Rabu, 03 November 2010

Step 4 - Site Prep

   Site prep is the first step in the actual construction process.  I lumped some things in this phase that one might not normally do here, but it worked for me.

Once you are sure that you can legally build on your lot and have any permits to even get started, here's a checklist for what you need to do early in the process.  These items will also add value to your lot even if you can't go ahead with construction yourself.

1.  Water service.  No matter if you plan to connect to city, co-op, or drill a well, you need to get water onsite.  The price of water is rising and availability is falling, at least around central Texas.  Getting water can be very expensive, but these days, it is best to get it sooner than later.  Perhaps if you are planning a rooftop collection system, then you can save this step for later.

2.  Electric service.   Most country hardware stores can put a meter loop together for you.  Call the electric service provider for your area to get the specs for a new meter loop, and make sure the one you buy meets their requirements.   Usually if you purchase a meter loop from the same county where you build, the hardware store will already have one that meets the specs.   Have them add a 200 amp master shutoff with 4 breakers below it to come off of for your construction power needs.  Make sure the master shutoff box has pass through connectors so you can later run underground conduit to tie into the same box to feed power to a master panel inside the house.  Those outside breakers come in handy for any outdoor power needs after construction is finished as well, i.e. for the septic pump.   Plan ahead and you'll save some money by placing a connection for construction that is suitable for the finished house.  Also, have the meter loop pole onsite when the power company sets their poles so they can set your meter loop pole on the same trip.

3.  Access road.  You can save money upfront by waiting on the road, but then rain and mud sure can mess you up if you don't have good access to the site.  My favorite strategy for building a road is to start with scrap rock from a local quarry or scrap concrete from where ever you can get it.  Big chunks make the best first layer for a new road, and sometimes you can pull out nice pieces to use later for retaining walls.  Of course you'll need crushed base to cover the big stuff and fill in little gaps.  Once you have all material onsite, don't hesitate to rent a Bobcat / skid-steer loader with "teeth" on the loader bucket.   Sometimes if you rent one on Friday night or Saturday morning, you can use it all weekend for one day's rental if you don't put more than 8 hours on it.  Skid steers / Bobcats are actually very easy to operate and building a road is a great way to get the hang of it.  Please though, don't let anybody around the site while you are working ... ESPECIALLY NO CHILDREN!!!

4.  Fences or other security measures.  Of course this depends on your specific situation, but now is the time to fence off the construction area.  When you start construction, rent a lockable storage container if needed.

5.  Tree clearing or tree planting.   This is one of those things I just lumped in.  Since there were no trees near my house, I wanted to get one started ASAP.   Just don't plant anything too close to the construction site.

Ok, so now you have some tedious pre-construction work done.  You should be able to quit now and sell your lot for more than you paid for it.   Nothing should be totally set in stone yet.  Even the road could be moved or extended.  However, now is the time to totally finalize what you are going to build and where it is going to sit on the lot.  Steps from here on out may also be time sensitive, so gear yourself up to keep the ball rolling now.   There are just three steps left for site prep though:

1.  In Texas, you will need to get a permit for an on-site wastewater system.  This has an expiration on it, so wait until you are actually ready to begin construction before you go to the county health department to get it. I do recommend getting it before you break ground.  If there's going to be a snag in the process, it will be while dealing with the government.  Mother Nature is more predictable.

2.  Layout the approximate footprint of you house, driveway, and porches.  One trick for getting the layout square and even is to measure diagonally from corner to corner.  Those diagonal measures must match unless you want your house shaped like a rhombus or trapezoid.

3.  Rent that skid steer ( with teeth on the loader ) again and remove any signs of life and at least 6" of the topsoil from the area inside your layout and up to a foot around your layout (in case you were off a little somewhere).  Insist on a skid steer with teeth because you will have a hard time cutting through the turf without them.   Also, it certainly doesn't hurt to wet the soil ahead of time or plan to do this within a week of a good rain.   Remember, no kids around while that machine is running.

Site Prep = DONE

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