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Choosing A Lot
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement


Investigating a lot is a fundamental and challenging activity in the organization and execution of construction projects. It is a step-by-step process that includes soil testing, identifying environmental concerns, and how utilities will run within the home. Each step will be carefully investigated and eventually will go through a process of approval, and finally put into action. It is important to select your lot wisely because site conditions affect your design and the cost to build it.

Soil testing is an important tool in identifying and developing efficient soil for a construction site. A soil test provides basic information on the composition of the soil and its ability to support a structure; as well as the absorption and drainage rate of the soil. The absorption rate will give homeowners an idea on how well the soil will accommodate septic and water. The type of soil on your site will determine the drainage rate. Keep in mind: sands and gravel drain better than clays and silts.

Another important step includes identifying the water table. The water table includes the surface separating the upper layer of non-saturated soil and the lower layer of saturated soil. Engineers and site planners will identify the water table by testing the color or "mottling" of soil in the pit. It is important to identify the water table in order to know where foundation footings and basement slabs should sit.

If your house needs a septic system, a soil test that includes the absorption and drainage ratings, will determine where the septic system and well will be placed. For this reason, soil tests are performed before a site is purchased. One specific test, referred to as a “perc test” is performed to identify the absorption rate. A “perc test” is a method of determining the ability of the soil of a property to absorb liquids.

Overall, it's a good idea to have all the site information before you build. Some of this information can be gathered on your own and some of it may need to be obtained by a civil or geotechnical engineer. Other suggestions include asking neighbors for information on your sites ledge, water table and soil status. You may also be able to find useful information from a local soil map.

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