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Old 04-16-2007, 08:52 AM
 
Location: Vermont
1,442 posts, read 5,906,744 times
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In Vermont, I have noticed that lots of houses are built on steep slopes, such that there is a walk-out basement on one side.

Are there any structural dangers with this kind of house? What about erosion and small landslides after very heavy rain? Or are the foundations designed and put in so that this cannot happen?

Also, if there is a steep slope on your property, do you need to place some kind of barrier so that people (homeowner included) do not fall? Are there special liability issues that must be addressed?

I also have noticed that many homes have steep slopes on the property, slopes steep enough so that one could fall and be injured. I have seen steep slopes and I have also seen scary drops. I have also seen scary drops in public spaces, such as the Brattleboro Commons. There is a very steep slope in back, more like a drop. To get to the bottom, you have to go down a path parallel to the drop. And this is just Brattleboro. I have seen dangerous slopes and drops up in the White River Junction area.

Should I be deterred by homes with walk-out basements?
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Old 05-18-2007, 08:52 PM
 
Location: Midwest
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Depends on whether you mind eventually walking like a ridge runner or not.
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Old 05-19-2007, 12:51 PM
 
Location: Vermont
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I don't understand your post, or know if you are joking or being serious. What is a ridge runner?
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Old 05-20-2007, 09:23 PM
 
Location: Burlington VT
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He's joking arel.

VT is very hilly. If it were pulled flat it would be more like the size of Montana. Really! So finding a flat lot isn't always easy, and supply/demand being what it is - a flat lot can not onlt be rare but expensive.

My approach to your question (and in practice) is to look at each house as a specific case rather than to try to come up with a general rule.
And I always strongly recommend to my clients and customers alike, that they choose a really thorough, knowledgeable, professional property inspector. There's no substitute for spending 3+ hours with a well credentialled professional property inspector who can show you what he or she is seeing and (if it's called for) suggest other professionals to give you further opinions.

But there's a lot an observant person can see on an initial visit. Bring a marble.
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Old 05-21-2007, 09:12 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
17,882 posts, read 54,194,416 times
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"But there's a lot an observant person can see on an initial visit. Bring a marble."

So you are suggestng that if you lose your marbles, you shouldn't buy the house?

Some hillsides have rock ledges, others may be clay. Clay on hillsides really wants to live in the valleys, and mud season is the normal time of migration. If a house happens to come along, the clay won't mind. That said, the problem isn't nearly as pronounced as it is on some Califronia hillsides.
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Old 05-21-2007, 09:23 AM
 
Location: Vermont
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I saw some hillsides partially collapsed after a big rain. So that is a concern. I don't want my house to slide or fall down. Also, after that comment about the marble, it occurred to me that I need to make sure the floors are level. I once visited an apartment where the floor sloped and it was not pleasant.

But apart from having my house stay put, my biggest concerns, when I wrote the original post, were about falling or having someone else fall. I am concerned about safety and about liability.

But having a slope on the property might make for nice sledding in the winter!

Thanks, Chaz Longue, for some useful advice that I will use when the tiime comes.

Last edited by arel; 05-21-2007 at 10:10 AM..
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Old 05-26-2007, 05:05 AM
 
Location: Apex, NC
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A properly built house, built into a slope, is a common practice and you're in virtually no danger of shifting. The foundation is typically piered into bedrock or is situated on heavily compressed fill that isn't subject to erosion. A talented home inspector would, on an older home, see the signs of shifting (cracks filled in in the crawspace/basement, cracks in tilework, non-level floors, twisting joists).

You're more likely to have a home suffer water penetration and damage that is built on a level lowland spot, then you are likely to have a house on a slope shift. And you're right, better sledding There are millions of homes built on slopes in the USA. I wouldn't worry about liability issues. However, if you plan on retiring in a home on a slope, I'd make sure the slopes won't make it too difficult to venture around your property as you age. When you're 35 and walk up a 20% grade, no biggie. When you're 75 and do the same, well, that's a different cup of tea.

Also, keep in mind that there are many parts of Vermont on Clay. Clay expands and contracts more than virtually anything else with the exception of luffa sponges So it's not uncommon to have a 20+ year old house have some floor unevenness because some parts of the home has settled moreseo than others. Not a real big deal but it's worth mentioning.

Sean
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Old 05-26-2007, 10:27 AM
 
Location: Vermont
1,442 posts, read 5,906,744 times
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Thanks, Sean.

Very good information. Also, maybe a good reason to buy a newer house. The older ones seem to have more character, though.

Oops. I just noticed I made a typo in the title. It's hillsides, not hilsides.

In Brattleboro, is the soil clay?

Last edited by arel; 05-26-2007 at 11:28 AM..
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Old 05-27-2007, 07:33 AM
 
Location: Apex, NC
1,341 posts, read 5,642,596 times
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There are compelling reasons to buy a 10+ year old home, particularly on clay. Chief among them is you know what you're getting. A brand new home on clay is a mystery. How much will settlement affect the structure? With a 10+ year old home, you can see any settlement cracks and can be more comfortable that the home will remain structurally sound.

Sean
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Old 05-27-2007, 09:00 AM
 
Location: Vermont
1,442 posts, read 5,906,744 times
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Thanks for the important information and advice.

Still, one question: What is the ground like in Brattleboro. Is it clay?

Or, if I buy, should I simply get a 10+ year old house no matter what?
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