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House Plans for Steep Lot

jacobuilt's picture

Im trying to locate some house plans that will suite a steep lot. Been looking around the internet world andhave been through some plan books. One story with all the auxilary bedrooms in the base, thats what Im looking for. the house size should be between 1800 to 2000. Wait, this isnt Anyways, its a speculative spec. Just wondering if there is anything out there besides the obvious websites. Thanks Bobby

(post #59373, reply #1 of 13)

So you're saying this is a "speculative spec", as opposed to a "non-speculative spec?? lol

Just take any two story plan that has the upstairs layout you want, and flip the second story under the first.  The biggest problem will be getting egress windows into any bedrooms that are near the high side of the lot (I'm assuming the front?).  Nothing a big window well can't fix though.

One thing to consider is that the plan will not be the "norm", and may affect your sales price and/or time on the market- most people expect the bedrooms to be upstairs.


"Brilliance!! That's all I can say- Sheer, unadulterated brilliance!!" Wile E. Coyote- Super Genius

(post #59373, reply #2 of 13)


You just need to take a two story house and bury part of it. Depending on how the rooms are orientated some may have only very small or no windows at all. Better check local code on that. You may also end up with a sub-basement or a two level basement.

You are looking at a hard build take my word for it. Hardest part will be footings and foundation if you can find someone good to do it for you. lots of machine work and be REAL careful about backfilling the f high side of the foundation.

You need to be dealing with people who are familiar with designing and constructing houses on sloping lot, not someone who thinks they can.

Good luck,




"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." — Sherlock Holmes, 1896

(post #59373, reply #3 of 13)

i would recommend using an architect versus a plan book for a steep site.  for one thing you should try to take advantage of a special condition like that.  i'm not just recommeding an architect because i am one but there are definitely things that a professional can advise you on like drainage, structural issues, etc.  i think you will get a much more dramatic house if you go this way.


(post #59373, reply #4 of 13)

If you go to and enter "hillside house plans" you should a number of vendors selling such plans.  For example: was the first one on the list.

Part of what you can use will depend upon the steepness of the lot.  There are several houses in the Berkeley Hills that look like they are regular houses, it is just that the front the house is anchored to the hillside and the back of the houses are on 30' columns...  And this is in an area a few hundred yards from the Hayward fault -one of the more active faults in the San Francisco area.  About blew me away when I first saw this style of house. 

I would guess that if you are on a particularly steep slope, you will need to have some extensive engineering done on the foundation and the soil, regardless of where you get the plans. 




(post #59373, reply #5 of 13)

i looked at the photos of the globalplans website.  maybe i'm not understanding it correctly but i thought the site was a real steep site not just a hill side.

i was think something like the douglas house by richard meier (

but i think this may be the other extreme since this is a speculative house.

maybe put the living spaces at the lower level.


(post #59373, reply #6 of 13)

I too have been trying to come up with some good ideas for a steep lot (please note, I did not say sloping lot).  Wasted lots of time on the internet looking.

I am thinking about tweaking Sarah Susanankas "not so big house" (of not so big house books fame) plan. But even then I'm not too happy.  Arechitects (sp) are kinda out of the question here, only one in town and I don't care for his work.

Sure would love to hear from anyone that has good ideas.

(post #59373, reply #8 of 13)

i agree with what vogi? said about taking advantage of the lot by using an architect, or at least a designer to customize a plan. I love steep sloping lots, was raised in a steep neighborhood. They pose construction problems, but a house that fits the site can be much more dramatic than flatlanders. what area are you in?

(post #59373, reply #7 of 13)

throw in a cane for buyer, will need it to stroll his lot

(post #59373, reply #9 of 13)

Have you been around here long enough to have read the Spec House from Hell

Edited to mention that the thread appears to have been truncated for some reason. The 2nd half of the story has disappeared.

No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helps you. [Wilma Rudolph]

Edited 12/19/2003 2:02:41 PM ET by Boss Hog

(post #59373, reply #10 of 13)

Just got a building permit yesterday for a spec house that I will start in March on a similar lot--3/4 acre, steep slope away from the frontage road with a 13 foot drop beginning about 12 feet from the road.  A really tough lot.  The city engineer wanted to see a topograpghical plan 2-foot intervals, as well as the driveway layout and the proposed sewer-line layout (managed to get a gravity feed sewer line by siting the house closer to the road) and the transistion to the backyard (13 foot drop).  All engineering work cost me $2800 and was well worth it.

As for the house plan, it will be a raised ranch but NOT with a split entry.  One step up from grade puts you into the family room, which is elevated 4" above the adjacent garage--typical raised ranch.  This family room would be a slab on grade if the raised ranch were built on a lot that did not drop off so much.  Full set of stairs brings you up to the "second" level where kitchen/living room/dining room (cathedral ceiling with engineered sissor trusses) and the 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths.  All typical raised ranch, and about 2000 square feet.

But here's the good part.  The raised ranch which is incredibly cheap to build (about $45-50 per square foot even here in western Massachusetts) gets even better when you put a FULL 8 FOOT FOUNDATION WALL under the family room, finish the basement and give a walk-out slider entry/exit to the backyard (remember the 13 foot drop in elevation?).  Adds another 625 square feet of space at a cost of perhaps $10/ square foot, about $6000.

Basically, this design looks like a colonial from the street, and you could easily just build a colonial with a walk-out basement.

Picked up the lot for $21,000, and it was on the market for 6 years--no one wanted it.  You do the math with starter home prices in my market at $115/square foot plus land cost.  I am 1 of 2 builders in my area that:  (1) ONLY builds spec houses--you truly work only for yourself, because there is no prospective buyer, etc. looking over your shoulder (and if you have no bank financing you answer to absolutely no one other than the inspector and the building code); and (2) buys every piece of land that no one else wants.  I build only 3-4 homes per year, and they go on the market when they DONE and a CO has issued.  You may be tempted to market the house when you are sheetrocked, but in my experiece you wind up with a deposit and alot of headaches and extra work.  You basically become a custom builder and profit gets eaten up.

By the way, spec does not mean cheap.  I insulate all interior walls for sound-dampening, install real cherry cabinets (dovetailed drawers and wood/plywood veneers--no partical board), cherry floors in living room, ceramic tile (no vinyl), gas fireplace, central ac, heated/cooled garage, and 3 1/2" door casings, solid-core doors, 5 1/4" baseboards, range/dryer plumbed for gas and wired for 240 ac electric, oak stairway, lots of recessed lights, etc.  Berber carpet upstairs only.  My tradesmen are the same guys that the $500-800k customer builders are using, and the work is the same quality.

Don't ever be afraid of spec homes.  If you are not too careful, you might just make 75-100% net profit.  I have found that it all depends on how much you pay for the land.  I always say, "It's easy to make money if you get the dirt cheap."


(post #59373, reply #11 of 13)


I like your attitude........just curious; where are you?




"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." — Sherlock Holmes, 1896

(post #59373, reply #12 of 13)


I build in Hampshire and Hampden counties in western Massachusetts--Springfield, Chicopee, West Springfield, Southwick, Hatfield, Westfield, etc.

Thanks for the compliment.  I am trying to be honest and helpful with advice, not [JOBSITE WORD]y.  I got into the building business to make good money, not to satisfy my ego.  I do take pride in building a spec house that is built as well or better than any home by a custom builder, but I must make good money doing it, or I wouldn' bother in the first place.  The only thing I ordinarily cannot do under my approach to this business is sell my buyer a home in a fancy new subdivision, because the custom builders around here either are not selling such lots for spec, or want too much if they are selling to builders for spec.  If I pay top dollar for the dirt, then I cannnot build to my higher standards without cutting dearly into profit.  Again, I work to build a better product and make better money.  I don't need to build $600k homes in the richy subdivisions to stroke my ego or generate referrals for that kind of work.  It's just not what I do.


Edited 12/19/2003 5:17:53 PM ET by kman

Edited 12/19/2003 5:18:31 PM ET by kman

(post #59373, reply #13 of 13)

Since you are not going to cash the lot in for something flat, check out the post on driveways

The best employee you can have but you wouldn't want him as a neighbor " He the shifty type"