Designing a house should be fun! It’s a chance to for your dreams to become real in the form of a home. Most of us don’t get to include all the bells and whistles we might like, but we can include the most important ones, leaving the possibility to add more, later. At the very least, when you build and design your own preppers hideaway, you can avoid things you truly dislike.
You may have purchased your land to live on full time, use for recreation, or for a time in the future when you might want to get away from cities in a bug-out scenario. Regardless, the first steps are aimed at getting ready to build. (If you are still working on finding a piece of property, read the post Picking an Affordable & Usable Property for Getting Out of Dodge.)
Preparing your land
The very first step to take before buying land is to have a perc test done if one hasn’t been done already. If it fails, no home can be built on the property; just walk away and find a different location, unless you want a lot of extra hassle and potential difficulty reselling the land. (There are options that allow some of this land to be built on, but it’s more complicated, potentially expensive, and can be harder to maintain.)
The perc test tells how large the septic drain field can be, and that, in turn, lets you know how large your house can be. The result will be something along the lines of, “This property perked for three bedrooms”, which means you can build a three bedroom house, but not a four bedroom house. That’s not a suggestion and cannot be ignored. If your lot perks for three bedrooms and you need four, then you will need to buy an additional piece of adjoining land that perks for at least one bedroom and combines the two to build a four bedroom house.
Even if you don’t plan on building a full-size house and only plan to camp on your new land, you really should at least do a perc test for the sake of future resale value.
Once you buy the land, install a well and septic system if they aren’t already there. You can have the basic well and septic installed without having a final home location, but that would be a bit unusual and require the contractors to come back out later to finish the installation and hook-up. Try to avoid that extra expense, if possible.
It’s also important to know that you will need a fair amount of power to operate the well pump and the septic pump, so electricity will also need to be run to your property.
Some areas support geothermal heating, solar power, wind turbines, and other off-grid technology. If you are wanting, or hoping, to go completely off-grid, looking for properties that lend themselves to these options, is the way to go. You don’t want to invest money in property, developing, and building, only to find out that your location doesn’t lend itself to many off-grid options. Planning for the installation and use of these alternative power sources should be done in the earliest stages of designing and building.
If you want to be on your own well, before purchasing the property, find out if that’s even an option. One farm property we looked at was on city water. When I asked about having a well dug, the nice folks in this rural Kentucky area had never heard of such a thing. The realtor asked around to find someone who could even dig a well! That surprised me because I had assumed a homestead of 20+ acres and well beyond city limits would automatically be on its own well. So, be sure to ask about this.
As mentioned in the post on choosing a property, a well, and septic system can be $10,000-20,000 or more each, depending on size and complexity, so a $60,000 lot with a well and septic installed may be a bargain compared to an unimproved one the same size for $40,000. Personally, I would buy a lot with a well and septic already installed, if that was an option because it’s just easier and there are no worries about unexpected costs in installing the well and septic. Many people have successfully dug their own wells, however.
For the well, I have heard that some areas used to regularly install little windmills over the well to power them in an emergency. It’s also possible to install a hand pump. Those both sound like fine plans to me, especially after we had our well pump go out and had no running water in our house for several days. If you have a well and septic, no well also means no toilet because you need the water from the well to refill the toilets.