Building on mountains in Florida

Everyone knows Florida is as flat as a pancake, right?

Turns out, here in middle of the Panhandle and right off the beach we have Blue MOUNTAIN Beach. An area of hills that actually shock a lot of our visitors. You mean you have places that are – literally – 35 feet above sea level just off the beach? Yup, we do, and we like to build houses on them.

This presents a bit of a challenge, more so than building on a flat site. Thankfully, our firm has been building on steep lots since our very first project at Lake Martin in Alabama. But I wanted to post a short note here with some pointers when building on a steep lot here in Florida.

  1. Your foundation work will cost more, but you gain a lot of neat features as well. This house, for instance, is located in a community that requires a brick foundation be seen from the road. So the cost of this foundation was slightly more due to the use of a lot more brick and the obvious necessity of building the home up in the back. On the flip side, however, we added a door to the downstairs foundation area so the owners could easily store kayaks, bikes, beach toys and tools. It was a great way to give them a TON more storage – and you always need more storage.
  2.  Your views will be outstanding. Although this home does not go up three stories, the view from the back makes it feel that way since the tree line drops down and the vista opens up. You can almost always count on a great view whenever you have a big elevation change.
  3.  You have the opportunity to create some fun exterior elevations and added curb appeal. In this house, multiple stairs going down to the backyard makes it accessible and gives the home a nice elevation on the side and rear. We like to consider the changing elevation an added feature of the house, rather than an issue to be avoided. Using stairs not only gives it visual interest, but breaks up the height of the house and gives it a more human perspective.
  4. You need to factor in the elevation when considering exterior materials, In this case, we used horizontal Hardiplank exterior materials, horizontal fencing and stair details. This again, breaks up the height of the back of the house and gives it a better perspective.

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