Everything you need to know about building a house on a slope

Our sloping section build. Stage one: Planning

Building a house on a sloped section can be tricky. But it can also be a great way to create a beautiful home that uses the gradient to its advantage. And as more and more subdivisions have to utilise slopes to meet the housing demand, it’s going to become a common challenge – a challenge we can help with!

We’ve recently bought our own sloping section in The Lakes, Tauranga, ready to create our family home. As we go along this journey we will share all of our challenges and milestone, so you can know what to expect when it’s your turn.

Here are the key challenges and considerations we came up against in the planning stage:

Having your section surveyed

A hidden cost and step that most people don’t know about is that you need to have your section surveyed. This is to make sure the ground is stable to be built on and can impact the way it’s designed and constructed.

A surveyor will visit your section and measure the contours and topography. This is impacts things like where your driveway would go, whether you need retaining walls and how much you need, and assess any hazards like erosion. Plus it’s a necessity for every section to get building consent, sloped or not, so not something to skip!

They will also involve a geotechnical engineer to test the soil to check for moisture, rocks and other ground conditions that can impact the build. This is extra important to consider when it comes to creating a house on a slope.

Often your architect or builder can recommend a surveyor for you, or even tee it up for you as they need this done before they can design.

Finding the right architect

When it comes to designing a home to work on a sloping section, you need someone who has experience behind them. Every slope presents different challenges that design can help solve. However, unless you’re in the know in the building industry it can be tricky to find the right one.

We were lucky enough that Alex (Bespoke Director and Builder) already had Andrew Ward from Mod Architecture in mind, but if you don’t have an Alex there are a few ways you can find yours.

  • Look at previous work and see if they’ve designed homes for sloping sections.
  • Call and ask architects whose style you like if they have this experience and if they can send you examples.
  • Ask local friends or soon-to-be neighbours who have built on slopes.

Having a builder review the architectural plans with you

Architectural plans are always super exciting but not always the easiest to understand if you’re not familiar with them.

Sitting down and going over them with a Tauranga builder who has experience reading architectural plans can be a lifesaver. When going over plans with a client recently, she realised the ways the doors opened didn’t suit her, so we were able to have that changed before starting the next stage.

It’s much harder to change things in the building stage than in the design stage. A builder who understands plans can help you make sure everything is as you want it to be.

You may have to compromise

Building means you can make sure your home includes all of the dream elements you’ve always wanted. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have to compromise.  This can be especially true for a sloped section, as your architect will be designing to make the most of the space they can use based on the gradient and survey data.

For us, we always wanted a scullery. But that’s meant we won’t have space to fit a two-door fridge, something we had to decide if would work for us with three hungry children. We went for the scullery and a single door fridge in the end, but it’s always good to be prepared for these kinds of decisions.

Choose what you want in your home the most, the non-negotiables, and then work back from that.

Key things to consider in the planning stage:

  • Finding the right architect for your section and style
  • Choosing a builder who can work with you from the start and help read the architectural plans
  • Allowing for the extra cost of a surveyor and geotech

Follow us on instagram to see more updates of our build, and stay tuned for our next step in the building journey – Stage two: Foundations.

If you're looking for a Tauranga or Bay of Plenty builder for your new build, renovation, reclad or outdoor building project, get in touch with us today. We pride ourselves in being professional, easy to work with, and a company that goes the extra mile to make sure our customers are happy with the results of choosing to work with us.

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