Site Prep

Some homesites will requires days or weeks of site prep. This post is designed to help you think through the potential tasks needed to prepare your land – tree clearing, fill dirt, retaining wall, and drainage.


Many homesites will require some tree clearing. Sometimes the builder will do this prior to listing the lot for sale, others will leave the site untouched allowing you to decide with your builder which trees stay and which trees go. You will want a professional to evaluate the trees on the property and determine which ones are healthy and if any are not. You will also want to speak with the excavator and your builder about preserving the trees you would like to keep. Sometimes the heavy equipment the excavator uses can damage the root systems so make sure there is a plan to avoid the root systems of the trees that will remain.

Some homesites will also require more dirt to be brought to the site. This is often done when the home is being built on a lot that is not already flat. The extra dirt can help create a flat area or a less steep hill to build on. Talk to your builder about this and where the dirt is coming from. Many times there are nearby construction sites with excess dirt. If there is free dirt nearby, you could save yourself some money..

If it is determined that extra dirt will be needed, ask if a retaining wall is necessary to keep the dirt where you want it.. Depending on the grade of the land and the amount of dirt needed, a retaining wall may or may not be needed. There are retaining wall materials to consider as well. Ask about the longevity, cost, and functionality of wood, poured cement, and cement blocks. Think through the pros and cons of the options. Do you want to have to maintain the wall? Wood will require some maintenance. Are you concerned with the look of the wall? Many find cement block more visually appealing than poured cement.


To avoid water penetration, the land surrounding your home needs to be properly graded so water runs away from your home instead of towards it. This should be done when the foundation is poured and again when the home is near the end of construction.


At this time you will also see large black tubes on your homesite, or at least you should. This is used to help with drainage. You don’t want your gutters to pour water onto your yard, so they will be attached to these tubes that run under your yard and dump water away from your home. Some builders take the water out just far enough to be a safe distance from your home. Ask if they will consider running the tubes to the end of your yard (assuming it isn’t 3 acres). Wherever the tube ends is where the water will be, so if possible run them to the woods or another area of your property that won’t be used much.

Other Related Articles

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Choosing a Homesite

Before you can build a home, you will need a piece of land. Usually land will fall into one of two categories – a piece of land that is for sale independent of a builder or development or a homesite within a development with a predetermined builder or selection of builders.

Hiring a Builder

When hiring a builder think about how involved you want to be in the process. Typically a person who is building a home will fall into one of three categories:

1) Not too interested in design choices, but would like a nicely built home. – Many of the larger builders offer limited selections and don’t allow for changes. This is a good choice for a person who isn’t interested in the details.

2) Desires a completely custom home. – The very high end custom builders say “yes” to almost all requests and their clients pay a premium for this flexibility.

3) Interested in being involved in the process and would like flexibility in the building and finishings. – Many small and medium sized builders have a selection of floor plans and options, but allow for changes to those plans and flexibility on the finishings and details of the home. This home building series can benefit all three categories of people but is most inline with the the person who is wanting to be involved and make choices, but doesn’t have an endless bank account.

Creating a Backyard

We have said from the beginning that we like a challenge. This particular piece of land presents challenges because of this steep drop, but it is a challenge that can be overcome with some engineering. It would have been easier to say this home would not have a backyard, but that wasn’t going to work for me.

Cement, Rebar, and Engineer Plans, Oh My!

The average home sits on top of a 12 inch footer with metal rebar every 3 to 4 feet. If you have been following our blog, you know this is not your average home. After the lot was cleared and dirt was moved around, the engineer came out to re-assess. This was the plan all along – start clearing and moving dirt then re-assess our building plan. Even if you know a home can be built, but it is important to take a step back and make sure it is being done the best way.

Window Selections

It may seem early in the process to start thinking about “selections”, but these decisions are often made before the framing is done to ensure all materials are delivered in a timely manner and the contractors have what they need when they are ready to start installing.

Color Selection

I love color. However, picking the right paint color always leaves me stumped. I am the queen of paint samples, samples, and more samples. I have quickly learned that the tiny little color swatch is very different than a 9 foot wall (multiplied by 4 walls). But repainting a powder room a few times isn’t the end of the world. Although my husband may disagree.

Framing Tips

While the builder has the framing crew at your home site, you will be spending your time making all your selections.  But there are some important things to be thinking about during the framing process.  If you haven’t already, ask about the width of the wood being used.  2×4’s are appropriate and used in most homes.  But if you are worried about the cost to heat and cool your home, you may want to ask for your exterior walls to be framed with 2×6’s. It should not be too expensive for this upgrade and you will be gaining 2 inches of insulation (6 inches instead of 4 inches).  And since we are on the topic of insulation, discuss to differences between spray foam and batting with your builder and ask what they intend to use to insulate your home.   Foam’s R-Value, or thermal performance, is twice that of the traditional batting.  Don’t forget about extra insulation in the attic, basement, and over the garage.

Flooring, Cabinetry and Countertop Selections

While the walls and stairs are being built inside your home, it is time to start thinking about the finishing touches. The more custom your builder is, the more options you will have available to you. The three areas we will focus on are: Flooring, Cabinetry, Countertops