Land Clearing

Hi Carl,

Thanks so much for being here.

Your website has boosted my confidence and the more I read the closer I get to taking the leap and building!

I understand that there are many variables to be considered, but my question is this.

In buying an acre lot with many mature trees on it, what is my most cost effective use of the trees?

Can they be milled and used to build the house?

I'll be building on a stilt (coastal) pier foundation. Can they be used for this or any other purpose?

Is it best to just sell the lumber?

My goal is a small, green, efficient, low cost house that I can grow old in, but not have to work on until I die! I'm fifty now and hope to make this happen, on my own, soon.

Thank you again for your help with the process.


Hey Jude,

The complexity and expense of clearing land to build a new home is always complicated by trees, and the bigger the trees, the bigger the cost of land clearing.

Caution: Tree removal may require additional local permitting!!!
Photo courtesy of Ashley’s Tree Service

A new home site should be cleared of trees at least 10 feet around the foundation! Don’t ponder too hard over that statement as 10 feet has been proven to be a needed clear zone by just about everyone who has tried to save trees too close to the house…including me.

Unless you are going to clear the entire acre of land, I doubt that there are as many trees to deal with as you might think, especially with mature (large) trees.

It is doubtful you can sell the trees you do cut for enough money to make it worth your while, but that depends on what species of trees you have and how valuable they are.

Perhaps a local lumber mill might be willing to clear your lot in return for the trees, or, you might be able to strike a lumber sales deal with an excavator who will be bidding for the site clearing job.

As far as having the trees milled and used for construction the simple answer is no, not without having them dried and graded after milling. I doubt that this would be cost effective.

Freshly cut or “green” lumber “twists” as it dries. If you are building in an area governed by building codes (i.e. “on the grid”) you must comply with building codes and the use of kiln dried, grade marked lumber is always demanded. (See “New Home-Lumber Quality”)

If you are building “off the grid” and have no building codes (enforced) I would still build a house to at least the minimum building codes and that requires the use of kiln dried/grade marked lumber.

Having your own lumber milled, dried and graded would probably prove to be cost ineffective... but hey, it doesn’t cost anything to find out from local lumber mills.

As for the piers, you would have to use treated lumber, if local building codes even allow wood piers anymore. The trees would have to be the right species, treated against termites, treated against moisture and treated for total water submersion.

But, having seen what can happen to even treated wood, I wouldn’t put a house on any pier that wasn’t concrete.

And, concrete is one of the “greenest” building materials there is.

Read “What Makes Concrete a Sustainable Building Material?

Hope all this helps.

Good luck,

Carl Heldmann