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Oak Frame Self Build on a Slope: What You Need to Know

At one time, a sloping site might have meant the end of the plans to build a house on it, certainly as a self-builder.  But as design technology and the many innovations that have come to the construction industry show, there is little we can’t do.  And an oak frame self-build on a slope is an example of what can be done with the right planning.

Check the ground conditions

Before you start admiring self build home kits and imagining what you are going to do with your new home, it is important to look at the ground conditions, especially if you plan to build into the incline of the slope.  For example, the general guideline is that the drop from the footprint’s front to back should be at least the height of one floor, around 2.5 metres. But a steep site could make the project just too difficult or too expensive.

The ground conditions and how they affect the foundations are another big consideration.  It is best to have a structural engineer look at the site before you buy it to make sure you can do what you want.  

The makeup of the ground has a direct link with slop incline – it is known as the angle of repose.  If the ground is made steeper than this and doesn’t have support, it will slump down to this angle. So a solid clay can be 35-40 degrees pitch, sand clay around 15 degrees and broken rock up to 45 degrees.  Soil conditions can influence things like the design of retaining walls and the foundations as well as the landscaping around the property.

Even adverse conditions can still be conquered in some cases – it may just mean using artificial stabilisers that can be very expensive.  At the other end of the scale, if the rock is close to the surface then this can be very costly to excavate, and the property needs to be built out from the slope entirely.

Choosing the design

Once you have a good understanding of the ground conditions, you can move onto the design.  This is usually a two-pronged approach. First, you need to look for features that create inspiration and then you need to test the site conditions to make sure they will work in reality.  For example, sloping sites often having amazing views so how can be incorporate enjoying these views into your design?

When you work with this kind of site, three-storey setups often work well for enjoying the surrounding views.  The main entrance and living space will be on the middle floor with bedrooms above and below. Or you can use the lower floor as practical areas as the views from it are less impressive – a home office, kid’s playroom or a home cinema room are examples.

Daylight and ventilation are also key considerations when a house is built into a slope.  The nature of the site means some areas might not have windows due to being built against the ground so use these areas for rooms less likely to need them – bathrooms and storage areas are good examples.  You may also want to consider a mechanical ventilation system to ensure all spaces in the house are well ventilated.

Self-Build on a Slope

External looks

The outside look of the house is also very important and there are two main approaches to sloping sites – bed the building into the ground or project out.  Either way, you can consider a range of building options and oak frame houses are particularly popular as they blend in with the natural look of the site. You can even use Trade Oak building kits as the basis for the house and have bespoke services to ensure you get the exact layout you need as well as the external features that make the most of the site.  

Green features such as sedum or turf roofs can also continue the natural theme and help blend the house into the surrounding landscape.  Roofs with subtle elevations have a more natural look and create fewer angles that attract the eye.


Building on a sloping site does have its challenges but with the right partners and good preparation, there’s no reason it still can’t be the site for your dream home.