly,” he explains. “Often the foundation expense will be disproportionate to the overall cost to build.
 
“Also, digging the footers to ensure the house will be structurally sound as it hangs off the side of a mountain takes even more time and concrete.  All of this is doable, just recognize the cost can be deceptive,” he continues.
 
An upside to a rolling piece of land is that it affords an opportunity for a full walkout basement, which will provide you with additional square footage at a price that’s considerably less than it would be to enlist logs to create this space. And, of course, there are the views.
 
Be Two Faced. 
A sloping site allows for a cozier, more modest facade on one side and a dramatic multi-story masterpiece on the other
 
Going Up.
A multi-story home typically has a smaller footprint than a single-level design. This saves money on labor and materials for the foundation.
 
Daylight Savings. 
A full walkout basement increases your livable square footage at less cost than building with logs. It also creates more usable storage area than a crawl space.
 
Integrate and Appreciate.
If you build your home to conform to the land’s contours, it will sit more naturally on the site and save you money in unnecessary excavation.
 
 
 
 

Photo: James Ray Spahn / Home: Katahdin Cedar Log Homes

 

Flat & Friendly

You may think that land as flat as a pancake, like a Midwest prairie, may be more in line with the site convenience you’re looking for — land that Michael calls “flat and friendly” … unless you’re building on a floodplain, that is.
  
“We recently had a client who had a flat riverfront lot that was beautiful,” Michael says. “But when we went to the county to do our research, we learned that the flood plain restrictions required we build the house 11 feet above grade to avoid the last two 500-year floods they had within a 10 year period.
 
Michael goes on to explain that flat property can have a slab foundation that sits on top of the land, rather than one that’s dug into the earth. This can be an economic time-saver. However, you’ll need to be sure your log home is well designed, as much of the plumbing will be buried within the slab.
 
In the “pros” column, flat lots provide a wider range of accessibility options for folks with limited mobility. For instance, a flat lot won’t require stairs leading to the porch/front door or a steep driveway. It’s also perfect for building a single-level log ranch. Combined, these attributes can help ensure you’ll enjoy your log home now and for the long haul.
 
The Future is Now.
A flat site enables direct access to the front door without the impediment of stairs (the same rule applies inside!) Likewise, the driveway is level, making it easier to navigate should mobility become an issue.
 
Ranch Dressing.
Just because it’s one level doesn’t mean it has to be dull. A single-story home can be equipped with nooks, bump-outs, angles and oodles of curb appeal.
 
Weather or Not.
A long, low profile is less of a target for severe weather and high winds.
 
Safety First.
In case of fire, home invasion or other emergency, a single-story home is easier to escape from safely.