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designing a cabin on sloped land, love to see yours! and hear experiences

 
Posts: 6
Location: Marshall, NC
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Hi! we are currently designing our little home on sloped land, and would love to see what you guys have done, if you are in the same boat. slab on grade? piers? split level?
It is forested land in wnc. Were building a smallish home for us to live and work in (i work from home) until we can build the road up further into the property for our forever homesite. ideally we would have about 550sq ft living space and 250 sq ft for my studio. We are trying to save as much money as possible (who isnt) while still building a professional quality built home. My husband is a builder so that helps a lot. Would absolutely love to see yalls houses on slopes, even if its bigger than what Id like, just looking for inspiration. I have been doing a lot of looking around online and most of what I find is really fancy stuff that isnt realistic. I want the humble function of real folk building their cabins.

If anyone doesnt mind sharing costs i would love to gain that perspective too. Were really shooting for around 30k, not including grading.

I am trying to get our design down so we can move forward with grading. Very much interested in disturbing land as least as possible.
 
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Chloe,

How sloped is sloped, and are there any flat spots? About how much property, and how long is the theoretical road from the temporary spot to the permanent spot?

I at one time had plans to build a “garage apartment” to live in before and during building the actual house, it was a two car garage with an apartment in the “attic.” Would have been a detached garage next to the main house when completed. The advantage of building such a structure on the actual homesite is the investments you make in infrastructure (electrical, septic, water, road) can be mainly reused for the actual house with a bit of prior planning. If your temporary spot is too far away that may not translate. More money up front, less money in the long run. In the end I got a great deal on rent, so the numbers did not add up anymore so we skipped that step.

The last time I was involved in building a small 600 sf “$30k” house (with 200sf garage), it ended up costing $80k. Many costs do not scale with SF, they cost what they cost. (Well or City Water Tap, Electrical Service, etcetera) Many items were purchased second hand in an attempt to save money, assumptions on DIY labor did not pan out as planned, took longer than planned=costed more, sturdy costs money, and nicer finishes were chosen.

Decisions cost money. Making a house “look” like something or “picking” flooring, trim, etcetera costs more money. The main way to bring something in at an extremely low budget is letting cost make the decisions for you, e.g. the used/remnant flooring found cheap. The exception being insulation, find a deal but do not put in the minimum or you will spend more in utilities that will make it harder to save for your house.

I would seriously consider making your “temporary” house a wing on your permanent house or a nearby structure that can be reused in your final plans.

Many trees we "saved" relatively close to our house are now dying and need removed, the roads and other disturbances (tractor paths, fill dirt, utility trenches) on their roots stressed them. A big dozer pushing them over during construction is cheaper than a tree service if you are not handy with a chainsaw. Consider removing more trees than you think you need to, plant some seedlings back when your disturbances are done.
 
chloe miller
Posts: 6
Location: Marshall, NC
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Hello John. Thanks for your response!

We have 40 acres. We definitely considered building while keeping in mind being able to add on. The road to the forever spot is 1/4 mile. The spot we are choosing to build at is right next to the gravel road that leads to the property, just a short little curve/house site and driveway will be needed. Of course we are interested in privacy but there is only one neighbor past us and we cant even see their house from our house site. A couple things pushed us to agree on building at the lower spot...

Grader gave us an estimate of 13k for drive, house site and full septic install at the bottom and 30k for all that plus 1/4 road to the upper spot.
We are currently living in a house we own and paying both the mortgages while building the house on the land and also finishing up some projects at this house. Once the new build is livable we can move and sell this house and be mortgage free. The idea is we will be able to save money a lot faster and build the other house faster. So saving the money on grading will go far at this point, because we are trying to do this as fast as we can (our goal is 2 years ish) to limit the amount of time we pay 2 mortgages. I also like the idea of not rushing decisions on the upper spot and being able to live out on the property for several years, really envisioning our end game.

I am a designer/seamstress with a business so thats why I need 250 sq ft of space. Im working in 144 sq ft right now and am very quickly outgrowing that space.... the business is growing every year, so eventually the first building we build will be very useful as my studio with space to keep growing, and also a woodshop for my husband.

If we built at the upper spot, we would have to drill a well, adding to the cost, and at the lower spot there is a well flowing spring head right about the house, making it easy (theoretically) to install a gravity system.

The building spot for the actual building is about 45'x 30' as that is the "flatest" spot. with a difference of about 6' from top to bottom, the hill gets a tiny bit steeper behind it being 10' in difference over 27 feet (this is where there is a stand of larger trees Id like to save some of them) then above that the hill gets gentlish again with a difference of 7 ft over 50 feet. This is where I would like to put a parking area, and keep a trail through the stand of trees to the cabin.

Very good tip to consider the impact of the heavy machinery. Im interested in more info on that, mostly because im curious. How long until they died? what kind of trees? and how large were they? I will talk to our grader and see what he thinks. Also great tip to plant saplings. I am a total plant nerd and ex professional organic landscaper/gardener so I will probably be putting in trees and shrubs as soon as the grading happens.

As far as looks go... we both do not like the feel of an all brand new house, feels "souless" and Ive already started scouting out doors, windows, flooring etc.

I appreciate the info and response!
 
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If I am understanding about the cabin on a slope sounds like a house my uncle built,  If I am remembering correctly it was called "split level" as the front of the house was ground level and the back of the house had a room below the first floor they used as a playroom.

I also had a friend whose house was "trilevel" which was similar to my uncle's house except there were two stories on one side and three stories on the other side.

Is this something like you are visioning?
 
John Young
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Chloe,

Thanks for the additional information. I can definitely understand if you are running a small business the need to have that portion close to the entrance and separated from the main house. I also completely get the additional $17k road delaying getting out from under the second mortgage.

It sounds as if your slopes are decent but not “goat face,” that is promising.  Those slopes are what I am used to dealing with, I have some parts that are steeper than that and a handful of flatter portions.

We intentionally located our house in a thicket of dead pines, because to put the house in the “ideal” flattest location would have caused us to cut down many mature oak trees. That decision was quite expensive in terms of additional excavation costs to use the less flat location. Definitely was not the lowest cost option.

The trees that died/are dying are mature trees, oaks, hickories, pines, red maples, etcetera. Sizes from 8” to 18+” diameters. Their roots were impacted by the various construction activities or driveways/paths. Trenching for utilities killed a few hardwood trees. Other trees seemed stressed by the presence of a nearby driveway, or perhaps the changes in water flow due to the presence of the driveway. In some cases it was several years later before they died or started showing signs of stress, often in conjunction with a drought, but the further away trees fared better. Other trees started acting stressed when the backfilling activities covered up some of their roots (side effect from using the less flat location).  And yet other trees are similar distances away from these construction activities, yet seem to be fine.

I think the reality is that any time you are disturbing soil you are running the risk of weakening or killing the nearby trees. By trying to save certain trees, we inevitably impacted and killed other trees. That said, trees can be replanted. Right now I am cutting down some trees (pines) so that I can plant other trees (pecans) so if there are certain types of trees you want to plant you could choose to use road clearing or utility trenching as a means to create spaces for new species.
 
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Location: Western Idaho
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I've been working on a hobby cabin that is perched at a slope, you can find it under "cabin project first pic" in the tiny house forum. Not sure if it will help you brainstorm or not but it is 200 square feet on a rubble trench/gabion foundation, the lumber order at the time was 750$ at the time of purchase (july 2018) so I'm sure that the same order would cost a lot more the days.
 
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