Home on the Range: Rural Home Builders Guide 2014


Building in a rural area requires consideration of many factors that don’t usually come into play in an urban setting. The natural environment of a rural property has a considerable impact on the style, design, materials, and maintenance of a house, but with careful planning, you can build a comfortable and efficient home by working with the elements that make country living so enjoyable!

Part I: Before You Begin


One of the most important factors to consider is where safe drinking and household water will come from, and how much it will cost? The well must be located uphill, away from any possible source of contamination (septic system, garage, pastures), and the water tested for potability by the provincial health authority lab or a certified private lab.

A licensed water well driller can provide information on water tables and the best site location for a new well. The cost of drilling a well depends on the soil, the presence of bedrock, the depth necessary to obtain adequate flow (the average Canadian household of four people requires 1,300 litres daily), and the amount of steel casing installed.

If you plan to take water from surface sources, bear in mind that in Canada either the provincial or federal government owns all naturally occurring lakes, rivers and streams. You must acquire a license for the system and a permit to construct a permanent waterline, plus fulfill water treatment regulations. Otherwise, if the site has year-round access and storage area for several large tanks, water can be trucked in and stored in cisterns.

On a rural property, disposal of water usually involves a septic system that collects, treats and releases wastewater back into the earth. The type of soil on the property, the size of the proposed home, and proximity to natural waterways affect the final cost and function of the system.

There are alternative on-site wastewater management solutions if a building site will not support a septic system. Composting toilets use aerobic processing to evaporate the liquids and decompose the remaining waste into an inoffensive fertilizing soil, while incinerating toilets use electric heat to burn waste into a clean ash. Various outdoor filtration systems can dispose of gray water but require approval and permits through the local environmental authority. A single compartment holding tank that must be regularly pumped out by a registered sewage hauler offers a short-term option as the tank must be easily accessed for emptying which is generally not feasible for year-round living.


The distance from the proposed building site to the closest utility hookup, as well as the type of terrain the services must cross, determine construction costs and accessibility whether using electric power or natural gas. Assuming you will be able to secure electricity, make sure to include in the building design the ability to get by without power for up to one week, as power outages can be common in rural areas. This can affect water well and septic tank pumps as well as heating and appliances; the design should include an alternate heating source.

Telephone, cellular, and Internet services are not guaranteed in some remote and rugged parts of the country; you may want to site your new house to accommodate satellite signals.

Natural Environment

Access to the property needs to be practical, affordable, and year-round. A narrow, impassable driveway or spring road bans that limit the axle weight of vehicles can bring a construction project to a standstill. Soil composition influences the location of water waste systems, access road, and the building site itself. Expansive soils (e.g. Bentonite clay) can buckle concrete foundations placed on the downhill side of a slope.

Other Considerations

  • Household/construction waste: it is illegal to have your own trash dump, so take note of where the nearest disposal site is. Remember to plan for trash storage away from animals.
  • Public road maintenance can be a factor in construction timing.
  • Natural hazards like tall trees, erosion, and flooding should be considered when selecting a building location.
  • There are many options available for fire protection dependent on insurance, design, and building site.

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