Contracting Part III: Site Evaluation and your Building Process

Written by Andrew Morrison

In Contracting Part III: Site Evaluation and your Building Process, I aim to make sure that you understand the importance of knowing your site before you build or even design. I also suggest that the information regarding your building site be premiere amongst the important data you work with when designing your home.

site evaluationAs a contractor, there is another site evaluation that needs to happen. Consider that the building plans are already complete and the siting of the house has been decided. What else is there to consider about site evaluation?

How about the portable restrooms? Yep, that’s right, the portable bathrooms are a very important part of the site evaluation. Have you ever sat in a “blue house” that was placed in the direct sun? There is nothing quite like taking a sauna while using the facilities. 🙂 I made this mistake at my last workshop (sorry to all the folks who were here in June) when I placed the facilities in the shade of a structure. Unfortunately, the structure only shaded the units in the morning and the evening and afternoon sun baked them to a crisp!

Another thing to consider when contracting a project is where you will stage materials for the construction. Is your site big enough to handle the delivery of 600 straw bales? Is it big enough to handle the framing package? I always have my framing materials delivered in stages: floor framing, first floor walls and ceiling joists, second floor walls and then trusses. This allows me to utilize the sometimes minimal space on my jobsites well. Be sure to know where you will deliver your materials and how much your site can hold.

Parking on or around the site is a very important aspect of your contractor site evaluation. If you cannot accommodate all of the vehicles necessary to perform the work on your project, you may end up having subs park in the street. This is fine; however, you may find your neighbors start to get frustrated with this, especially on busy days. Be sure to communicate with your neighbors and subs about where to park.

The location of a garbage dumpster and applicable recycling dumpsters is also something to consider when contracting. Keeping a clean jobsite is essential to safety and to efficiency. Garbage dumpsters (often 10 yard capacity) take up considerable space and need to be located on prime ground: level and easily accessible. Having a dumpster on site allows you and the subs to deliver trash directly to the dumpster instead of moving it twice or more, which cuts down on efficiency of the construction. The same is true for cardboard, metal, and other recycling as available in your area. If you have it there and inform your subs, you will eliminate the need to separate your trash and recycling once in the dumpster once again speeding up your construction time. The extra cleanliness of your site will also speed construction because you and your subs will not be stepping over piles of trash and recycling.

Another consideration, although a bummer to have to keep in mind, is how to protect the materials and tools you have on site. There are people with less than caring agendas out there who may be excited about the idea of pulling 20 sheets of plywood off of your site for use on their own project or stealing a tool or two to aid in the construction of their own home. It is essential that you have a way to lock up the materials and tools you have delivered, especially if you live in an urban area. In rural areas, this is much less of a concern. A simple way to secure plywood is by screwing the top 6 sheets or so to the pile. This makes moving any of them very difficult.

In general, you are “keeping honest people honest” and anything beyond that is likely out of your reach. In other words, trying to stop a thief from stealing from your site may not be possible but stopping a would be thief is easier. Get a construction box for your tools and lock it to a tree. Chains and security cables are worth their cost ten fold as they protect a lot of value on a construction site. Again, it is a bummer to have to deal with this subject, but it is a reality of building and must be considered.

There is much to consider when approaching a jobsite. The sooner you do your evaluation, the sooner you can start efficiently building. If you wait too long, you will already lay out some obstacles like garbage dumpsters and you will end up wasting time moving them around to make space for your framing materials or bales. Plan from the start and be aware of all the things you need room for. That way, you can place items step by step as they arrive without displacing something else.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for these great posts.

    I have purchased property and am planning to build a strawbale home perhaps in a couple years. I also intend to hire a general contractor to do all of the coordinating and such. I have come up with an approximate idea of the ideal spot for the home site, and would like to do some advance planning around that since there is much related to this decision even beyond what you mention above for my site (driveway, tree cutting/pruning, view corridor, slope/topography, etc.). Question: who would be the best person to have come out to bounce initial ideas regarding home siting and to “validate” my thoughts on it? Architect, general contractor, or someone else?

    Thanks for any info there,

  2. Scott,
    You can check out my other post about site evaluation on the blog. hat one speaks more directly to the items you mention in your question. This post is simply about the “contractor’s view” of a site once he or she prepares to build a completed plan. I think you would do well to use the architect you plan to work with for the site evaluation. Other then that, I suggest a skilled professional: either contractor, designer, or consultant who can help with site evaluation. As an example, I often do this type of work for clients for whom I am not the builder. The choice is yours, but definitely pick someone who is qualified. Good luck and have fun.

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