New Home Construction Steps

The most asked question to the Irish Beach ADC is “I own a lot in Irish Beach, how do I get started in having a house built?”

While every person’s situation is different, and most every lot has its own unique aspects, listed here are the most basic common steps all new home construction usually go through.

The ADC tries to maintain a list of providers for these services as reference (Construction Resources).

  1. Assess clearing the lot of obstructive vegetation.
    • The septic designer will need the potential septic field portion of the lot clear in order to do an assessment and testing. The surveyor may also request that an excessively overgrown lot be cleared first.
    • If you, or the prior owner, has kept the lot clear of brush and trees for fire protection, you are in good shape. Otherwise, you will need to assess what options are available to you.
    • As a lot owner, you are required by Cal-Fire to maintain a fire safe condition on your parcel. This includes keeping tree branches up off the ground and thinning or removal of dense stands or brush and trees. If any portion of your lot is within 100 feet of another structure on neighboring lot, that area must be kept clear of all brush and be mowed annually.
    • The only exception to this ability to clear the lot is if the area under consideration is within 100 feet of a bluff edge, a seasonal wetland area, either Irish Gulch or Pomo Creek, or a stand of potential habitat trees such as Grand Firs. If in doubt, check with County Planning first.
    • If a tree/brush removal is warranted, see the Resource Page for lot clearing contractors.
  2. Have the lot surveyed (if not provided as part of the lot purchase).
    • The septic designer and the Architect/Designer will require this step before they can proceed.
  3. Obtain a septic design.
    • If you have a plan that is less than 4 years old, you are good, otherwise you need to get a new one as the county will only accept a design that is less than 5 years old at the time of application.
    • On these small lots, the septic Primary and Secondary leach field locations will dictate where the house can be placed. The regulations have changed throughout the years in terms of setbacks, locations on slopes, soil types and construction methods allowed.
    • Do not attempt to design a home without a septic design, as we have seen so many house plans having to be revised once an updated septic plan is obtained.
  4. Hire an Architect/Designer.
    • Some can also serve as your permit process project manager.
    • Some homebuilders can also provide Design service.
    • They can also provide estimates of the current cost of construction in this area.
    • Many times they will have connections with and can recommend construction contractors.
    • This step does cost money for the substantial amount of work they have to put in, but is critical for the success of the project.
  5. Secure the services of a contractor.
    • Most contractors book at least a year in advance, so it is critical to obtain a relationship with one sooner than later.
  6. Meet with the County Planning Office (Fort Bragg)
    • They can tell you if you will require a Coastal Planning permit, what studies you will need to accomplish, such as Geological (geo-tech), biological (“flora & fauna”) and Native American reviews.
  7. Have the required inspections and studies accomplished.
    • The architect will need this information before they can proceed, as sometimes the findings of these studies will result in increased setbacks from certain geological features or Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA).
  8. Architect/Designer prepares the Phase I review Site Plan.
    • With the information gathered to date, the Architect/Designer can now prepare the Site Plan for the property reflecting the “net buildable area”, factoring in required setbacks and CC&R requirements.
    • At this point, the Architect/Designer will also show a tentative footprint of a proposed/desired location of the house, factoring in all the above requirements.
    • Contact the IBADC for an initial Site Plan review and scheduling the public Phase I review.
    • Once the Phase I review is complete, the Architect/Designer will then design the elevation drawings for the proposed structures, factoring in the CC&Rs and the Phase I review input.
  9. Accomplish the IBADC Phase II plan review.
    • Contact the IBADC for a CC&R review and scheduling of the public Phase II review.
    • After the IBADC Phase II approval, the Architect/Designer prepares the plan set for the County Planning and the Building Department reviews.
  10. Submit an application package to County Planning.
    • If you have accomplished all the prior steps diligently, this part will go smoothly.
    • Once Planning approves the application, they will submit it to the Building Department for Plan Check and issuance of a Building Permit.

Other Construction FAQs

Can I build my own house?

Unless you are contractor, building your own home has become extremely difficult, if not impossible. When Irish Beach was first subdivided in the 1960’s, this was a common thing. As decades went by and regulations and conditions kept evolving this has become more complicated and out of reach for the average DIY’er. Some of the hurdles nowadays are:

  1. Financing.
    • Homes today are very expensive to build. Unless you have $350K-$800K in cash for the materials and services the average 1500-1800 sq ft home require or can take out a second mortgage on an existing home, you are usually limited to a construction loan.
    • Construction loans are limited in completion time to usually 18 months, out of reach for the average do-it-yourselfers.
    • Lender construction financing is limited to licensed General Contractor built homes with few exceptions.
  2. Insurance.
    • Along with all the other changes in the Insurance industry, construction insurance has changed too.
    • Construction insurance (liability, fire and vandalism) is required for all construction loans.
    • Construction insurance (fire, vandalism, theft and liability) is also wise for non-financed construction.
    • Insurance companies have limited the issuance of Construction Insurance to licensed General Contractors only.
  3. Timelines.
    • Homes today are very complex, owing to code and regulation changes and take much longer to build than they used to.
    • Energy efficiency, Fire Sprinklers, solar, Wildland Urban Interface flammability, seismic, structural and foundation requirements often come with specialized skills or equipment or licensing requirements.
    • The building season can be short in Irish Beach owing to rains and in many locations are limited by the county to the July to December timeframe if near PAMB habitat.
  4. Subcontractor availability.
    • Subcontractors are in very limited supply on the coast, and as such are in high demand. Most General Contractors maintain priority relationships with the subs, which can result in availability wait times for others that can stretch into months.

Can I build a “Tiny Home”?

A very common question the ADC receives is about the possibility of installing a modular type home on the lots in Irish Beach. This mostly arises owing to the cost to build a conventional home nowadays and the lack of available contractors on the coast.

  • There are some home styles that if designed, sited and built with aesthetics and view corridors in mind could possibly work. It would most likely be dependent on the quality of the surrounding attachments (porches, decks, arbors, garages, driveway, accessory structures) and the choice of siding, windows and roofing.
  • Any modular home would have to take into consideration the siting on the lot, the relationship of the house to the adjoining lots and to view corridors from other homes and lots. This will still require the manufacturer/designer to visit the site and apply the on-site conditions (septic, view corridors, orientation, drainage, setbacks, and terrain) and the requirements of the CC&Rs to the design.
  • Additionally, all new homes are subject to Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) requirements, fire sprinkler and solar regulations required by the State of California. This will affect the selection of the siding, window, deck and roofing materials.
  • There are lots in Irish Beach that would be favorable to such a design, namely those where the buildable area is limited owing to setbacks and septic requirements.
  • In most cases the minimum square footage requirements (1200 min, 800 first floor) of the CC&Rs will have to be maintained. The only exception would be if the current requirements of some of the smaller lots dictate otherwise, at which point a variance could be considered.
  • These off-site built modular type homes have the advantage of better construction efficiency, lower design costs, and the finished result can appear like a conventional framed home, or even better, if the foregoing steps are observed.
  • Note: we are talking about modular homes, which are prebuilt to some degree offsite in modular units and then assembled onsite by a contractor on a conventional foundation. Manufactured homes (aka “mobile homes”) are prohibited by the subdivision CC&Rs.
  • Lastly, while less costly than a site framed home, be aware they are still expensive once all the costs of construction and development are factored in.

If you are interested in pursuing the concept, it is our recommendation that you contact the ADC and request a preliminary meeting to go over the proposal. This would be a no-cost informal information gathering session, and you would need to bring as much documentation, drawings and specifications that you can gather.