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Building on a Sloping Block

Last Updated Aug 29, 2017 · Written by Craig Gibson


So you’ve decided to build a house on a sloping block but you’re not quite sure how to go about it?

You’re not the only one.  Building on a sloping block can present some unique challenges but it is possible to work around any potential issues.This article will help you with:
 


garden steps on a sloping block

 

Practical considerations of building on a sloping block

When selecting your home design, you will need to take into account the slope of your block.  The slope can vary, with some sloping down from the street towards the rear boundary, and others sloping up from the street.  The former can be easier to work with, while the latter may require the use of retaining walls and need more excavation, which can significantly add to the total cost of the building project.  However, building on any sloping block will cost more than building on a flat block.

By working with the unique slope of your block, and designing a home that works with the slope, you can reduce the need for excavation and retaining walls.  Too much excavation can cause additional problems in itself.  It can interfere with the drainage of the block, exacerbate erosion, and cause instability.  To reduce the risk of soil erosion and the problems that it can cause, have the builder use sediment control measures to protect the block’s integrity.  Be aware that masonry homes are generally better for level sites while lightweight or pole homes are better for sloping sites, especially those that slope steeply.

Builders will generally be happy to work with a drop or rose of three metres, but costs will escalate if it is any more than this.

 

House built on poles in Australia


Pros of building on a sloping block

There are some definite pros to building on a sloping block, including:

  • Sloping blocks have a better view than level blocks, giving them a higher value.  
  • Their position often benefits from cool breezes, a great example of environmentally friendly passive cooling.  
  • You are able to build a garage underneath the house at a lower cost.  
  • Sloping blocks also have significantly better drainage than level blocks, though this does need to be accounted for in the design phase.

 

Garden steps buikt on a slope


Cons of building on a sloping block

A variety of factors affect the cost and practicality of building on a sloping block compared to a conventional flat site:
 

  • Access to a sloping block can be difficult for your builder to access, so be prepared to pay extra for specialised equipment such as diggers as well as extra materials.
  • Sloping blocks can pose difficult engineering and design problems. You may require a detailed land survey and the services of a structural engineer to advise on the design and construction.
  • Excavation is almost always required on sloping blocks, primarily to create a level area for construction of the foundations.
  • Landscaping can be challenging on a sloping block, and you may have to consider installing a retaining wall for stability and to prevent erosion.

Learn more: How much does a retaining wall cost?

Pole homes for sloping blocks


Pole homes are the ideal method of construction for sloping blocks because they have the least impact on the site, offer the best views, and have a tremendous amount of flexibility.  In fact, pole homes are one of the easiest homes to add extensions to in the future!  Because excavating a sloping site can quickly become astronomically expensive, so it pays to do your homework beforehand.

A pole home is an enormously affordable alternative.  There are two types of pole homes.  A pole platform is where poles are used to support a level frame on which a conventional house frame is built.  A pole frame is where the poles are extended throughout the house right through to roof level and are used to support the entire building.

#hiptip: Excavating a sloping site can quickly become astronomically expensive, so it pays to do your homework
 

Hiring a builder

When it comes time to hiring a builder make sure they are right for your job. Some questions to ask them include:

  • Are you appropriately qualified and registered or licensed?
  • Do you hold valid insurance (professional indemnity and public liability insurance)?
  • Do you have experience building on a sloping block?
  • Can you provide a written quote?
  • How long will my job take?
  • Do you have references I can follow up?


digger and bulldozer in backyard to build on a slope

 

Signing a contract with your builder

A building contract is a legal agreement between you and your builder. It is required by law and is intended to protect the interests of both parties. It should have clear guidelines on a range of potentially contentious issues, including:
 

  • A detailed scope of works
  • A timeframe for when work is to be completed
  • The total contract price
  • All the costs involved in the project
  • A timeframe when payments are due
  • What happens if there are delays

It is essential that you get legal advice before signing a  contract with your builder as it must comply with the relevant legislation.  

Tips for working with a builder

Take time to think through your relationship with your builder very seriously - there are integral to the success of your project, no matter the cost. Consider:

  • If your builder is suited to your project, particularly if their skills and experience are relevant. Ideally they would have experience building on a sloping block, and be able to prove it.
  • Having all your plans ready before you start approaching builders. That way they can accurately quote your job.
  • Get a project manager - either the builder, your architect or a dedicated project manager. It will save you time and money.
  • Being very clear of your expectations, especially the timetable of works and deadlines.
  • Being very thorough in your final inspection, preferably walk through with your builder
  • Giving yourself a 10% - 15% buffer to cover unexpected expenditure.

#hiptip: Get three or more quotes so you can compare price and level of service

Getting quotes from builders


The best way of finding out the cost of your project is to get quotes from local builders. This will give you a sense of what market rates currently are.

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