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  • Building in WNC series, Part 3: Foundation and one level homes

    Friday, March 3, 2023   /   by Amy Brown

    Building in WNC series, Part 3: Foundation and one level homes

    Foundations and One-Level Home Designs

    Home building costs are at a premium in Western North Carolina for one reason, foundations. As you can see from the photos above, our mountains are steep and packed tightly together leaving little to no flat ground between mountain ridges. This is also why you see very few one-level homes. 

    Much of the building cost for a home is surprisingly in the footprint. Also, as I described above in the section about steep slopes, any home built on a steep grade can only disturb the land on a portion of the parcel. 

    Foundations on a steep slope require special reinforcement and a lot of poured concrete. It also takes expertise to design a foundation that will stand the test of time on a downhill grade. This means that there is more labor involved as well as a lot more material, hence the higher cost. 


    Our topography and site disturbance regulations are also why you don’t see a lot of one level homes here. With more modern trends in home design, I do see more inventory recently available with main level living, however, the majority of homes will also have either a finished or unfinished basement. 

    In the mountains, the bigger the footprint, the higher the cost. The footprint is the stamp that your house sits on. As your home spreads out horizontally, the highest priced item, the foundation, grows exponentially, increasing the final build price with some significance. Think about all of the extra ductwork and piping that goes into a home as you build horizontally. No longer can you share vents or create branches for plumbing. You keep adding on more and more materials. The roof gets much larger as well, another high dollar item. So the smaller that you can keep the footprint and build up instead of out, the more that you can control and maintain a lower build cost.

    One level, smaller sf, larger lot

             Tri level, more sf, smaller lot

    In order to achieve the desired square footage at a price that homebuyers can afford, it is necessary to build up and not out. Most homes in our area will be three levels with the option to finish or not finish the walk-out basement space. 

    Depending upon the grade of the slope, foundation costs can run anywhere from $100,000-200,000. The option for a slab on grade is not possible here. 

    If you truly need a one level home for lifestyle reasons, you will be more successful to build in Henderson county in the Mills River valley where flatter parcels are available. However, keep in mind that since flat acreage is something that is rare, expect to pay a premium.

    Your other option if you want to be in Asheville is to have your builder design a home for you that has a master bedroom and bath on the main level with the guest bedrooms either upstairs or down. This will allow you to achieve that one level feel with the desired square footage at a lower price per square foot.