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Advice needed on building site  RSS feed

 
Alice Lynn
Posts: 23
Location: Tennessee
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I could really use some opinions on the location of a possible building site. While there are several locations to chose from, one has the distinct advantage of having previously had a house on it so it's pre-graded, has a driveway, has a foundation (although it's some strange, old type that I've never seen before, and will be unlikely to meet code so I may have to dig up part of it and lay footers around the perimeter anyway), and has all utilities run to it just in case I decide to go that route. However, the site may be not that great due to orientation and proximity to the hills. The site is the minimum 15 feet away from the slope that is required by the new building codes though.

The old house site is 28 x 60', and I am planning on building a two-story 20 x 48' dogtrot house. Possibly like this one: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Multimedia.jsp?id=m-6641 but with a porch and roof like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fileogtrot_house,_Dubach,_LA_IMG_2552.JPG Possibly masonry though, and with a hipped roof to aid with solar panels (or I might put the solar panels on the hill to the south).

The climate is mixed humid, but cooling is a much, much bigger issue than heating. About half the year it's like living in a sauna. Winters are a mix. One week the low will be around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but then the next it will be in the 70's. Good insulation would go a long way in winter. I am considering using rocket stove thermal mass heating, and am experimenting with cooling techniques in my current house. But the orientation to the sun, as well as the location of the hills concerns me that there will be an issue with over heating in the summer.

Please excuse my terrible drawing skills. Hopefully it at least can give some idea of what the site is like. For reference, it's located in Tennessee, USA.

Thank you for any and all help!

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Alice,

As a traditional timber and stone wright, I would like to ask a few questions, if I may.

Are you going to use a vintage log cabin, cut a new one, or do something else?

Are you doing the work yourself?

Do you plan on using passive solar heat at all?

What is the pretties view, and presentation of the architecture to the land around it? (Don't even worry about the sun, just the feel and view.)

Were in Tennessee?

Regards,

jay
 
Alice Lynn
Posts: 23
Location: Tennessee
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Thanks for the response!

Let's see:

Are you going to use a vintage log cabin, cut a new one, or do something else?
I'm having a hard time committing to a design, but it would be something new. I love the look and feel of cord-wood, primitive log cabins, and stone work, but I keep changing my mind. I like really solid feeling structures, probably since most of my homes growing up were stone, brick, or cinder block. Occasionally I become frustrated with the planning process and consider using concrete masonry units, but I really would like to use something more natural. I don't mind hard work, but cutting down trees and then finding a place to dry them seems a bit overwhelming. I worry about solid stone being too heavy and thus requiring a massive concrete foundation. I need to make up mind though.

Are you doing the work yourself?
Yes, with help from friends and family. I own the land, but am saving up and buying construction materials as I go. I have a debt-free in 7 years plan I don't want to mess up.

Do you plan on using passive solar heat at all?
I'm not sure. It's the first thing that would be sacrificed if it at all got in the way of passive cooling. I would skip this if it makes things simpler, I do want solar panels somewhere though.

What is the pretties view, and presentation of the architecture to the land around it? (Don't even worry about the sun, just the feel and view.)
The view to the North is probably the prettiest, but anything except staring directly into the hill would look nice. The land is comprised of 10.5 wooded acres with the center being a hollow with a creek, and the sides have plateaus. There are other building site possibilities, but this one is the least amount of work ;p

Were in Tennessee?
In Roane County, so Eastern but close to Middle, with about 60 inches of rainfall a year.

I hope that helps =D
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Alice,

I do this for a living, both complete jobs, and facilitating for others, like this with you. It's nice getting a fat paycheck for a finely crafted timber frame, but all my deepest and most meaningful satisfaction has come from frames that students have cut for themselves. Your DIY attitude is great!

You do need to make up your mind, and stick to the plan. I charge clients a minimum of $250.00 for each change order they request. I doubles this for every 3 change orders. Now be patient with your plan, but once set, move on and execute the plan. There is no hard fast rule that won't let you mix you mediums. You could do stone up 1 meter, then log and timber frame the rest, with cobb infill. It is only limited by your imagination. I like following traditional themes, but that's just my background. Once you have a plan, I might be of more help, depending what you plan to build.

I set my architecture into the land where it wants to be, sun has little to do with it, for the most part. Often a shaded northern exposed glade will look the best and gives a "settled in look" to a piece of architecture. I can (have) build a greenhouse somewhere nearby in the sun, as an all season indoor living and growing space. You can even combine things like a wood shed, chicken coop, rabbit hutch, barn-green house close by that can generate heat on several fronts and even treat waste water if you really get into the "full circle" methods of permaculture.

Size is very important, go as small as you can, downright tiny, if you can stand it. Then build nice outbuildings for your other needs, like the green house, barn, summer kitchen, japanese bath etc. The little space you live in should be planned with potential expansion in mind, as the need may arise.

How small can you live?
 
Alice Lynn
Posts: 23
Location: Tennessee
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Alice,

I do this for a living, both complete jobs, and facilitating for others, like this with you. It's nice getting a fat paycheck for a finely crafted timber frame, but all my deepest and most meaningful satisfaction has come from frames that students have cut for themselves. Your DIY attitude is great!

You do need to make up your mind, and stick to the plan. I charge clients a minimum of $250.00 for each change order they request. I doubles this for every 3 change orders. Now be patient with your plan, but once set, move on and execute the plan. There is no hard fast rule that won't let you mix you mediums. You could do stone up 1 meter, then log and timber frame the rest, with cobb infill. It is only limited by your imagination. I like following traditional themes, but that's just my background. Once you have a plan, I might be of more help, depending what you plan to build.

I set my architecture into the land where it wants to be, sun has little to do with it, for the most part. Often a shaded northern exposed glade will look the best and gives a "settled in look" to a piece of architecture. I can (have) build a greenhouse somewhere nearby in the sun, as an all season indoor living and growing space. You can even combine things like a wood shed, chicken coop, rabbit hutch, barn-green house close by that can generate heat on several fronts and even treat waste water if you really get into the "full circle" methods of permaculture.

Size is very important, go as small as you can, downright tiny, if you can stand it. Then build nice outbuildings for your other needs, like the green house, barn, summer kitchen, japanese bath etc. The little space you live in should be planned with potential expansion in mind, as the need may arise.

How small can you live?


I can see how that would be difficult working with people that change their minds all the time, especially if money or time has already been invested in the project!

What I'm primarily looking for with this post is opinions on whether or not building within the building site of the original house is a good idea or not. Are the hills high enough to block the Western sun exposure? Would the Eastern exposure be too much? I'm trying to decide if I should choose this spot or scrap it and pick another location. I tried to do a shadow monitor thing on google earth but it just couldn't zoom in close enough.

As for the house size question, I'm planning on about 1600 square feet. We have 1100 right now, and everyone is on top of each other. I look forward to having no more than 2 per bedroom ;p
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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What I'm primarily looking for with this post is opinions on whether or not building within the building site of the original house is a good idea or not.


That would be a money and aesthetic decision.

Are the hills high enough to block the Western sun exposure?


You can design around that challenge in you architecture.

Would the Eastern exposure be too much?


Again, probably a feature you could deal with through good design and fenestration placement.

I'm trying to decide if I should choose this spot or scrap it and pick another location. I tried to do a shadow monitor thing on google earth but it just couldn't zoom in close enough.


Your got will tell you your top three choices, then find someone local that is in the field, (designer, architect, etc) that could give you feed back on you choices.

As for the house size question, I'm planning on about 1600 square feet.


1600 is on the large size, but for a larger family, smallish.
 
solomon martin
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Alice, I am a mason contractor.

A lot of your questions are dependent upon a bigger question; what is your budget like? You are DIY ing, so my assumption that you are looking to save money.

If I am correct, it only makes sense to use the existing foot print as much as possible.(id like to know more about the foundation material). This will save you a hassle of creating a new site, and you already have all the landscaping and utilities in place. I would hope that the original builder took exposure and view shed and other 'geomancy" into consideration when they chose the site in the first place.

If you go for a new foundation, I recommend concrete, unless you have a readily available large stone source, the time and effort it will take to make a full foundation from stone may be prohibitive, unless you live in an area where you can pull large blocks of limestone or sandstone that will shape uniformly and quickly. If you choose a new stone foundation, look in to slipform construction, works well for diy and can use locally available irregular stone.

You can still achieve a stone foundation look by applying a veneer to your concrete. Either use a brick ledge off your footing of your foundation, or install an angle iron build plate or you can use an adhesive mortar to apply a <1" thinstone. Another option for the "solid" look is to give your concrete a parge treatment, there are many techniques to decorate concrete to make it look more appealing. In this same vein, consider strawbale construction, it is great for insulation (cooling and heating) has a "solid" look when you apply stucco, and is relatively cheap and quick. It also works well for passive solar designs, although it appears you may not have the best exposure for that. Cob or dirt bag is also an option for you, but gather advice before you start as both of those are very labor intensive.

the other advice here is sound: spend a lot of time on your design and materials and stick with the plan, changing your mind mid build is a hassle for contractors, and gets really expensive fast.

Budget for building besides money also includes time: how soon would you like to complete your home? this could be a major factor when deciding what material you would like to use. If you are making your own lumber for example, plan on waiting a year for it to season. If you are planning on building a stone foundation yourself, research your techniques and ask a contractor about industry standards for production. My uncle (a building contractor) recently reminded me of the rule of 3/2: 3 times as long, and twice as much money to make a building as you initially (bid) expect.

If you have a healthy budget and you feel like you have money to throw at this project, I would recommend that you find an architect or experienced builder that you trust to help you with your design and logistics work. This is really important especially if you don't have a construction background. I can tell you stories of people who tried to build houses themselves without thinking things through and in the process ruined their finances, broke up families or at least caused themselves a big headache. Not to be all doom and gloom, I wish you the best of luck and encourage you on your adventure. Permies is a great place to ask advice, we are all here to help each other.

 
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