Real Estate

How do you choose where to position a new cottage on a property before building?

Wooden hut on the shore of a lake in Norway Photo by Pablo Joanidopoulos/Shutterstock

How do you choose where to position a new cottage on a property before building?

First, find out about your municipality’s setback requirements. These will determine how close you can put buildings to the water, the road, or other property lines, and how close you can build structures to each other. The municipality can tell you about other regulations too. For example, if your lot is in a floodplain, there could be additional restrictions.

Rules aside, architects recommend that you first spend time on your lot. And don’t rush. Visit in all seasons you plan to use the property. You’ll get to know where the sun is at different times of the day, and where the wind comes from. Then, think about how factors such as sun exposure, prevailing winds, and topography will interact with how you live. Remember that the way you use a house in the city is likely much different from the way you use the cottage. In the city, early morning sunlight in your bedroom acts as an alarm clock. Useful. At the cottage? Annoying. So you may want to avoid east-facing windows. In the city, you probably entertain more indoors, but at the cottage, that happens outside. So choose whether you want the deck in the sun or sheltered behind trees.

Situate your cottage so it’s as eco-conscious as possible. Cut down few trees, and take advantage of what Mother Nature offers up, such as ventilation from the breeze off the lake. And don’t build on the most beautiful part of the property because then it’s gone.

Make a priority list. Sometimes you’ll have to weigh one feature against another—great views versus easy access to the water, for example. A cottage positioned high above the lake and dock seems ideal, until you take six beers down and realize you forgot an opener.

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