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I'm planning to build in a wooded lot, and want to leave as much woods as possible. What is the minimum buffer that is required or recommended to allow around the home's footprint, taking into account tree fall risk, fire risk, needs for construction equipment and workmen around the house, etc?

Are there any official recommendations or best practices for this?

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    Where are you? What type of trees are on the site? What type of equipment will the home's design require? – isherwood Sep 29 '17 at 15:48
  • The build site is in Northern Georgia. The trees are a mix of pine and hardwoods. The house will have trusses (but they could be placed without a crane), and a poured basement foundation. The house will by 2x6 wood frame. – Nick Oct 9 '17 at 9:42
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In California, if you build in the "wildland interface", wildfire risk drives the clearance requirement of 100'. The following quote is from the CalFire web page:

Protecting a building from wildfire takes a two-pronged approach: Remove flammable materials from around the building; Construct the building of fire resistant material. The law requires that homeowners do fuel modification to 100 feet (or the property line) around their buildings to create a defensible space for firefighters and to protect their homes from wildfires.

  • But 100' is for the under brush not all the trees within 100' or things have changed a bunch since I was building in the 70's. – Ed Beal Sep 29 '17 at 17:25
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That's a wildly local question that totally depends on

  • local threat conditions
  • the construction method of your home

As such, it needs to be run by your building inspectors, your fire marshals, and the California Department of Forestry (CalFire). Or your state's equivalent.

If you just want to build a stick house, then you'll probably have to do like everyone else in your community. However a variety of alternative constructions are in your best interest, double especially if you live in the firelands.

So for instance an earth-sheltered home, of heavy concrete construction with an earthen roof, that house has a completely different threat matrix regarding falling trees and wildfire. It could be designed so the wildfire plan is to dozer some earth over the windows, evac, and let the fire roll right over the place.

The art of it is to respect where you are and build accordingly. Like in Houston, all those 2-floor buildings that still had power -- the electric service was built expecting the first floor to flood.

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The biggest mistake I made building my house in East TX was not removing nearly all pines and sweetgum and oaks. I can still hear the "land man" saying " You're not going to want to keep those pines" ; me ,"oh, yes". Big ( 100 ft) mistakes. I have recently had 4 expensive trees cut down and am hoping the 8 other close pines don't fall on the house . Likely they would fall to the foundation. If you are talking cute little 40 ft trees, I would cut back at least 10 feet from the house to permit construction access. Also, the remaining trees will "fill-in" the hole in the canopy in a couple years. My house can not be seen in the Google Earth photos ; Neighbor houses are there but mine is just a patch of forest.

  • What is the size of your lot in East Texas? A friend was in the construction loan business in CA. Had a loan out on a property where the insurance was coming due and the owner, refused to get new insurance until he had 'researched' and gotten the very best rate. As the deadline approached my friend bought insurance on the structure in the amount of the loan, then only a fraction of the value of the structure. The insurance lapsed, a redwood fell to and cracked the foundation. The owner threatened to sue my friend for not buying insurance to cover the value of the structure, but never did. – Jim Stewart Sep 29 '17 at 22:24
  • A little less than 1/2 acre, My insurance is good. With 20+ inch of rain from Harvey , a few trees tipped over in the mud . Fortunately with limited damage. 2 fell from the National Forest and took down the power distribution lines across my yard. – blacksmith37 Sep 30 '17 at 20:22

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