New to Land Development? What to Expect Before and During Site Work

It is widely known that land developers can make huge amounts of money when buying up large plots of land to be developed into large industrial or commercial complexes. However, what many people don’t know is that a land developer isn’t always the actual general contractor. More and more often, it is a realty group that buys the land when they spot a good deal and from there they hire contractors to do the actual site preparation and building.

You can either choose to work with some or all of your own contractors or you can hire a general contractor who will subcontract out each type of construction which needs doing as you go. Here is a bit about some of the various aspects of preparing the land to be built on. You’ve heard the big push for “Call before you dig?” There are a few very good reasons why, and here is some of what you should know about what to expect before and during site work.

Do You Know What’s Underneath?

So, you’ve gotten a really great deal on a piece of land that is suitably located for a large shopping mall. You are about ready to begin contacting general contractors who give estimates and quotes, some of which show that work will start much further out in time than you had imagined or would like. Why is that? Your contractor will know that there are often issues which need to be resolved prior to any construction, one of which is knowing what lies underneath that parcel of property you just bought.

Before any construction can begin, and often before any permits are issued, an excavation contractor will know the importance of not going in half blind. They don’t need to be told to call before you dig because they know that even utility maps are often off by a few or more feet which means they can’t even begin their part in the site work until they know exactly where those utilities are. It can be extremely dangerous to bust a gas main or cut through underground electric lines so that “Call before you dig” is a way of life for them. If you haven’t heard all the ads or found this tidbit of advice online, please understand that this is one of the vital steps in preparing the ground to be built upon.

Surprises Which Arise Even After You Call Before You Dig!

Here is another major holdup which some land developers fear. Your excavator has done all the prep work. They’ve ensured all permits are in order, they adhered to the ‘call before you dig’ advice and have been assured there are no underground wires or cables where they are set to dig. The surveyor has plotted out exact coordinates, the excavator has plotted points to work, and the “811 – Call before you dig” service has verified that there are no existing wires, cables or utilities below those coordinates.

Unfortunately, some less than scrupulous contractor back along the line had run underground cables from properties on one side of your site to the other site because it was ‘cheaper’ for them to connect two parcels rather than go the legal route of acquiring legal permits for the location of any underground dangers. Now you are faced with a danger as a result and a major holdup in developing that land.

Then there are the forces of nature to contend with. Even when you have taken the time to call before you dig and have done everything by the books, a major flood or a nearby earthquake created a cave just below the surface. There is no way of knowing this occurred prior to excavation because no one has any information on shifts in the earth where you will be digging. Each of these are very real issues which can arise no matter how many times you call before you dig. You’ll always get the same answer and it won’t always be the right answer.

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Holdups to Expect in Site Work

While reputable companies like ours at Capstone Structures move heaven and earth, no pun intended, to ensure everything will go without a hitch once excavation has commenced, there are going to be a random delays from time to time. Sometimes it’s a matter of not getting the most recent information from the 811 – Call before you dig service but, as mentioned above, through no fault of theirs. That is not a common delay but it can happen.

Sometimes the original surveyor’s coordinates are a bit skewed and you may run across a slight issue with something being where it shouldn’t. Other times an adjacent property owner will insist you are building on his land. Other times permits don’t come in on time and other times nature doesn’t want to work with you. Have you ever been hit with weeks of rain during times of year when it’s typically dry to the point of drought? That can also cause a major delay on site work, and can also cause you to go back to the drawing board, literally. Sometimes natural disasters make it impossible to prepare the land where you had originally intended.

It may be a matter of moving the entire plans just a hundred or two hundred feet, but it may be enough of an adjustment to necessitate further excavation to ensure the ground underneath will hold the massive structure you intend to have constructed.

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

So, there you have just a few of the reasons why you may be held up when having that first parcel of land developed as a new land developer. Even those developers who have been doing business for years will come across the very same delays, but by this point in their venture, they understand that sometimes little delays are beyond your control.

You can call before you dig, but if other people’s lack of ethics or Mother Nature wants to work against you, there sometimes isn’t much you can do until you’ve ironed out all those little wrinkles in your plan. And, understand, that’s really all those delays really are – little wrinkles which can be ironed out if enough ‘heat’ is applied. Make enough calls, submit enough paperwork and within a decent amount of time you’ll be able to dig, pour concrete and get your project underway.

One thing you will learn as a land developer is that a small delay here and there is unavoidable, especially on a large industrial or commercial project. The sheer enormity of what you have undertaken to do is going to have its little snags along the way. But remember that old proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, rather than assuming there is nothing underground to cause a major delay or relocation, just remember that something could be beyond your control and with the right people on the job, that delay can be measured in minutes instead of hours, days or weeks. Yes, call before you dig is great advice but if you have to call twice, who’s counting?