Forcing A Walkout on a Flat lot

MrTesseractMarch 15, 2014

Hi all, new member here. Trying to find some people to throw some ideas my way. I bought a lot a bit over a year ago and plan to build on it in 2 years. The lot is 2 acres and has over 200ft frontage on a river, it also sits on top of a 75 foot steep bluff. The lot is flat but i want to build a walkout house to capture the view of the river. Due to regulations i can only build so close to the bluff. I originally thought i would do a raised ranch but can not pinpoint a design that i would be happy with. We have already built on an adjoining 2 acre lot and will be holding onto that house for a bit and my lot has a 66ft easment that runs through that lot, so i could take dirt from there and from other areas of my lot although i have some trees i want to preserve. Is this going to be feasible to create a walkout? Does anyone have pictures of a forced walkout house built on a flat lot? I also will have extended access to a tractor to move dirt but imagine i will have to buy at least some fill and pay someone with a bigger rig to move it around.

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I think you will find a lot of knowledgeable people in the BUILDING A HOME forum that can help. It's still part of GW, just another topic.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 12:46AM
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Try searching for reverse ranch.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 10:02AM
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Sarah Richardson put a walk out on her complementary suburban re-do. I did not care for the space it took up or the tunnel it created. It would catch a lot of snow and what not. As far as moving dirt, my guess is there is a lot of Civil Engineering issues to think of, water table etc.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:12AM
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If your chief goal is to take advantage of the view, what are the benefits in having a walkout house to do that?

I can think of several other ways to achieve the same thing. A two-story house with a deck or patio, then a porch or balcony on the second floor, for example.

Not too far from me, there are several shore-line communities with a lot of houses near the ocean. There are a variety of ways those houses managed to get a good view of the water--a second story deck that wraps around the entire house, widow's walks on the roof, second floor balconies and porches.

It would seem simpler to me to find a house design that gives you good views based on the land you have now, rather than try to create a slope to build a house on, just for the walkout.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Here's a pin board from Pinterest with inspiration photos .... might be something on Pinterest .... just go to the search box at the top of the screen ... and type in other ideas ......

Here is a link that might be useful: walkout houses -- Pinterest

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:48AM
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It sounds like you should consult an architect to begin planning your build. They can present you with all the feasible options for your budget. Money well spent...just do your homework, get references, etc.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 2:27PM
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What about a stilt house, such as those built on Florida shores that are elevated by code for flood protection?

Or a traditional Low Country House that is a variant of a raised ranch? The one below is the first hit when I googled low country house plan.

Here is a link that might be useful: Low country house plan

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 2:32PM
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How close to the bluff are you allowed to build? Is it a walkout basement you are planning?

It might be advisable to consult a geological engineer to assess the stability of the bluff and plan drainage, etc.

You may not have the problem of not enough soil if you design with a basement half in the ground as the soil removed can be used to contour the land around the house on the upper side.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 3:29PM
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I'm not sure I understand the question. Are you thinking of building a hill on your property, so you can use a plan specified as a walkout? I think it would have to be a huge hill, to have a relatively gentle slope on the front. I honestly see nothing but trouble and unnecessary expense. Do you have a walkout plan that you love? What rooms are you hoping to have the view?

A split entry could give you full-sized windows on all sides, with about a million plans from which to choose.

A two story would be even better - you'd get great views from first and second floors.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:26AM
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Thanks for the replies, forgot about this thread until i searched online for help again and found my own question! I can build 50ft from the bluff. My main goal is a terrific view from the living room. My father is a builder and the problem we are having is there are no raised ranch houses that have a great look. A two story would be great but my first floor would have no view and i wont consider a reversed two story. Also although i will have a small deck i prefer my view to be captured from large picture windows. Any more thoughts would be appreciated. A house on stilts is out of the question, this home is in Michigan

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 3:47PM
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Without a doubt, you need an actual architect to design a home for the exact site under question.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 4:24PM
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No, i will not be using an architect...

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 9:37PM
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If you've found some online plans that come close to what you are looking for, post the links and maybe that will generate ideas.

When I was looking for a vacation home on a lake, I found one that I really liked and it did something like what you are thinking about. That deal fell through for me, but I'll try to describe it. It achieved a walkout with minor grading and breaking up the climb into multiple staircases. The lot was essentially level with a very slight decline towards the lake. The stairs make it less than ideal and not the best for 'aging in place'. However, you might not be concerned with that.

The house was a rectangle with the long side facing the lake. An attached garage was stuck on to one of the short sides. As you approached the house from the driveway (same level as garage), you came to 4 steps up to a small covered porch. To enter, you stepped up into the door from the porch (that is, the door sill was not level with the porch).

That brought you to a nice sized entry foyer. From there, seven steps got you to the first living level. The house was essentially split in half, the long way of the rectangle. In that first living level, which was on the street side, were the bedrooms and bath. To get to the other half facing the lake, you took 5 steps down. That long side was open concept with kitchen, dining and living room and a fabulous view with sliding doors out to the deck running the long length.

From the kitchen, these was a mudroom with an entrance from the garage (stairs from the garage up to the mudroom) and stairs going down to the basement. The foundation had been done in a similar stepped fashion. The stairs down got you to the half under the living room/dining/kitchen. From that half of the basement, were stairs going up to the section under the bedrooms. The lower part of the basement had a sliding door walkout with windows on either side. There was a steep slope on either side going up to the original grade, but going towards the lake, it followed the grade. Some very gentle and intelligent grading had been done to make it fit. Because of the slope, there had been consideration for drainage with a sump pump.

It basically was a house built higher that tried to disguise the fact. I liked the layout because of the view presented to the living areas, but didn't care for all the stairs. The master bedroom was an eagle nest above the kitchen. The view from up there was awesome, since it was almost three stories up.

I found a similar, somewhat smaller plan online, but this one is all on one level on the main floor living areas. See link below. The house I saw had a foyer tacked on the front, so the 7 steps up came into the foyer/hall on the plan below from the tacked-on foyer. The plan below shows a walk out, but the one I saw, since the entire house was built higher, did not have the huge slope from the front to the back by the walk out.

Compared to the plan below, the two bedrooms were significantly higher than the driveway level (total of 12 steps up to that level) and had a small deck with sliding patio door.

Sorry about the length of this post. It's hard to describe. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Eplans Cabin House Plan

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Mon, Apr 7, 14 at 23:30

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 11:26PM
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What is the 66' easement you refer to for? It sounds like unopened road allowance. If it is,ctually road allowance--don't assume you can remove fill. A road allowance isn't the same as an easement, it's land owned by the municopality. Similarly, when an easement is taken out, the land owner at the time is typically given fair market value for it or agrees to grant the easement gratis in exchange for permission to sever land from the county.

Either way, if you're planning to remove fill get written permission from the easement holder/land owner--road authorities can be touchy about changes to existing grade. If you've severed the two lots yourself, you may be aware of terms of land use if it really is an easement. You truly need to exercise due diligence before revving up the backhoe.

Also, if you're counting on free fill and are refused permission to take it, the cost of purchasing clean fill for a project of this nature woild result in significant overage.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 5:58AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

You might consider a 3 story if it's allowed. The first floor can be above ground "basement" garage, laundry room, mud room, storage, etc. The 2nd story would be the main living level and the 3rd would be bedrooms.

Otherwise you'll have to try to accomplish the same arrangement with a split level...either split side to side or front to back....

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 8:17AM
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We are on a lake and it sounds similar to yours w/o the bluff. The main level is two steps from front yard to front veranda, so on the ground. Also has main level garage. The plans originally had two bedrooms/one bath upstairs, but we did an entire lower level (not a basement) that is open on three sides, so all rooms have lake and mountain ridge views. The main level has an upper veranda (2 stories high) and screened porch. The lower level has a lower veranda. There are curved retaining walls on both ends of the house, more or less - one starts at the upper veranda and goes down as the front yard slopes. The other is tall and large, and gave us a large main garage turn around and parking. If this sounds like something you're interested in seeing, I can post pictures.

The one thing everyone says, even the neighborhood Developer, is what a good job we did building to the lot and not vice versa - which often is a big mistake. A house should connect with the property and not distract. The house appears small from the front, either entering through front door or main level garage, was you cannot see the entire structure at one time, but the house is about 7K sq ft. w/verandas and garage included.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 9:08AM
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How high does the living room floor have to be off the ground to get the river view you want?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:38AM
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Thanks dreaming, great idea to start looking at lake house plans as often those are built to capture views. Baroo the easment is running through my fathers property on a house that he will be living in for 2 years. I can definitely take dirt from there. Allison i would love pictures. Well the bluff is currently about 75 feet high with the river right at its base, the left part of the river bends and travels into the distance. I dont think i will be able to see the river right in front of me but the higher up i am the more i will capture of the start of where the river bends. There is a store being built close by and i am currently asking if i can have their dirt. I am skeptical of this forced raised ranch and the view it will give me but my builder says it can be done.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 4:09PM
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I, too, am skeptical of this forced raised ranch.

You may not want to hire an architect, but if you are trying to create a hill, I'd strongly suggest consulting an engineer. There's more to this than getting fill and creating a mound of dirt to put the house on.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 4:48PM
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No engineer, sorry will not do it. The plan will to use a lot of my extra fill to backfill what i need to. Thinking i will work more on creating a solid approach with a gentle incline for the time being.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 5:09PM
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There's not going to be a way around having an engineer's report and a licensed architect to create the plans. Federal wetlands regulations will also impact your build. You might want to buy a copy of the current code and bone up.

Here is a link that might be useful: Michigan Building Codes

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:38AM
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What camlan and live wire said, above. We live on a protected wetland and conservation property. Our neighbor about a quarter mile away started bringing in fill dirt before a planned build and was shut down within weeks. They had to remove everything they dumped. I'm in Georgia.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:06AM
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The house on Charmed the tv show shows a tiered build up that could work in the front for you.Here they raised the flooded riverfront houses 13 straight up and they look odd. Those homes are in the country all on acres not lots so the raised homes are on a unatural hump. I have always though they would have looked better if they were heavily landscaped with a dense stand of evergreen trees to hide the sides of the raised area. The front could be tiered at two or three levels to make that look natural. Around here you can,t build on fill so the homes all ended up having deep basements as the foundations had to sit at slightly below the origenal ground level. Since you don,t have to build above 100 year flood level you could possibly take advantage of a deep basement for a garage area using a retaining wall to make it possible to just drive in. I have seen several homes up here on the hill done that way and it looks fine.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:32PM
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The more I read about your lot, the more I wonder why don't you just build a one story, level house that takes advantage of the views? Why are you trying to force a walkout on a flat lot?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:01PM
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Allison, i believe the desired view is obscured by the edge of the bluff, and the house can't be built close to the edge. To see over the edge requires getting up higher.

MrTesseract, you stated earlier in the thread "I won't consider a reversed two story", but isn't that essentially what you are trying to do with a walkout? Put the living space on the upper level?

If I understand correctly, your priority is the view, not the walkout aspect, but you don't want to climb stairs to get to the room with the view. Is that correct?

I still think a split level could serve your purposes, without trying to build a hill on your lot. That's why I asked how high you had to be to get the view you wanted.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:48PM
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Did you look at the low country style homes that are, essentially, raised ranches with a story and a half above the ground floor?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 4:59PM
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I have read through the local ordinances on building near this river and i should not have a problem with wetlands regulations nor will i have to consult with an engineer, my builder will design and blueprint the final plans for the house. Another factor is i currently live about 2 hours away from the site. I am not sure whether i will be living in the home right away or if i will rent it out or eventually have to sell it. Due to those circumstances i do not want to back myself into a corner with house plans that make it difficult to sell. I want it to be the best bang for the buck possible. Here is one house that i like, although mine would be smaller. Unfortunately this does not help me too much with my building a walkout on a flat lot problem. Those low country houses are a good idea, i would not mind a step or two to get into the house

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 5:52PM
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