seal killer wrote:All--
I just bought 80 acres deep in the Ozarks. .....
I am looking for ANY advice regarding this entire concept: well, septic, concrete home (NO exposed wood!), pole barn garage/shop/apartment and whatever you can think of. My time frame for completion is based on when my wife retires, which will be sometime within two to five years. I imagine it will be five years, since that will be full retirement for her. It COULD be four years, since Medicare will kick in when she is 65.
Hi bill and welcome to the neighborhood. I live about an hour from Dr. Davo and we are well acquainted. He is absolutely right about the rock thing.
I have a couple of things that would immediately concern me but they are not deal breakers by any means. The most serious one is fire hazard.
On the top of a ridge like that having an escape route needs to be considered. We had a drought here a few years ago and the fire hazard of the woods was super high. You need to be able to get out and get out fast so be sure to give some thought to that. The other issue that I think you want to address is the fire resistance of the buildings you put upl Even if you have to get out for safety's sake, It would be nice if you had something to come back to. A fire resistant exterior on a home may actually lower your insurance costs as well as make the home safer. A key issue is the soffits and fascia It turns out that cement board siding panels have a fire rating as good as concrete, but if flames run up the side of a building they will enter the attic through the soffit vents and burn the house down. Alternate methods will provide for attic venting that will not induce flames to enter.
Any degree to which you earth berm the house should be of benefit in fire resistance and a fire resistant roof surface is very important due to the rain of hot coals in a forest fire and burning trees falling on the house. You need to have a clear area around the house so that fuel is not close to the house to get the house burning Note that a deck can constitute fuel. The fire issue is a concern but it can be dealt with to a considerable degree.
Since I mentioned earth berming the house. there is a design issue that is often overlooked and is problematic around here. Earth bermed houses tend to stay naturally cool around here and that is a two edged sword. Because of high humidity in the summer months there will often be condensation on the walls and floors especially with masonry construction. Covering all the interior walls and floor with moisture resistant insulation can be effective at keeping the house from becoming musty and moldy. Our house has a "drive out basement" because it is built into a hillside. It get musty in the basement not due to seepage around the walls and floor but from condensation. The easy fix as long as one has electricity is fans. Ceiling fans and 12 inch oscillators do a great job, but require a reliable supply of a small amount of electricity. If the fans are off it takes a matter of a few hours to start to turn musty and just a few hours of running fans to end it. Give suitable consideration to how you will deal with this issue. Done right you should have no problem.
Your next trip in there you should plan on running a percolation test on the soil. It is really easy you dig a regulation size hole fill it with water and after it has gone down refill it and time how fast it goes down. Somebody in the sanitation department should be able to tell you the specs. But I would get them from the state anonymously and do it myself first just in case. If you are lucky there will be no code enforcement where you build and you can be a bit more creative than the standard off the shelf code solutions allow.
If your soil does not percolate, all is not lost. A superior more ecological solution is readily at hand. It is a sewage lagoon. The real estate people seem to be working to get rid of this option, and I suspect that they are motivated by people not wanting to buy a house so equipped, and I think they are behind the move to call these lagoons "cess pits" because it makes it easier to demonize them. A home must also have a septic tank between the house and the lagoon to qualify for a VA loan. However direct dischasrge of raw sewage into a lagoon is acceptable and effective It is just that the idea sounds bad. The beauty of a simple lagoon system is that it is owner maintainable and properly built, IT DOES NOT STINK !!!! IT DOES NOT STINK !!! I have such a system and it works great and it is so ecologically sound that the frogs love it and they are very sensitive to poor ecological conditions. However I think you will not want to have any sewage system that requires a sewage lift pump (bad news, very bad bad news, avoid at all costs)
With an intervening septic tank the tank deals with bacterial issues but from time to time you have to hire someone to come pump out the sludge from the tank. With a direct lagoon all that is needed is high boots and a long handled shovel. If you are gone for a couple weeks in the summer it isn't even sloppy and you can probably walk across it. In a direct lagoon the bacteria take care of themselves. The lagoon must be exposed to the sun and to the wind so the trees have to be cleared away from it and not allowed to grow near it. Eevaporation is what gets rid of the water, so wind and sun are important. You should never detect anything more than a slight swampy smell when standing within 10 feet of it. If it smells like poop, then sombody did something wrong like pouring bad chemicals down the toilet which then kill off the proper bacteria. You need to research this if you need to do a lagoon. There are some really really stupid regulations such as it has to be fenced but 50 yards from my lagoon is a 1.8 acre pond over 8 feet deep and no fence is required. Go Figure.
Ok, so go run that percolation test and see what your situation is.
About that road. You of course seem to be aware of the legal situation and have done your homework, so if you have good if you are unsure of anything check into it carefully. The other issue is can you access it in all weather. Some winters we have enough snow to make getting out difficult for a few days and our house is only about 100 to 150 feet from the county gravel road! So be sure to figure out how you are going to get out in bad weather. If it can wash out you need to be able to fix or get it fixed promptly especially if everybody else has the same problem at the same time. .... tractors and grader blades and or buckets are nice. and save your rocks to fill in wash outs.
You really need to look into what you are going to do about water. On top of a ridge you may have to drill just that much deeper to get a well in and you will almost certainly need electricity to pump it. Most of the water you are going to find around here tastes good but it is as hard as the rocks. I wish I had known that I could have gotten the replacement water heater with a clean out port in it. It would be a lot faster than shop vacing out all that lime scale every two years with the adapter I made that will work through the heating element hole. One new heating element every two years is way cheaper than all the salt fuss and bother of a water softener. I just keep a few extra elements on hand so I can fix it promptly. I do not mind soft water but I cannot stand "softened water"
You need to consider what you want to do about heat. A combustion device in the house runs the insurance cost up but electric heat or combustion heat generated outside the house and brought in are equally cheap on insurance from what I have seen. For a remote location like you have I would probably put in a pellet stove or furnace as a primary or secondary source and make sure it is one that will run on a battery.
It looks like you have a great place but it will take proper planning to deal with its drawbacks or potential drawbacks. Proper early planning would be the best way to make you save big buck$
Maybe Dr Davo and I could come down and visit your site some time and cook up some more ideas for you.
I never met anybody that I couldn't learn something from.