The local codes specify
the setbacks required for all structures. Setback
is the term used to specify the minimum distance your
house must be from the property lines. Typical setbacks
for the area might be as follows: The structure will
be no closer than 25' from the front of the lot, and
30' from the back of the lot. The house will have
a minimum of 10' on each side of the lot. Setbacks
are enforced for various reasons such as fire control,
If you want to locate your house outside of the required
setbacks, you will need to obtain a variance from
your local board of adjustments or zoning commission.
Generally, a variance (exceptions to the standard
codes and rules) can be obtained when it can show
that a hardship exists and that the variance will
not adversely affect neighbors or adjacent property
plot plan example
Besides setbacks, city
and zoning regulations often require that a building
lot meet certain size requirements. Usually the property
will need to be a certain square footage, and minimum
width and length to be a buildable lot. If you are
building in a rural location, a certain number of
acres is usually required. Often, when a piece of
land is for sale at an unbelievably low price, it's
because it doesn't meet the minimum size requirements,
and therefore is not a buildable lot.
There are a couple of
options when laying out your house. You can hire a
licensed surveyor to mark the house from the plot
plans, or you can do it yourself. If the lot is an
improved lot that has recently been surveyed with
marked (or obvious) property line, consider laying
out the house yourself. It is generally best to hire
a surveyor if your property lines are not established,
or you have a complicated foundation plan.
A surveyor is used to mark the lot lines, the excavation
lines and to establish a grade. The surveyor is able
to establish property lines from coordinates provided
by the city/county maps. Surveyors use an instrument
called a theodolite to establish property lines.
After the property lines are established, the surveyor
can mark the excavation and grade lines according
to the plot plan.
Materials needed: Hammer, bundle of wooden stakes,
100' measuring tape, 300' string, florescent marking
It is easier to lay out
your house with the help of an assistant. Use your
engineers rule to determine your actual set backs
from your plot plan. Once you have determined your
front, back and side setbacks your ready to go.
Measure from the front
of the lot the required setback, then from he side
the required side setback, and drive a stake at that
corner. Next, determine the length of the house from
the foundation plan. Measure the length and drive
a stake at the other front corner. Measure from the
front of the lot to the second stake to make sure
the setback is correct. Make the necessary adjustments.
Now that you have two of the front corners identified
you can lay out the house from the dimensions of the
foundation plan. After all of the corners of the house
are staked in place measure diagonally to square the
structure. If the distance of both diagonals is the
same the structure is square. Tie the string to each
stake going around the perimeter of the house. Double
check the setbacks in the front back and sides and
compare it with the plot plan.
Depending on your type of foundation you will need
to add 2'-4' around the perimeter of the foundation
outline. This is called the "over dig".
The over dig area will give you the room needed to
set forms for footings and foundation wall forms.
For a slab on grade an over dig of 2' is probably
sufficient. For a crawlspace and basement foundation
4 feet of over dig is necessary. Use a stick or string
that is the correct length. Have you assistant hold
one end of the string even with the foundation perimeter
while you hold the other end. Use your marking paint
to paint the ground. For example if you had a rectangular
shaped basement foundation that is 60' by 30' your
hole would need to be 68' by 38'. Remember 4' around
Laying out the excavation lines is not difficult if
the property lines are clearly marked. When laying
out remember that cities often have a right-of-way
that extends a foot or two from the sidewalk or street
into your property. So, if your setback requirement
is 25' from the front of the property, the actual
setback may be 26' or 27'. If you do decide to layout
your excavation lines, have the city inspector check
them before excavating.