Building on a sloping block
Cost of Building on a Sloping Block
Are you looking at those spare blocks of land at Bli Bli’s parklakes 2 or maybe you have found your dream block up in the hinterland on the Sunshine Coast or looking at building in the beautiful Palmview forest and want to get the views you deserve. There’s no way to get around the fact that building on a sloping block costs more than building on a flat block of land.
But how much more? And will the extra cost be worth it? There can be real advantages to building on a sloping block, but you have to do your homework first.
A variety of factors affect the cost of building on a sloping block versus building an equivalent home on a flat block:
- Design: Sloping blocks can pose difficult engineering problems. A detailed land survey may be needed and a structural engineer may be required to assist with the design and construction of the house.
- Access: A severely sloping block can be difficult to access and require extra costs in transporting materials to the site.
- Excavation: Excavation work is almost always required on sloping blocks.
- Foundation work: Sloping blocks often require extra foundation work to make a level surface for building.
- Landscaping: Sloping blocks pose landscaping problems. One or more retaining walls may be needed and other problems, such as erosion, could need to be addressed. There are ways to minimise the cost of building on a sloping block. If you choose lightweight building materials, for example, you can build a pole home on a sloping block.
The higher cost of building on a sloping block is its main disadvantage, but there are many advantages to building on sloping blocks that can overcome the cost disadvantage. The most obvious advantage, and the main reason why sloping blocks are sought after, is the opportunity to build a home with a sweeping view.
Another advantage to elevated homes is the amount of natural ventilation they receive. If the home is properly designed and situated, it will capture all the prevailing breezes. Environmentally aware home designers, in fact, often recommend building timber homes on sloping blocks in subtropical and tropical areas because timber does not retain heat like brick and the need for air conditioning can be reduced or eliminated altogether.
Many professional home renovators, whose incomes depend on getting a maximum return on their investment, go out of their way to find houses on sloping blocks that need renovation. The reason is because they are in short supply and high demand. Similarly, while building on a sloping block will cost more, the finished home can command a higher price when it comes time to sell.
The key to success when building on a sloping block is:
- Quality of design is important because the home will be a prominent feature of the landscape and most potential buyers will be willing to pay more for stylish home with a view.
- Quality of construction is important because sloping blocks have their particular construction challenges that have to be addressed.
An architect, drafter or building designer can all produce working drawings and plans for your home. Architects are best qualified for larger more complex jobs, while the other two design professional are better suited to smaller projects. You would want to work with someone who has experience designing homes on sloping ground, as they require a different approach to drainage particularly.
Learn more: How Much Do New House Plans Cost?
After your house plans have been produced they need to be submitted to council for approval. Depending on your project a Development Application (DA) and/or Construction Certificate could be required. Once these are approved you can then arrange for builders to tender on your job.
The approval process also differs from council to council, an d could take anywhere from 30 days to 100 days. The best way to ensure that your application will be processed quickly is to have all the right information and documentation in your initial submission.
#hiptip: The best way to ensure that your application will be processed quickly is to have all the right documentation in your submission
Before getting into the costs of building on a sloping block, it is worth reminding ourselves of standard building costs.
As a guide to the breakdown of your total costs for a major renovation or building project, expect to pay:
- 50% for materials
- 35% for labour
- 15% for council fees and permits
For example, in New South Wales, building costs for a “medium standard” house are estimated to be:
- $1200 to $1600 per square metre for brick veneer
- $1300 to $1680 per square metre for full brick
- $1480 per square metre for a timber frame house
For ground floor home extensions, expect to pay:
- $1350 per square metre for timber
- $1500 per square metre for brick veneer
If you are adding another level to your home, expect to pay:
$1900 to $3000 per square metre if you are adding another level
A builder will first need to assess your sloping block and do a soil survey before they quote your job. On average add 20% for up to one metre of slope. If the slope is over one metre you may be quoted site costs of anywhere from $50, 000+.
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?
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.
#hiptip: Get three or more quotes so you can compare price and level of service
When getting quotes for building on a sloping site, look for builders who have extensive experience in this type of construction. Some builders specialise in building pole homes, for instance, while others have experience in building more traditional brick homes on sloping and irregular sites. Not only will these builders be more likely to anticipate any potential problems that may arise, they will have an extensive network of contacts, such as excavators and land surveyors who also have expertise in the field. The result will be a smoother building process that may cost less than allowing a less-experienced builder manage your project.
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