Many log home owners decide to build in rural or remote location, where access becomes an issue. There are quite a few factors to consider when contemplating a parcel with private road access. We talked to some experts and learned what you should consider in design and maintenance.
Understand the infrastructure costs — Many buyers fall in love with a view from a mountaintop but fail to research the costs to access that view. A good private road not only provides the initial impression of your home, but in emergencies and bad weather, it is a lifeline. Meet with an engineer to review the costs associated with navigating from the main road to your building site. The estimate may include adding fill, culverts or draining tiles, base materials like gravel and sand, as well as equipment usage. If the passage is wooded, trees and brush may need to be cleared before road construction can begin, and so in this case a meeting with a woodsman is recommended. The most important thing to understand initially is that the longer the road is, the more expensive it becomes.
Private roads and construction — Another aspect of private roads to consider is the actual construction of your log home. You’ll need to get heavy equipment such as excavators and cranes onto the site, so the final finish on your road may need to wait until your home is mostly completed. If your road cannot accommodate the semi-tractor trailer that will deliver your log home, you’ll need to make arrangements to transfer to a smaller truck to get it to the site, which may add to the time and cost of delivery.
Design to codes — Each town and municipality has different requirements for private roads. Depending on the number of homes located on the private road, the local code may require a ten- to 14-foot wide roadway. Many codes also include turnouts or T-shaped end points to allow for emergency vehicle access and turnarounds.
Design to the climate — If you’re building in an area with heavy rains, you may want to deign with a heavier and more permanent base such as ¾” gravel or reclaim asphalt to avoid washouts. If your home is at the end of a long road and you have considerable local snowfall, you’ll need to identify and carve out areas where excess plowed snow can be pushed, to keep your road open for emergency vehicles.
Match the surface to budget and use — Consider the amount of use your private road will get. If you’re using it only as a seasonal getaway, you may be able to live with a basic dirt road. You’ll want to re-grade after winter or rainy seasons to maintain the road’s camber and base. A professional grader can be used, or a medium tractor with a blade or drag grader can do the job. A more heavily used road might be better designed with gravel or reclaim asphalt. Gravel can provide a good surface and mitigate some of the dust associated with a dirt road. Gravel will need to be redressed every other year or more often depending on the drift of the stones, plowing and traffic.
Reclaim is more expensive than gravel but it is also the world’s most recycled product, according to Rodney Lane, District Manager of Lane Construction in Maine. Reclaim results from the milling up of paved roadways and replacing a portion of it with an admixture of emulsions or cement to increase stability. The material is spread and then heat rolled to provide a smoother surface. Lane also recommends covering the reclaim surface with a chip seal product to mitigate any wandering of the gravel as the road is used.
Asphalt is the most expensive road treatment both for initial cost and maintenance, but provides the smoothest possible surface. Some log home owners opt for a combination of treatments (see below) using gravel, reclaim and paving tiles for surfaces near the home.
Road maintenance agreements — Many towns require a road maintenance agreement if your private road services more than one site. The road maintenance agreement is generally attached and enforceable to the deed. A road maintenance agreement will detail the shared responsibilities, frequency of maintenance and other aspects of maintaining access to your property.
All in all, private roads can be a manageable challenge if true privacy is what you seek in your new log home.