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Any old chuck in a truck can give advice on ‘building’. A handyman, an ex-builder from 40 years ago, someone whose Aunt’s brother half did his building apprentice. You know the saying about a little bit of information being a very bad thing …

But what about the serious stuff, like the section you want to build your home on?
That ground you found in the Property Press and drove past at the weekend and maaaaaaay or may not have fallen in love with.


Just stop.  It takes a skilled professional to know what is required when it comes to understanding the vital elements of a foundation. Buyer beware, there are many people’s opinions out there that may just get you caught out!

Before you put in an offer, accept and then have to work backwards to find out the hard way what exactly it is that you have purchased. You need to do these 3 things:

1. Get a GeoTech Report
[ a MUST for sloping or major earthworks eg. a retaining wall ]

This is an absolute vital component. This critical information forms the answers to a whole raft of questions and should be known prior to working drawings commencing. (It is like the builder’s report when buying a home, or the WOF information if you were buying a car or the gem stone report on purchasing a diamond.) Think about Christchurch, the earthquakes and the importance of having a safe building on a safe building platform, not something you want to mess around with or skimp on. A Geo-Tech report undertaken by a professional who can relay that information too your Builder, Architect and Engineer so they can develop the best base for your build, this entails extra time for paper work to be completed, changes made and sometimes extra foundations but is not something you can just forgo.

2. Get a Soil Report
[ a MUST for any section before you sign on the dotted line ]

This should really be a tie with number one. A soil test determines the break down and composition of the soil, which then tells you whether or not that ground complies with the Building Code – if it does, brilliant! If not, no worries as 99% of all new builds need an engineered foundation. The soil could be anything from sand to clay and as you can imagine the difference between building on sand near the coast would is vastly different to building on the clay of a family farm. Soil types differ as you dig deeper and can drastically alter what you will be dealing with as the layers are revealed.The soil breakdown ultimately determines how much earth needs to be removed to get to steady earth, and how much back filling is then required, and the metal to do this which equals your foundation cost. (A Soil Report is also included within a Geo Teach Report which is why it is the mecca.)

*disclaimer, an elusive non-engineered unicorn foundations are few and far between.

3. Check the covenants, rules and regs.
[ a MUST any time for any section, read the fine print ]

Are you by a stream? Are you on volcanic land? Does your letter box have to be a certain colour and your fence a certain height (if in a sub division.) What exactly does your Local Council say in it’s legislation, all of this information should be known of before diving into the planning stages, it’s not something to be taken lightly that you want to crop up once the plans are already submitted, or worse when you go to get that first inspection.

If you have a sloping section here’s an extra list for you to be mindful of as there is a reason sloping sections are either cheap, or have been on the market for sometime (usually both.)

  • What is in the soil, it’s makeup and it’s composition – it may be super soft, hence why it is a sloping section that’s still sitting there meaning loads of earthworks, and loads of money.
  • Ascertain how deep you would have to go to have a safe building platform for the area of land, if it’s close to water, hills and rivers it’s already telling you it is going to be metres.
  • Make sure that you are fully aware of what the GeoTech report entails as this is a complete in depth look at exactly what your land is comprised of and this information is then fed back to your architect and engineer forming the plans that will ultimately get lodged into Council, because the one thing you don’t want to have happen is a surprise at this point by skimping on your foundations.

Find a builder who asks for these things. Who really knows their stuff, and who understands the complicated and critical thinking it takes to ensure every detail is crossed off.
All of this needs to be done BEFORE plans are even begun let alone consented to your local council, because each one is different and changing as new laws come into play.
It may seem long winded, time consuming and possibly a little out of your league in terms of understanding, but this information is all vital to how exactly your build will go – and cost.

Don’t let the sound of the digger’s crunching scoop on a bunch of rocks, or it slipping backwards down the cliff on ground breaking day be the information you receive about your sections makeup because by then it’s too late.


Written by KATE 
[ Kate Baillie, CEO of Baillie Construction
Girl Boss in charge of Design + Procurement ]


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