Building on Sloping Land – Part One

Ever wondered why that steep block of land is so cheap and has been on the market for so long?

building-on-sloping-landWhen purchasing a steep or sloping block of land, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when designing and building a house. The first thing that needs to be taken into account is the true levels and fall of the land. For this to be determined a licensed surveyor should be engaged to calculate the slope and gradient of the ground. Once these levels are known the designer or draftsperson will be able to determine the building pad and floor levels to which the house will need to be built.

The other important thing the contour survey will show is the amount of retaining walls or ground batters that will be required and where these will be placed. Although a steep block of land may appear to be cheaper in the real estate agents shop window, in the long run it is often a more expensive build when retaining walls and earthworks are taken into account. That same block of land has often passed through a number of owners hands, who have all come to the same conclusion that the cost of land is only one part of the final overall cost and the expensive part is often the build.

Information from Tweed Shire Council:

The Tweed Shire Council has fact sheets available on designing a home, including building on sloping land. You can download this fact sheet here:

Fact Sheet 4 – Working with Sloping Sites (1MB PDF)

Click on image for larger version (image credit: Tweed Shire Council):

Page from Tweed Council

Removal of mandatory rainwater tanks

The Queensland Government recently amended legislation removing the requirement for compulsory water tanks to new houses. This change came into effect on 1 February 2013. Originally introduced to help provide assistance to Queensland households during drought and low rainfall periods, the current government has removed the requirement to help alleviate the rising cost of building new houses. The cost of having a tank can be around the $6000 mark by the time the water is plumbed into the household fixtures and fittings.

Certain developments and estates may still require rainwater tanks to be included as part of their conditions, so if looking to purchase a new block of land take into account these possible additional costs.

How to make your plan draw cheaper

Building a new house or extension often comes down to meeting a budget and your plan draw is no different. To help save you money (apart from choosing the right draftsperson or building designer) make sure you have put plenty of thought into the layout of the house.

By having a firm idea of what you are after and what is allowed to be done by the local council a saving can be achieved by not having to pay for extra changes or variations. Basic things like adequate room sizes, the lining up of load bearing walls and having rooflines that don’t contain complications will not only save on drawing costs but construction costs too.

Having a scaled drawing showing rooms, windows and overall sizes will help the draftsperson to produce a plan that is less time consuming and less costly to build your new project. Surely this can only be beneficial to your design process.

Problems with using old soil test and footing designs

A lot of times people would like to extend a deck or patio and do so with a minimum expense involved. They wrongly assume that if they were to use the same footing size and depth for any posts and the same bearer and joist size for any existing structure then everything will be fine. This is not the case.

As building regulations often change what was once okay in the past is not necessarily alright now. Stringency in the grading of timbers and the upgrading of sizes in decks and balconies due to failures have happened recently. This means that what was acceptable twenty years ago will not always be approved now. Any new bearers and joists should be checked against the most recent span tables for the relevant timber sizes.

The same goes for footings. As of 2004 an engineer “is to be provided with all information relevant to the construction” according to the BCA subsidence policy. No longer should a draftsperson or builder provide a footing or slab design especially for structures that contain a roof or shade sails over. For the cost of a new soil test and engineering report a lot of problems can be avoided down the track.

Building Boost Grant

The Queensland government is offering a grant of $10,000 to anyone who builds or buys a new house in Queensland before January 31 2012. This offer is for new homes to be built, investment properties or existing properties valued at under $600,000.

The offer isn’t only available to the purchase of one property but can be applied to multiple purchases.

There are conditions applied to the offer but it is a good start to help with continually falling property prices. For more information check out

While the state government has offered this sweetener to try and boost the declining property and construction industry it is also taking with the other hand by increasing stamp duty for homeowners who change residences. If this cancels out the positive gain from the building boost grant then only time will tell. The construction industry certainly needs a boost at the moment but whether the short term fix of $10,000 will prevent house prices sliding any further remains to be seen.


Queensland building approvals down

Queensland seems to be one of the hardest hit states in the recently released building approval results. A slump of 30% in new home starts shows that the economy isn’t going well at all and we haven’t really recovered from the global financial crisis (GFC) just yet. With recent interest rate rises and flooding in large parts of the state it has taken a toll on the construction and approval of new homes.

An upcoming conference between the state government and industry bodies looking into the cost of building new dwellings may solve this problem somewhat but there are other forces at play. The banks aren’t lending money like they were prior to the GFC so even government intervention is unlikely to solve the problem of spiralling costs to build new house. It could be a long time before house building activity picks up again to levels seen only a couple of years ago. This not only impacts on the construction industry but all sectors that are related to the continual employment of one of the largest sectors in the country.

Termite issues after wet weather

After all of the recent flooding and wet weather throughout the country another problem has arisen, which may hinder home owners getting back into their houses – termites.

The presence of termites may become more noticeable due to the disturbance of their nests by the rains. With soil, dirt and mud being washed up against the house an easy access point is then presented for the termite to gain entry to a tasty timber frame.

A clear 75mm inspection zone should be maintained to the perimeter of the house. When this isn’t present it allows for a greater chance of entry into the house by the white ants who can cause severe structural damage to homes. In a lot of cases if the termites have been in the house for a while the house will need to be demolished.

A regular check by a licensed inspector should be undertaken to ensure your house is clear of white ants and/or damage to the frame. A hungry bunch of termites will quickly and silently devour a timber framed wall and roof structure if given the opportunity.