Budgeting for Site and Lot Improvements, Part 2

This document is a very good investment to have in one’s file. It protects everyone past, present, and future; especially when it comes time to sell or re-finance. By state law, Vermont Banks cannot gain clear title to its own property without such letters of compliance. This makes the Banking Institution very nervous. This particular regulation has become a very cumbersome problem for folks who need to sell their property and move. It’s prompted many frustrated and desperate phone calls begging me to help them find quick solutions that don’t exist. So it’s prudent to have these letters in your files, even if you live in a State that doesn’t require them today.

Budgeting for Site and Lot Improvements, Part 2 1

Sample #6 – A typical checklist for a Site Estimate and what it looks like:
The language I use below is similar to what is often used for small residential projects. Keep in mind that every custom home is located in unique areas and that the scope of work will modify to address each one specifically.

Here’s an example of how I would define site work in my contract …
By GC: Excavate hole for footings as per blueprints. Prepare cellar slab sub-grade with 10-12” of compacted sand or ¾” stone. Install passive radon piping with the protruding stem in the utility room. Use 10 mil poly vapor barrier under slab. Tape/seal all overlaps and continue poly upside of foundation wall by 12”. Place crushed stone, 4”x10’ sections of perforated pipe ( not elephant trunk ) , and use filter fabric over the footing drains, not hay. Excavate trenches for water, sewer and power. Include inspections for pressure testing and quality of installation when required. Water-proofing is to be applied with foundation membrane, not tar or latex emulsion. Contractor shall include imported sandy – gravelly backfill around the foundation, if not available from site excavation. The type of gravel must be discussed and approved prior to installation. Do not backfill with any large stones over 6”. Construct driveway w / turnaround, using 12” x ¾” crushed gravel on filter fabric. Finish the surface of the driveway to be 3”-4” crushed gravel or hardpack with simple hardpack walkway from entry doors/porch steps to the closest point of driveway. Grade all disturbed areas around the house for proper drainage, seed, and mulch to approximately 20’. Include one culvert to town specs at the point where the driveway meets the road.

Options Available, but not in contract: ( performed by the hour )

  • Tree Clearing more than 20’ from house
  • Stump removal – beyond 20’ limits of construction
  • Extra Grading beyond limits – by the hour & machine

Possible problems due to unconfirmed information:

  • Digging under town road to find sewer pipe, if it is not where shown on town plan or stubbed out far enough into lot to hook on to. ( What are the odds of that?)
  • Digging and patching and other municipal requirements (traffic control, testing and inspection,etc) will be billed as a change order.
  • Ledge Removal – anything larger than 1 cu. yds
  • Excessive water – discretionary, but necessary if excavated hole becomes so excessively wet that work is hindered.
  • Hidden Obstacles – buried cars, tractors, old foundations etc.

Other Site Categories:

There are many other categories that fall within Site Costs; all of which need to be carefully considered for each and every lot. Since every lot is different, so will be the categories. For example, if there is town water and sewer, there is obviously no need for septic or well. However, with town water and sewer connections, there may be other municipal expenses such as hook up fees, impact fees, and a variety of pressure and connection testing fees. Not only that, the pipe may not even be where it shows on a town map. The connection points may be on the other side of a paved road and the town may not allow digging and patching of newly paved roads. That’s when you may need to “core drill” under the road.

Although impact fees may fall into another cost category, the inspection and testing fees would not. Other variables may have to do with the location of the lot. Utilities such as power, phone and Cable may be fairly far away and the cost for line extensions can add up fast. Today, it is sometimes less expensive to go underground than with poles and overhead wires because you can often go “cross-country” and take the shortest route to the house, whereas an overhead line may require following the driveway and extensive tree clearing and nasty guy-wires. Such determinations require a fair amount of research and information.

Budgeting for Site and Lot Improvements, Part 2 2

When I prepare my estimate, I always review my own checklist of site categories and I use it to review proposals from site contractors just to make sure they didn’t conveniently leave some things out. We know that never happens. A good and thorough residential site estimate will investigate the following categories to see which ones apply:

Clearing, Grubbing topwaste

  1. Stumping and Stump Disposal
  2. Excavate to proper depth
  3. Waterproof Foundation (include waterplug @ all holes and tie marks)
  4. Footing Drains (include filter fabric, stone, pipe, labor) – no hay
  5. Waterline, Curbstops, etc (to plan)
  6. Sewer lines, Cleanouts, and all septic ( include asbuilt drawings when complete)
  7. Trenching and backfill for Underground power, TV, Phone, Gas, etc
  8. Infill & Compaction (designate what fill material is being used)
    10.Backfill with “owner approved” onsite materials
    11.Rough Grade @ building with “owner approved” onsite materials
    12.Parking and Drive (to spec)
  9. Drainage and Culverts (to spec)
  10. Dig and backfill all sonotubes/precast columns (tubes/precast provided by GC)
  11. Finish Grade with existing Topsoil
    *If no topsoil is available and desired , provide a unit price/ cubic yd for imported topsoil, machine spread, raked, seeded and mulched.
  12. 36”w x 6”d x ¾” peastone dripedge around eaves.
  13. Provide ramps and access for concrete trucks
  14. Contingencies (if wanted)
    a. Ledge Removal
    b. Deep hole (this is a site condition where the existing terrain is already too low for the house to set on. This will either require raising the hole or adding more concrete. It will also require additional fill material, both inside and outside.
    c. De-watering
  15. Mud removal and extra excavating for relief trenches
  16. Curtain Drains
  17. Pumping charges & equipment rental
    d. Cold Weather Protection
  18. Imported unfrozen material
  19. Frost Excavation
  20. Snow Removal (Roads and also inside building foundation)
  21. Sanding Roads and maintaining open access for all subs & utilities
    e. Pumping of Concrete if access isn’t possible or practical
  22. Erosion Control & also restoration of site after controls are removed
  23. Storm-water Management ( if required by State )
  24. Create Staging Area
    a. Level and provide lumber storage sites and location for construction trailers, porta-potties, dumpsters, and equipment.
    b. Restore area after project is completed
    c. Security fencing and access control
  25. Signage for safety and direction
  26. Headwalls of culverts and Retaining walls where needed
  27. Hand-laid Stone Walls
  28. Guardrails, steps, and sidewalks
  29. Site lighting
  30. Septic Systems
  31. Demolition of existing buildings
  32. Continuous Site Access
  33. Personnel Requirements
    a. Security
    b. Superintendent
    c. Surveyor/ Civil Engineer
  34. Company Requirements
    a. Site & locate buildings
    b. Set benchmarks, batter boards and offsets
    c. Locate roads and grades
    d. As builts
    e. Inspections
    f. All labor to complete the contract
    g. Insurances required by contract
  35. Structural Fill
  36. Amenities ( pool, tennis courts, gardens, etc)
  37. All compaction & testing fees.
  38. Gutter systems and piping

Since 1976, our company has built hundreds of houses and we have yet to experience two identical lots. The typical site costs for a house in the country that requires land-clearing, well, septic, 200’ driveway and underground power, with no ledge and lots of very usable on-site fill materials is around $40,000.00 – $45,000.00 and going as high as $60,000.00 depending on the slope of the lot. In municipal locations where sewer, water, and power are at the lot and the lot is only ¼ acre, the site costs can drop drastically to as low as $15,000.00 – $20,000.00. As you can see, Site and Lot Improvements can be a huge variable in the over-all cost of c onstruction; one that simply cannot be taken cavalierly. This is why we do not include it with Square/ Foot comparisons. It’s best to understand what vertical costs are and then add the other five categories. This will complete your estimate without skewing the cost per square foot for the house.