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Where to place house?

Shirley PTierre
February 9, 2019
I am building a home and would like advice on where to place it on the land. I also need placement of driveway (wrap around if possible). I was told that I needed to stake it out. I’m also planning on adding a 1/2 court basketball, a guest house on the side near the garage. I want the master facing west. The dirt road is the street. The fenced area is my property. It’s a total of 4 acres. In front of the fence is someone’s empty lot/back yard. The paved driveway is the neighbors house.

Comments (60)

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Mark is right. You should find the best spot for your house (with the boundaries and landmarks on a topo map, well flagged property lines and a sunup to sundown visit to the site) and then diagram how the spaces should take advantage of the location and then try to make a house out of it.

    An aerial photo is not only too little information, its the wrong information.

  • millworkman

    "I was told that I needed to stake it out. "

    Who "told" you this was your responsability?

  • Shirley PTierre
    The architect says he charges extra for a site plan.
  • Shirley PTierre
    The environmental department said I needed to stake it out before I can get a permit.
  • Shirley PTierre
    Here is a wider view. The squared off area is the property. The master bedroom is on the right side of the house ( the side that doesn’t stick out). Thanks for your advice.
  • Shirley PTierre
    Here is a wider view. The squared off area is the property. When looking at the picture of the house, the master bedroom is on the right side of the house ( the side that doesn’t stick out). Thanks for your advice.
  • Shirley PTierre
    Thanks for asking for more specifics. I do want privacy.
    Here are some more pictures. I marked where north is. The squared area is the 4 acres. You can also see the streets and location of neighbors homes. I marked where the master is. Asking for a Circular driveway.

    Thank you. Only post if you can suggest something.
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Despite at least 4 professionals telling you this is not the correct way to go about siting your home on the property, you still think asking online is going to get you good results?? I just don't understand that logic.

    btw, no architect of any repute would design a residence without a site plan. You cannot design in a vacuum!! The relationship of the house to the property is integral to its design........or certainly should be!!

    Although I would guess your 'architect' is really just a designer or builder/draftsman, pay the extra and get a site plan drawn, with topos and all other necessary info clearly delineated. Then you might have enough info to move forward.

  • cpartist

    The architect says he charges extra for a site plan.

    Then he's not a licensed architect. He's a draftsman. A true architect will first come out and walk the site with you and view how best to site the house.

  • cpartist

    Also where did you get this house plan from?

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    "Only post if you can suggest something."

    I postponed my response until after lunch because your directive seemed ungracious. I have decided to assume you are new to this forum and are not aware of how it works. Members who take all advice graciously and offer thanks to everyone get past the initial comments and receive an extraordinary amount of free professional quality assistance. Those who make demands are often ignored by the experienced members. Its your choice.

    This what I have learned the hard way.

    Only a surveyor can draw an accurate site plan and set corner marker pins in the field. The pins might already be there so look to see if there is a survey in your purchase records to at he building department. Call the local surveyors. Any stakes with orange tape were put in to make it easier to find the pins. Your neighbor's fence line may not be on the line unless a survey was used. If there are a few landmarks on the survey (tree line, rock outcroppings, drainage swales, etc.), it will be a big help when you walk the land with your house designer to locate the house. The architect/designer would then give the surveyor the building footprint and dimensions from the lot lines so that information could be put on the survey which would then be submitted as part of the building permit application. If there are minimum setback requirements, the surveyor may be required to stake the sides of the house and verify compliance later.

    Any designer not willing to walk the site should not be involved in the project. Proper site investigation can spare you from unnecessary expense and missed opportunities.

    If you want to do it the easy way, just put the house in the center of the site with the front door on the north side and the living spaces on the south side.

    I assume the big structure on the front of the house is a garage. That configuration is typical of houses designed for narrow street-front lots like most internet plans. For that you don't need an architect. But you should take advantage of the large site and pull the garage free of the house envelope. The most characteristic thing about a country house is that utility structures are either separate or attached to the house through a series of smaller structures often added later to be able to get to the barn under cover (check out Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn)

  • mad_gallica

    With 4 acres to play with, select a different house plan. One where the garage isn't the most prominent feature of the house.

    The way things are now, when it comes time to landscape the house, either the front walk will be a long, tortuous trek around, or you won't have nearly enough space for a proper, not pinched planting. It is an extremely common problem presented in the Landscape Design forum, and it is one thing when the house is on a 1/4 acre lot. On 4 acres, it is inexcusable.

  • PRO

    "The master bedroom is on the right side of the house ( the side that doesn’t stick out)."

    That's confusing. The right side is the one that "sticks out," if by that you mean comes forward toward the viewer. If your house follows convention, the right side would be the garage that is forward. You have the left side circled. Is that where the master is? And when it comes to any interior room, you'll have to define what you mean by "facing," as it would be understood by looking at the outside of the house.

    It seems to me that you wouldn't want this house plan as you'd be entering your property at the lower left corner. The house would either face left or down. (I don't see where you have north marked.) Either way, that would require a hard right turn in order to access the garage. But why would you want this style of house (with the garage prominently forward)? That's a space-saving feature designed for small lots. With 4 acres, there's no need to use this feature, especially since it is not great looking relative to normal houses with garages placed somewhere behind the front building line.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Poor Sherly Touze, she just wants to know where to put her house.

    Sherly, in the very first aerial view picture you posted, smack in the middle is a group of five large trees that form the shape of a cross bordering the open grass area. Put your house behind/above those trees in the wooded section of the lot. Other images indicate there may be a natural wet drainage at the back lot line. The house will need to be out of, below (in the picture), and away from that. I don't see that as a problem with the space you have.

    Your BIG N for north can be read in both direction. You will have to spin the house yourself to face the master bedroom west. The house SHOULD face the cross of trees and the entry point off the dirt road. Maybe that is west, maybe not. It depends upon which way the N blows.

    You also have ample room to make any kind of circular driveway you want. Your cross of trees could be the focal point of the island that creates. The garage placement on your house is not really conducive to that however. Parking in the garage will involve a side shoot off your circular drive. Consider ripping the garage off the front and re-attaching it to the right side of the main house.

    Then again, with a basketball court and guest house arranged around a small parking lot type area at the garage entry, as an exit off your circular drive, the current garage location might work out fine.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Well...would this be an appropriate time to ask about contour lines, and natural site drainage? And we still don't know which direction is north...

    As much as we might like to help, we can't do so with the current lack of information...

  • Shirley PTierre
    Thanks Christopher for your help.

    Here is another shot to show the directions.

    The circle is where the master bath is. The master bedroom is directly behind it.
  • Shirley PTierre
    Christopher, Is this where you are suggesting? My original thought was to place it in the place of the 5 trees. Thanks for your comment.
  • Shirley PTierre
    Sorry Christopher, here is the correct image .
  • Christopher C Nc

    Yes Sherly, the last image is where I want to put the house. I want to save the big trees and use them as a main feature in the island of your circular drive. You should try to save as many of the trees in the front line along the open grass area as possible because they are an automatic privacy screening. You won't have to come back later and ask what to plant to hide the neighbor's house.

    I would prefer the front door face the direction of the main road, but It isn't the end of the world if you face it left to the neighbor's house. I will have to assume the master bedroom has windows on that side wall of the house that will then face west.

  • PRO

    The farther the house is placed from the front of the property, the longer the driveway must be (at a cost significantly higher than the cost of a site plan) ... and the closer it looks to be near a creek or drainage way. Could there not ever be flooding? It seems there is plenty of space to well site the house in what is likely the upper elevations of the property and still screen from neighbors and the road.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Why do you want to orient your house to face east and west? That's the worst possible orientation for passive solar and natural light strategies. The optimal orientation is to have your major public spaces--living, dining and kitchen--facing south.

    You seem to have a lot of preconceptions about your site development and house design. Have you considered working with an experienced and talented architect for a proper site analysis and house design?

  • Shirley PTierre
    Yardvaark, good point on the long driveway. I would like to save on cost so can you describe where you consider as the upper elevation please?
  • PRO
  • Christopher C Nc

    At the beginning Yardvaark said the post was confusing and lacked information. He asked for a zoomed out satellite picture. Those pictures were choke full of all kinds of information relevant to siting the house. We pay people to read satellite images. I picked up the McMansion next door like a monopoly house in my mind and put it where the landscape designer wanted the house on the four acres of old farm land thinking of the gardens to come.

    This is the internet. I can do that. We can all spin the house to get it pointed in whatever direction we want.

    I was thinking about four acres of beautiful grounds with a nice stream in the backyard. I want the long circular driveway. I want to keep it dirt and gravel if I can get away with it. I want that sun out front for the gardens. People will need to drive slow through the gardens.

    I loved reading all the architect minded justified horror. Don't worry. Nothing is going to happen without permits, licensed building contractors and the house meeting state building code. Many of your legitimate concerns will be dealt with in process.

    This is the internet. It's ok to tell Sherly where to put her house on four acres of farmland. There has to be a beginning where the client tells those who need to know where she wants to put the house. Some of you have in your own way. Don't worry, Sherly will be meeting reality soon enough.

    Nobody ever said home building was immune from the ravages of a 'curb appeal' mentality. Yardvaark you and I are curb appeal victims here. Sherly is designing this investment remotely - on some levels for sure.

    " I would like to save on cost so can you describe where you consider as the upper elevation please?" Sherly, you're a real peach

  • kristinhallett
    I love Houzz, but... Architec
  • BT

    What you are doing shows the lack of experience.

    1. If you have a space [4 acres] - SN or NS orientation is no brainer.

    2. Never would I place my own house in the middle of the forest. If there is a forest fire = your house is a goner. It is also bad for personal security. You will be relying on your neighbours to alert you or police. Your kitchen appliances could walk before construction completed.

    3. I would rather have my own landscape than trying to save some wild trees...

    4. I like a full visibility @ front of the house and full privacy on the back.

    5. Long driveway = Extra $$$ money.

    6. Do you need well and septic? That could predicate the location.

    7. In my area detached garages are rare and adverse to the resale value.

    8. If you will have a trash service, consider the effort of wheeling trash cans 1000 ft.

    9. I would remove few trees and have a nice house with nice backyard... and may be a pool.

    10. Fill the E tree gap.

    11. Design a driveway. Most efficient is not always the best

    12. Remote location could create issue with the utilities and an insurance.

  • Shirley PTierre
    Thank you Res. I am new to this forum. I appreciate you taking the time to give me good information.
  • einportlandor

    You know, guys, it's possible to just drop out of a conversation if you feel it's not productive. After the second or third snarky comment it starts to feel ugly and it certainly doesn't reflect well on you. Please stop.

  • Shirley PTierre
    Thank you all. I started this post just to get some ideas and to save money. A lot of questions about working with an architect. I did work with one to get this plan. Since the site plan is not included, I was trying to figure it out on my own. Yes I agree that the garage is not ideal but it’s too late to change it. A suggested spot is just to get me started. The well and septic tank etc...will determine the final placement.
  • One Devoted Dame

    8. If you will have a trash service, consider the effort of wheeling trash cans 1000 ft.

    Here in Central Texas, we have lots and lots of folks with pickup trucks. Also, lots of former high school football players, who can drive with their right hand, while their left arm is dragging their trash bins alongside their automatic-transmission Dodge Rams. Sure, they only go like 5 miles per hour, but if you have a passenger with you, your passenger can drag the recycle bin, too, so you only have one trip down the half-mile driveway. Good thing it doesn't really snow here.


  • cpartist

    Shirley are you sure you worked with a licensed architect and not a draftsman?

  • Shirley PTierre
    I guess I’m not working with an architect. He was educated in drafting. Now I see the difference. Thanks for pointing that out.
  • PRO

    "... can you describe where you consider as the upper elevation please?"

    I'm guessing based on clues in your photo. It looks like there is a drainage path along the west side of the property, so that would likely be the lower elevation. The upper elevation would be opposite -- along the east side. But you are there and can see where the high ground is, so don't need to rely on my surmising -- which could be faulty. I'm saying you'd likely want the house in the near half of the property, not the far half. The far half is, well, far. And if it is at a lower elevation along a drainage path, it could be prone to flooding whenever the big storm comes.

  • Dave Bundrick

    I didn't catch the location of the site. But with a long driveway you may need an ATV/pickup to plow (or consider the cost of hiring it out)

    Your ATV or pickup can also haul the trash:

  • K H

    Or maybe you can burn your trash?

  • Shirley PTierre
    Thank you Yardvaark for the explanation.
  • Holly Stockley

    OP, see if there is a GIS system for your area. (In mine, for instance, you can google for Ottawa Country GIS and get right at the "property search" feature). In that system, you can usually turn on different layers. You can activate property borders, and also topographic lines, easements, etc. A screenshot of that would be helpful.

    I'm not sure that snow plowing is likely to be a big issue for wherever this is? But it's certainly something to keep in mind.

    The environmental department just wants you do give a vague indication of where the house will go so that they can come out and do a perc, most likely. (If it fails there, they'll often check a couple of other locations, so don't get too fussed). This sometimes will also tell you things abour the water table, etc.

    You've gotten a lot of good advice above - be cognizant of the cost of bringing utilities to the house, etc. And I don't think that a lot of the things mentioned are only considered by "billionaires." Go stand where you want the house. What do you see? What do you hear? How many of those trees in the front do you want to save? (I disagree with the comment above about preferring planted landscaping to "wild" trees. Sometimes you find a gem. I've been making everybody on my property preserve one venerable old apple tree). And, since you don't really have a road to "face", give some serious thought to what you want the view to be and light direction to come from in various rooms - don't be afraid to curve the driveway around to get it.

  • drdeb1234

    Are you sure this is worth saving a few thousand dollars for? The house placement sounds pretty...important.

    And while some of the advice you are getting here may be accurate and based on expertise, some is going to be from totally clueless amateurs ( like me!).

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    Or clueless professionals (like me) who can not tell what the views are like from the site, or other information that can not be obtained by looking at an areal photo that is important to have to properly advise.

  • Shirley PTierre
    Yes I’m sure this was a good start. This statement is true. “The environmental department just wants you give a vague indication of where the house will go so that they can come out and do a perc,”. What’s been mentioned in this post would help me to have a general idea of where I would want to place the house. Even if I worked with an architect, I’m sure I would need a general idea as well. Thanks everyone for giving me something to think about.
  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Regardless of the environmental department's opinion, you should give do better than a vague indication of where the leaching field will be located.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Is it time to suggest that the OP will be best served by working with an experienced and talented architect to walk her site and to select a building area, with locations for septic and leech field for testing?

    When testing for leech fields it's often best to dig several holes for testing, rather just one.

    The OP would be much better served working with an architect for a custom design that fits her site and reflects her living style and budget. Going to a drafter for a quick generic house plan which has no connection to her site is exactly the wrong way to begin a project of this magnitude and importance.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Step One for rural lots - The perk test

    The environmental department will tell a property owner where a drain field is allowed to go, not the other way around. Many will require an area of equal size for a second drain field for backup. They don't want to approve a drain field location and then have a house plopped on top of it. They want a general idea of where you plan to put the house.

    If a piece of land completely fails the perk test, No Building Permit will be issued. Period. End of story. (Though I did hear whispers of very elaborate and expensive on site sewage treatment options) The very first question is, is this land buildable.

    Many houseless rural lots are marketed as already having passed the perc test because it has happened, people have bought land to build on and were not allowed to because it failed a perc test. No architect's dreams of perfect siting is going to overcome that. Nor should you bother hiring one until AFTER it passes the perc test.

  • Holly Stockley

    From the perspective of somebody who's had multiple parcels perc'd (long story), it usually goes sort of like this:

    Meet the county official at the site. Officials wants the proposed house site staked.

    In our case, the official checked in front of the house first. If she didn't get what she was looking for, the next spot to check was behind the proposed site. One parcel was such a sandy site that it was deemed good to go, regardless. In my county, the perc test is really a soil core sample done by someone who can evaluate it's capacity to drain and goes down about 6 feet or so. In other counties nearby, it involves digging a hole with a backhoe and pour water into it - timing how long it takes the water to drain out.

    Next we get a report from the country stating whether it's approved for a standard septic, raised septic, or failed entirely. It includes an aerial photograph with the tested areas and approved drain fields marked. It also includes an assessment of likely well conditions and whether the well has to be located a particular distance from our drain field and any of our neighbors.

    So, on a larger parcel, you do have to indicate where you want them to test. If you end up changing your mind, you'll have to pay for them to come out and do it again if you've moved the house site away from the approved portions of the lot.

  • Shirley PTierre
    Thank you Holly. “Officials wants the proposed house site staked”. That’s why I started this post so I can have an idea of where they should test. Yes, the land is buildable but the Officials needs to know where I would preferably want the house. I appreciate yours and others explanation of the process.
  • Christopher C Nc

    Shirley, I see no reason at all for you to have a problem with a perc test or getting a building permit from those great aerial images you posted. I like where I put the house best. You do have to know what is going on with any water at the back property line.

  • simmtalker

    I'm sure municipalities vary in wants/needs/requirements, but when my perc was done, I showed her the approximately placement of the house, told her I wanted a gravity system, and she chose where to test. When the SEO doing the septic design came out, he moved the house farther UP the hill, because she did not test DOWN the hill far enough, but it was a fantastic perc test, so no one was in a hurry to change that.

    If a piece of land completely fails the perk test, No Building Permit will be issued. Period. End of story.

    I think this varies with municipalities, too. In my area, they will issue a permit when the ground won't pass perc, but one must sign an agreement with them to have a holding tank pumped every X number of days, and I think the homeowner must submit a copy of a contract with a septic pumping service every year.

  • shivece
    Two other considerations before you stake out the house site for the perc test. If there are wetlands at or towards the back of the property, there may be wetland setbacks or other similar requirements. You will need enough distance to account for both the setback and the area of your septic system. Delineating wetlands is tricky and doesn’t necessarily mean just pacing off the distance from currently standing or flowing water. Perc person might not care about this, but some permit person will, if applicable. Get it right the first time to avoid two perc tests. Also, the farther away from the road your house is, the more likely it is you pay big $$$ for your electric service. Typically, but not always, utilities have a fixed price and an allowance of x feet for an electric service before you start to pay extra. Some places it is only 100-200 feet. You may want to find out what their requirements and costs are, whether your service will be above ground or underground and how they site their facilities. The Public Utilities Commission website should have the utility tariff on file and connection policies and costs will be in the tariff. Simplification, but they usually want to install their facilities in a straight line and not near trees, which might not be your plan. Recently saw a post here re: $37,000 electric connection fee to put this in context....
  • new-beginning

    One Devoted Dame - I really laughed at your description of Texans hauling trash! I am 500 ft from the road, I have a pickup truck (small), I personally load up the trash for my grandson's home (I only have one kitchen size trash can per week as I do a LOT of recycle) - and, oh, by the way, I will soon be 80 yrs old. I also personally haul all my recycles to our county site (Waller County, TX).

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