10 things to consider before you build on a sloping block in Melbourne
Few things shape a new home more than the block that it is built on. If you pick a flat block, the options are almost endless, as you have the perfect canvas for almost any design. However, if you pick a sloping block, there will be more constraints, and you will need to be a little more creative.
For those who are open to the challenge, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Homes on sloping blocks often enjoy many benefits, like better views, more natural light, and greater natural ventilation. Elevated homes often also attract a premium when it comes time to sell, particularly if they feature a unique design.
But while building on a sloping block can be worthwhile, there are a few extra considerations you need to be aware of. Here we take a look at the main things you will need to think about when building on a sloping block. As part of this, we will cover some of the biggest challenges and watchpoints and how to overcome them.
The type of slope when it comes to sloping blocks
Not all sloping blocks are the same, and each type will come with its own considerations. The four main types of sloping blocks are:
This is where the block rises above the road. These blocks usually offer the best view from the front of the house and provide an opportunity to create a grand front elevation. On such blocks, it is common to dig into the slope to create a garage or storage under the house.
This is where the block falls away from the road. These blocks usually offer the best views from the back, often over an interesting geographical feature (e.g. a river or valley). On such blocks, additional consideration may need to be given to the design to minimise overlooking of neighbouring properties.
This is where the slope runs across the block. These blocks usually offer the best views over the lower side of the block, creating a dual-orientation (to the street and the view). Again, building garages and storage space under the main living areas is common on these blocks.
Cross fall + sloping
This is where the elevation of the block is a combination of the above. These blocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and usually require a highly bespoke design. However, the creativity they inspire often leads to some of the most architecturally interesting designs.
The steepness of the slope
As a general rule, a slope of up to 3 metres should not significantly impact your plans. It will likely require extra groundwork, and you may need to adjust your design, but it should not stop you from building. A smaller incline should also mean you have options when choosing how to deal with the slope.
However, the steeper the slope, the more prohibitive it can be. Building across a rise of more than 1.6 metres will most likely require some specialist design and construction methods. This means you will need to find a custom builder (like Carmel Homes) who has significant experience with steep blocks.
The best way to assess the slope of your block is to have a survey completed. This will map the contours of the land, showing where it rises and falls and by how much. It will also help identify if there are any geotechnical risks, like the potential for landslides or erosion.
An important point to note here – when considering the steepness of a block, you only need to look at the planned house footprint. For example, the land may rise a total of 10 metres, but only 3 metres over the depth of the proposed house. This is particularly important on larger blocks as you may be able to minimise the slope through the siting of the house.
A sloping block and the access to the block
Being able to access the site easily is important, both during the build and after you move in. But a sloping block can present significant issues, particularly if the slope is steep.
Limited access can make it harder to get materials onto the site and could slow down the building process. It can also require additional safety measures to be put in place to protect the construction team while they work.
Then, once you’ve moved in, major access issues can severely affect the liveability of a property. For example, as driveways must be under a certain gradient, too steep a slope could restrict vehicle access. This may mean needing to position your garage or parking area a long way from your house.
The build budget you are working with for a sloping block
While sloping blocks often cost less to buy than flat blocks, the build costs are often much higher.
There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the extra earthworks. Regardless of the design and build method, a sloping block will generally require more preparation before construction can begin. You may also need to build retaining walls or additional footings, all of which adds to the budget.
Building on a sloping block is also a more complicated process. The designs are usually more detailed, and a greater level of engineering is required to make everything safe and stable. This extra complexity means there are more things that can go wrong and more risk of a cost blowout.
As such, building on a sloping block may not be the best option if your budget is tight. And, if you do decide to build, you should make sure you have a sufficient contingency in your budget.
A sloping block determines the type of builder you want to use
If the slope of your block is under 1.6 metres, using a volume builder may be an option. These companies specialise in delivering a proven set of designs and, because of their scale, can usually finish projects quickly. However, while their base build price may be lower, you will probably need to adjust the design to suit the slope, which will add extra cost.
By contrast, many custom builders thrive on the challenge of a sloping block and some, like Carmel Homes, even specialise in such projects. They will usually work with you to tailor a design that suits the site, your requirements, and your budget. Some will also not charge extra for working with a sloping block, which can make them quite competitive with volume builders.
The style of home you want to build on a sloping block
While almost any style of home can be built on a sloping block, certain looks are better suited. For example, modern, French Provincial and Hamptons style homes work brilliantly, but bungalows and ranch-style homes work better on flatter blocks. This is something you will need to bear in mind as you develop your design.
Also, to get the most from a sloped block, a split-level design is usually recommended. As these designs generally work with the slope of the land, they usually require less site preparation. They can also create a more architecturally interesting floor plan and layout, providing both connection and clearer delineation between spaces.
The natural features you want to capitalise on
For all of the challenges of building on a sloping block, there are also many benefits. Most significantly, the extra elevation usually means the property will have a great view out over the surrounding area. The natural light and ventilation will often also be better, thanks to the additional height.
You should take this into account when developing your design, making sure it makes the most of the setting. If possible, the property should be oriented to maximise your enjoyment of the view and any evening summer breezes. You should also consider including large picture windows, and a balcony or terrace, to further improve the indoor-outdoor connection.
The local planning restrictions
Planning rules vary between councils, and you need to be aware of the guidelines you will be subject to. Height restrictions can be particularly difficult to deal with on a sloping block and may significantly impact your design.
You may also need to consider requirements for things like site drainage and stormwater flow. For example, depending on the slope of your block, you may plan on having a pump to remove excess stormwater. However, some councils will not allow this and will insist on an easement instead.
If you choose to work with a professional designer, they should make sure you meet all of the relevant requirements. The planning rules for your area will also be outlined on the local council’s website.
The way you will landscape a sloping block
In addition to looking great, good landscaping will help make a property feel more grounded and settled. This is particularly important on a sloping block, where houses can feel more prominent – and not in a good way.
Landscaping can also be used to help manage and reinforce the slope. For example, terracing can be used to flatten out a steep slope and create more usable outdoor spaces. Certain plants can also help manage any moisture issues and reduce the risk of erosion.
With this in mind, your landscaping plan should be considered as part of the overall design. This will generally not be included in your builder’s contract but is an important part of ‘completing’ the build. You may also want to engage a landscaping professional who can work with your builder and designer to bring everything together.
As one of Melbourne’s leading custom builders, Carmel Homes are experts in working with blocks of all shapes and sizes. Our experienced team can guide you through the whole process, from choosing the block to developing the design and bringing it all to life. Contact us today to discuss your plans and set up your complimentary consultation.