Thursday, May 3, 2012

Permits and Sewers and Wells, OH MY!

Today I’m thinking about some very important issues that you will need to be thinking about too, because, I’ll be honest, they could cost you thousands of dollars when building your home.  And, as I’ve mentioned, nobody likes surprises when those surprises mess with your budget!


First of all, if you are building a modular home, you’re going to need some permits.  Of course, I’m sure your modular home builder will be able to help you with this.  The permits and the fees charged will vary from town to town and state to state. This may not be all of the permits required, but it should give you a place to start.  Furthermore, you should call your zoning officer to find out what is required within your town.

1. Health Permit: If your lot requires a septic system it may be necessary to obtain a permit from the County Health Department.

2. Building Permit: A building permit is required in all towns and must be obtained prior to construction. Some towns may require an engineered site plan in order to obtain your building permit. If this is the case, you will have to hire a licensed engineer to design your site plan.

3. Clearing Permit: Some towns require clearing permits for the removal of any trees.

4. Driveway Permit: It is necessary to obtain a driveway permit from the State Highway Department if your driveway is coming off a state road.

5. Water & Sewer Permits: It is necessary to obtain a permit when tapping into municipal water or sewer.

We had to get all of these permits.

Public Utility Hookups

Please don’t misjudge what is involved in hooking up to public water and sewer. When the hookups are in a new subdivision, the task is hopefully uninvolved. However, you can hit some snags. As I’ve mentioned, we were able to connect to city water, BUT, we had to pay for the line to be run under the road and to our house... THAT was one of those fun surprises, that we did not count on...  If you are unable to connect to the public utilities, you will have to drill a well and put in a private septic system.  (Either your modular home builder will contract this out, or you will).


Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to calculate how much it will cost to drill a well. It would be nice if you could speak to your neighbors about how much they ended up paying, but unfortunately, it’s not likely to be the same for you. Even an experienced driller can’t predict how many feet he will have to drill, or how many feet of metal casing he will need to use, since this will depend on when he hits bedrock. Not only that, he can’t tell you how many gallons per minute there will be when he hits water. Without knowing these facts in advance, he won’t know how large of a pump he will be needed to bring the water to the house.


Similarly, if your property does not have public sewer, you will need to have a private septic system installed.  A septic system is built according to engineered plans, based on the results of a perc test, which measures permeability by counting the average number of minutes per inch it takes water to percolate through the subsoil in a test hole.  (My next post will detail the perc test, which was actually kind of fun, and involved frogs!)

When buying land that requires a septic system, you may be able to ask the seller for a copy of the perc test results, which you should make sure have not expired. Should a prospective lot not yet have a valid perc test, you are going to have to do one!  (We bought land that had no previous test and we had no idea if it would pass!  Fortunately, it did!)

The septic system costs also vary as you can imagine. Usually the perc test is paid for by the seller.  (Not in our case, we paid for it!)  Installation costs for septic systems also differ significantly, depending on soil conditions, perc rates, and ground-water.  If the septic design requires many truckloads of additional fill, the costs can increase by thousands of dollars.  Again, your modular builder, or a contractor can give you a reasonable estimate of the costs before you buy the land or decide to build.