Armchair Builder

How to Build a Home, Step 20: Lot Stake

How to Build a Home Lot Stake

Today we continue our blog series on How to Build a Home.  Our last article talked about how important the construction schedule is to the success of your project.  Now it’s time to take you through each of the steps in the schedule to build your new dream home.  Here we will discuss the lot stake quality requirements.

Clear Trees

Some building sites will require trees to be cut down prior to staking the lot.  If there are trees in the way, there’s no point in setting the house stakes yet as they will most likely get knocked down during tree clearing.  It will cost you several hundred dollars to have the stakes installed, so be sure to clear the lot first.

How do you know which trees to cut down?  It’s best to clear a minimum of 20-25 feet around the perimeter of your new home.  This will allow the grading contractor to create a positive grade away from your new foundation.  The grade at the tree locations is set and cannot be changed since piling dirt up on the base of a tree will typically kill it.  And if you need to cut the tree, it will be much more affordable to remove prior to building the home.

When you mark the trees for the tree clearing contractor, it’s best to use two colors of spray paint…one for “keep” and one for “remove”.  By using spray paint, you won’t run the risk of a ribbon falling off.  Be generous with the paint as you don’t want any good trees to be cut in error.  Include in the scope of work for your tree clearing contractor the requirement to remove all tree stumps.

Check with your local building department before cutting any trees to see if they have any ordinances affecting tree removal.  Some municipalities have a formal review process for tree clearing and may even have fees for cutting down trees.

Responsible Party

Since our goal here is to teach you how to build a home, we will be giving you the responsible party for each scheduled activity.  Typically the engineering company you hired to design your plot plan will also do the staking.  If they don’t have a survey crew on staff, the engineering group will typically have a survey company they work closely with.

Major Items for Lot Stake

The Lot Stake activity is an extremely important part of the house building process.  When done improperly, you can be left with headaches for years to come.  Here are a few major items to make sure you include in your scopes of work and specifications for the lot stake…

  • Offset Hubs – Mark these in two separate locations to help the foundation contractor locate the footings after the hole is dug.  This will save you $100 or more for a return trip after the hole is dug.  Check out this article on offset hubs to find out why.
  • Stake Every Corner of Building – Insist that your surveyor mark every corner of the building, garage, porches…etc.  This will give the excavation contractor everything he/she needs to dig the hole.  Some surveyors only mark the four corners…this is not enough to get the job done right.
  • Mark Curb Elevation – Have you survey put a mark somewhere on the curb giving the elevation at that point.  This will give your excavation contractor a fixed reference point to check the dig depth.  Some surveyors only put a mark on one of the stakes…but these can be moved or tampered with.  Having the marking on the curb allows the excavation, footing, and foundation contractor a place to double check elevations.  This will keep your new home from being set either too high or too low…both very bad outcomes.
  • Mark Lot Corners – You will need these to make sure no equipment damages the landscaping of the house next door.  Keep in mind, sprinklers systems and other utilities could be installed at the property line.  Digging over the property line can lead to unhappy neighbors, expensive damage, and dangerous contact with underground utilities.
These are the major items to include in your surveyor’s contract.  For a complete list of everything professional builders require, grab a copy of our Scopes of Work and Specifications.


How to Build a Home…The Blog Series

Have you been following along with our blog series on How to Build a Home? We are now finished with the pre-construction phases of the project and are ready to start building.  Be sure to tune to catch the whole project from start to finish.  Next up in the series…the Excavation for the foundation.  Please feel free to shoot us an email if you have any questions as we move through the building process.


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