Monday, February 4, 2013

Before You Can Even Think About Building

Before you can even think of building (or in our case moving a house on to the property) there's a whole lot of "stuff" you have to do. We live in a rural county area of central Arkansas and compared to most communities we have few building codes and regulations. Some neighborhoods and developments have Codes, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&R's) that regulate building. We live in a development called Maple Creek Farms and some of our CC&R's prohibit a mobile home (regardless of size or type), prohibit pig farming :), require a house to be a single family residence and say that homes must be at least 1000 sq ft in size. I know of a development that requires you to build a brick home with a Mansard roof. The lot we bought for the Can Do Cottage in an unrestricted area. No CC&R's. Really the only regulations in this area are concerning sewage. What happens when we flush can effect the entire community's health and well being so the state and county have rules. You cannot move a house (or trailer or mobile home) onto a property nor can you get a water district to put in a meter and hook up water to your dwelling without a Sanitary Certificate from the county. What's that, and how do you get one?

A Sanitary Certificate is a permit with specific directions to install a septic tank and field. Our favorite septic tank installer and a civil engineer meet at the property to determine if and how a septic system can be installed. The septic tank installer came with a big fancy backhoe. (I'm sorry I didn't get his picture but he'll be back in a month or so.)  They have to know the size of the house. In our county, a house 1500 sq ft or less is in a different category, and takes a smaller system than a larger house. Fortunately, our project is going to be a little over 1100 sq ft. I think it's interesting that the size of the system is the size of the house, not how many bedrooms, bathrooms or people will be involved. When the BL daughter bought a home in New Hampshire the determining factor for septic size was number of bedrooms, so they looked at quite a few homes that had strange rooms that couldn't be called a bedroom because the septic system was rated for only 3 bedrooms and the 4th room was a "bonus" area. I know from sad experience that when you move into a house with 4 teenagers and a mountain of laundry when the former occupant was a single man the septic system knows the difference.

Holes were dug in several places and the engineer and installer worked together to determine where things would go. They spoke a foreign language. I could catch a few words and phrases like "gray layers" and "I wouldn't believe there was any clay", but mostly I had no idea what they were talking about. To my surprise, they needed to find a place to put not one, but TWO septic systems. The 2nd system is a back-up. The first is supposed to last at least 35 years (they told me it would last for 60 years in our soil) but should it quit working there has to be an alternate plan. There are more strict regulations the smaller the property. We are subdividing the lot we bought so we can put more than one house. The lot the Can Do Cottage will be on is going to be a bit over 0.6 acres. If we lived in back in So California this size lot would support a 3000 ft home, a large horse barn, a swimming pool, 3 horses and some goats! Here in Central Arkansas it's just a modest little yard.  Luckily, they were able to work out a plan on the lot size we wanted. This plan also tells us where the house has to sit. There are regulations on how far away the tanks, distribution boxes and outlets are from the house and the property lines.You can't have driveways or parking on the drain fields. Our lot is on a small hill and water (and what's in it) all flows downhill, so the drain fields will be in the front yard.  

Look close, flags show the whole layout
They marked everything with small flags. They filled in some of the holes but left several open for inspection by the county. The engineer submits a report and files a request with the county who sends an inspector out to double check and then, usually, grants you a permit to build a septic system. Two weeks later, we had our permit in hand.  

This project is now real.  What did it cost? The Civil Engineer's fee was $350. We paid the septic installer $150 to dig the test trenches and consult (this is low but he does it for this if you are going to use him to install the system, and we are). Then we needed to give the Engineer $30 for the County Fee.   We're at $530 + land. More to come. 

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