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A Guide to Marking and Clearing For Your House

So, fun fact - when you buy a piece of land covered in trees and you would like to build a house there, you need to clear out allllllll those trees! Who knew?

I mean, we did, but it's one thing to talk about it and another to figure out exactly how you're going to do it!

Keep reading if you want to know all the details about this process, but if you're already in the know, scroll to the bottom to catch a story about our brush burning... 3 weeks AFTER the fires should have gone out!

If you're getting ready to go through this process, this is how it's done:

Before you actually get to the clearing part, you have to mark:

  1. The footprint of your house (done by tying bright ribbon around trees and roping off a rough place of where your house will be)

  2. Where particular items will be going, like your driveway, well, septic area etc. (Thank you here to Larry Madison of Madison Environmental for helping us with our septic field!)

  3. The clearing line (anything inside of this will be removed)

  4. Any trees you want to keep inside the clearing line

We personally had a lot of assistance with these steps from Nathan Janocka with Blue Ridge Custom Homes - he was instrumental in us being able to make sure we did this properly!

By the way, when marking the clearing line, you'll also need to decide HOW MUCH you'll need to clear - make sure to remove anything that will interfere with house construction as well as anything that would be in danger of falling and damaging your home. Goodbye, tall trees!

You're going to have to go through some permitting/inspection here, too, depending on where you're building.

But, when you finally get to the clearing part, and you're in the Richmond area, we recommend: Ryan Hoy of Hanover Land Solutions, who we can't thank enough for working with us to:

  • Excavate our lot

  • Oversee the burning of the brush (top 3rd of the trees) and the root balls (bottom of the trees)

  • Haul away all the timber.

Ryan brought in his big ol' excavator and made pretty quick work of those trees! He lifted the excavator bucket about 15 feet up the tree, and used it to push the tree until it fell. Most times, the root balls would come right up with the tree, too. In about 4 days, we had cleared a driveway and our lot was mostly established.

Driveway leading to cleared lot
We have a driveway!

After this, we were ready to move onto the next step of the process!

The Story You were promised a story, so here it is... After burning the brush, it took about a full week for the pile to stop smoldering. It was hot, y'all.

So, Caitlin and I got a phone call from Rob about three weeks later. He was clearing up around the job site on the excavator. He unearthed a log near the house and noticed something funny. When he took a closer look, he realized the log was on fire! Refresher: three weeks after the initial burning... about 20 rainstorms... buried in the ground that is mostly clay after the first few inches. Crossing our fingers we smothered the last of it!

Our Takeaway

  • You can choose to burn all the timber, haul it away, or do a combination, which is what we decided. Lucky for us, Ryan is also a fireman, so he was able to help oversee the brush burning, which was done overnight on the weekend.

  • On a lot like this, the driveway is SO important to establish ASAP, since it's how you can start bringing in the bigger machinery and building supplies.

  • Sharing in the reality of this, even further down the road we have realized we need MORE trees out at our driveway and around our home... this may be one of those weekend projects for the boys.

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