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Created: 2012-09-04 12:01:03
Along with many years of selling homes, farms and vacant land both on and off water, I also enjoyed buying older uninhabitable homes and renovating them into nice places that I am proud to rent to my tenants. After several renovation projects, I had been bitten by the “building bug”! I decided I wanted to gain experience in the processes involved in building a new cottage. I have always felt the best way to learn was to go out and do. I joined forces with a very good high school friend; with a shoe string budget and very little cash on hand we set our eye on the goal and went for it.

We made an offer on a small waterfront lot. This lot was not an easy build because of its size, building setback requirements, slope to the water and a right-of-way that went across the property. We made an offer conditional upon satisfying ourselves that a building could be built and a septic installed on the property. The offer was accepted and we had 10 days to satisfy our conditions.

The next step was to take the survey into the local building department and meet with the building inspector. Being our first time, we sat down with the inspector and said “Can we build a cottage on this lot?” Yes, we were that vague. At that time we had no idea what we were going to build and figured our small lot would determine what we might be able to build for us. The building inspector reviewed the survey and said ‘yes as an existing lot of record as long as you can meet the necessary setbacks we would be good to go’.

Our lot was less than half an acre in size so when we went back to determine where our building would go our most important tool that day was a 100 foot measuring tape. The same day we met a local septic installer at the lot to determine if a septic system could be placed on the lot; most of the lots we sell today are much larger than the property I choose and determining building sites are much easier. Wanting to get as much as experience as possible from this, we took it upon ourselves to handle all the details. There are many reputable contractors in the area to handle these details for you. It is their business to take your dreams and make them realities.

After confirmation from the installer that a septic system would fit on the lot along with a building of approximately 800 to 1000 square feet, we waived our conditions and proceeded with the purchase of the lot. After taking possession, it was time to warm up the chainsaws and start to prepare a building site. We chose and purchased a cottage package from the Beaver Homes Home Hardware packages. Our septic installer submitted the septic application to the local health unit for approval. With that approval in our hands and the stamped plans from Home Hardware, we were able to purchase our building permit.

The next step was to have the hired company come and install the septic, install the driveway and level the lot for the building. Our original plan was to build on piers but digging was so good that we opted to put a five foot basement in for storage of canoes, kayaks and other fun cottage items. While the machines were at the lot we had the septic installed, this was a cost saving measure since the equipment was already there. Tip on a small lot; leave the septic for last when the equipment returns to back-fill the basement. We now had no place to store material or park vehicles during construction.

We opted to pour our own footings and then hired a local mason to lay the blocks for our foundation. The materials were dropped at site; nail aprons on, hired a couple more guys and went to work. Acting as the home owners, general contractor, builder and landscaper was a tall order while still working. But, it was a great experience and one I would do again. Most likely I will just opt for the home owner role this time and rely on the local contractors to get the job done.

There are many nice lots available at this time and I am starting to feel that build bug come around again. The packages are a great way to build a cottage and will eliminate some of the overages on budgets. Prefabs are another quick way to get your building on site fast, but many times will not work in cottage country because of the cottage roads. In most cases I would try and build a relationship with a local builder, seek their advice and go from there. If you are not sure which contractor to trust; talk to the Realtors in the area, they will be able to give you names of reputable people to talk to.