Ryzen Homes Blog

Ryzen Homes blog. Providing tips and information on building a new modular home or panelized home in Maine and New Hampshire.

Know Your Dirt - Land Buying Tips

Friday, March 13, 2009
Know Your Dirt

Buying land in Maine and New Hampshire usually means dirt, or, if you prefer, soils.
Most buyers visiting a lot for sale or those that already own property look at the view, setting and try to picture where their new home will be located—more or less in that order. Ryzen Homes can help you with your land buying alongside your real estate agent.

But next time, you are out looking at land, start with the dirt.

Soil qualities will largely determine what an owner can and cannot do with the property, from which crops and trees will grow best where, to the suitability of particular soils for septic-system drain fields and the ability of soil in a particular spot to support house construction. Septic system requirements change greatly from lots near water in Maine and New Hampshire versus those not near water.

Soil information is found in the county’s Soil Survey, a publication of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) whose portal is
http://soils.usda.gov. Click on “List of Published Soil Surveys” to go to county information via each state. Print surveys are usually available from NRCS field service centers, which can be found at http://offices.sc.egov.usda. gov/locator/app.

Some 2,300 surveys—covering most of America’s counties--are available. Each survey includes soil maps that show the location of each soil type throughout the county. Every soil type is classified according to steepness, rockiness, engineering properties (depth, texture, plasticity), physical and chemical properties (clay, density, permeability, water capacity) soil and water features (runoff estimates, flooding, high water table) and productivity for agriculture, trees and wildlife.

Why does this help a buyer? Before submitting a contract, a buyer can determine:
• Septic absorption. Is there dirt near a house site that’s likely to pass the town’s current drain-field test, either percolation or soil
color? Would the drain field at an existing house pass the current test? If the dirt won’t “perc,” the cost of installing a septic system
rises from about $4,000 to about $20,000.
• Construction uses. Are there soils on the property that can be used for roadfill, sand, gravel or topsoil?
• Water management. Is there a spot where the soil is suitable for a pond?
• Flooding. What is the frequency of flooding on a particular soil?
• Wetlands. Where are they?
• Water table? Is the water table too high for what you plan?
• Bedrock? How deep and how hard?
• Agricultural productivity. How much corn, oats, wheat and hay can each soil produce?
• Timber. Which soils grow trees the fastest and where are they?
• Buildings. Which soils are suitable for dwellings with and without basements; which can be used for roads?
• Wildlife habitat. Which soils support what?

If the NRCS office is no longer distributing print copies, photocopies of the particular map you want can be made. The local library, county extension agent, and Farm Service Agency office should have complete copies.

Soil surveys are more than dirt-cheap--they’re often FREE.

Finding the right lot to build on is half the process when building a new home. Make sure you have experts involved to help you make the right choice. We can help,
contact us today to learn more about finding the right lot for your new home.
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