Maybe you’ve purchased some land in the boonies for a summer home, or maybe you want to build a koi pond in your back yard. In any case, some land clearing and/or excavation is required. It sounds simple, but there are some pitfalls and missteps to watch for. We spoke with Jason who does land clearing in Houston for residential as well as commercial clients. He provided us with some insights into what to be careful of when preparing your land for construction of any kind. Let’s ‘dig’ right in (I couldn’t resist the pun).
First and foremost, safety is always a concern. You may be using some heavy equipment to mow down or clear brush, thick weeds or saplings. You might have to dig out roots of trees that have been cut down. Even if you are just using a lawnmower, safety has to be at the forefront of everything you do. Your fingers will come in handy someday, so keep them attached.
Unless you are an experienced heavy equipment operator, Jason recommends that you hire a professional to handle that part of the job for you. It may look easy, but it can be tricky, and an inexperienced operator is a safety hazard to himself and anyone around.
Another important item to consider is what is under the ground where you will be digging. Be sure to call out your local utilities to mark off any underground pipes, conduits, wiring etc. In the Houston area, dialing 811 will connect you with an operator that will schedule underground utilities to be marked off at your dig site, free of charge.
Hazards don’t just come from under the ground. Be extremely aware of electric lines above you. If you will be working with a ladder or even excavation equipment, you run the risk of reaching wires overhead. The results can be deadly, so mark off the land below the wires so you’ll better remember to be careful around those areas.
Utilize other safety gear as a matter of course. Hard hats are recommended if you are working around tree that will be cut down, or if you have heavy equipment that could potentially hit you in the head. Steel toed boots can prevent serious damage to your feet, especially if you are mowing, digging or excavating. Of course, keep your fingers and hands away from any moving blades. We know plenty of otherwise intelligent folks who have parts of their fingers missing because they though they were smart enough not to get hurt. It happens to the best of us, so the best remedy is always abstinence – you can’t get a finger cut off if you never put it near the blade!
One of the Boy Scouts’ mottos is ‘Leave no trace’, meaning after a camp out, the campgrounds should be in the same shape as before you got there. The same should apply to your land clearing jobs. Take precautions to protect the areas on your property that aren’t being worked. This applies even to the areas you are working. For instance, if you are clearing some land for a pond, but want to leave some of the trees, then care should be taken to avoid bumping and scraping those trees with your equipment or upsetting the root system of the trees you want to keep.
Heavy equipment can easily destroy parts of your property that you want left intact, so plan a path for your heavy equipment to the work area so that it leaves the least impact possible. Although Jason and his team take pains to protect the site’s environment as they work, you may find that your heavy equipment operators are quite careless about the carnage they leave behind. Make sure your equipment operators are aware of your ‘protected areas’ and know how and where you want them to enter and exit the work site.
Before you start to clear your land, be sure you have a written plan that details what you want cleared/excavated and areas you want protected from damage. Your plan should include at least a rough description of why you are working your land, and what that land will be used for. Knowing that will help your hired help to understand what needs to be done. In fact, they will likely have a better idea of how to proceed than you will.
If you are hiring a company to do the land clearing for you, be sure that they come out to the land for an inspection first. If they want to come out directly with their equipment without seeing the area first, then you can bet they won’t have your best interest in mind. They probably want to be in and out as fast as they can – not the right mindset for a land clearing job. Preparation is half the job, and if they want to show up without any preparation or expectation, then you should expect reckless results.
Even though the workers will be under supervision of a foreman, it’s best for you, the property owner, to be there as well in a supervisory role. Ultimately, you are the boss, so your presence will keep the team (and even the foreman) on their toes. So plan a day to be there as your land is worked, make your presence known, put on a hard hat and get involved.
The land working jobs that finish with the best results are ones that are planned meticulously. When the hired workers understand the plan and the expected result, and adhere to the plan, then you can expect to be pleased with the work once it’s done.
A home is one of the most important purchases a person will make in a lifetime, so it’s important to get it right. Often, homeowners will spend their entire lives living in one home. Sometimes, a home is handed down from generation to generation. So although an inspection may not be required to purchase a property, it is certainly strongly recommended. Here are some important reasons why an inspection should not be overlooked when buying a home.
If you include a clause in your purchase agreement that exempts you from the agreement based on the results of an inspection, you can save yourself the headache of trying to back out of a purchase agreement because you found some major issues near or after you’ve moved in. Without an inspection, it is assumed that you are buying the home as-is. The seller may claim that they were unaware of the issue you uncovered. You have no recourse. The home is yours now, and any repairs are now your responsibility.
A good home inspector has extensive knowledge of ALL aspects of construction, including electrical, plumbing, structural, and much more. They will be able to discover far more that what meets the eye. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that any major problem with the property will be easily noticeable, or that you can sufficiently inspect the home yourself .
Not only can the inspector find hidden or obscure issues with the home, his report will identify the seriousness of each issue (major, minor or safety implications), but they will also make recommendations on whether the problem item should be replaced, serviced or repaired prior to completing a purchase agreement.
For issues that are minor and shouldn’t affect your decision to purchase, a good inspector will often consult with you about taking care of the repairs yourself, as well as recommended routine maintenance once you’ve moved into your home.
Once the inspection is completed, you’ll have a full report on the status of the home’s current state. You’ll know generally how healthy the home is, and whether or not you should go forward with the purchase (assuming you’ve included the inspection contingency clause in your purchase agreement).
Your inspector will identify issues that he uncovered, and indicators of more serious problems that may need further investigation by another professional before committing to buy. For instance, cracks in the ceiling paint or windows that get stuck open or shut may be an indication of a cracked foundation. However, the inspector can’t confirm his suspicion without actually being able to inspect the foundation.
You may use the inspection report to ask the seller to either fix the issues or discount the price of the home to allow you to make repairs once you’ve purchased the property. This may save you much more money in the long run that the minor cost of the inspection, around $400.
The inspection plays an integral role for you as the buyer because it reveals existing or potential problems with the home, gives you some footing for negotiating discounts to the selling price, and if necessary give you an exemption from the agreement if you deem the issues found to be too severe. At a minimum, the inspection should give you peace of mind if nothing severely wrong was found. So even if the inspection is not already required by your lender, you should not forego this critical step in the home purchasing process.