building custom sloped lot northern va

5 Tips For Building A Custom Home On A Sloped Lot In Northern VA

Building on a sloped lot is actually fairly common, but it does come with some special considerations. Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright had his own take on the idea: “No house should ever be on any hill. It should be of the hill … so hill and house can live together.” In other words, you want to let the sloping land itself inspire the design of your new custom built home.

The Benefits and Challenges of Building on a Sloped Lot

Slopes often come with beautiful views and offer the opportunity to build a much more interesting home. Some pros and cons to consider include:


  • A sloping lot can provide greater privacy from neighbors.
  • From landscaping to exterior and interior space, a sloped lot allows for unique design options.
  • Your new home design can include a walkout or lookout lower level, which means much more natural light instead of a dark and dreary basement.


  • A sloped lot might require specialized equipment to navigate in the available space and build the foundation.
  • It could add time to the total project. Building up the land and/or adding retaining walls is extra work that doesn’t occur when constructing on a level lot.
  • Sloped lots can present drainage challenges, particularly if you’re building on the side of a slope, not the top.

Tips for Building a House on a Sloped Lot

These tips will help you understand more about sloping sites and introduce you to some design solutions.

1. Adjust Your Budget. Reinforced suspended concrete floors, additional drainage, and more complicated hard landscaping all cost extra. Each sloped lot is different, so planning a workable budget will heavily rely on good design and detailed drawings.

2. Retaining Walls and Plinths. To overcome the issues that come with building on a sloped lot, some designs will carve out a level plinth on which to build a home designed for a level site. The plinth raises the floor above ground level, which prevents surface water from entering the structure. The spoil cut away from the bank is then used to make up the levels on the lower edge, which saves you money by not having to cart away the removed soil. Retaining walls can also be built to hold back banks of ground.

3. Unique Configurations. Sloped lots often mean wonderful views. You can take advantage of this by reversing your living areas, placing bedrooms below and kitchen, great room, and living room on the upper level. Basements are not a necessity for every family, so think about whether you must have one. Some people choose to build on a series of stilts or columns, which removes the need for extensive foundations. The area below can then be used for storage, instead of building a basement.

4. Landscaping. Landscaping on sloped lots requires some attention to detail, but offers a world of design possibilities. You’ll want to think about plant species that can easily establish roots in sloped areas. Short retaining walls can also be constructed to hold plantings. Think, too, about raised decks and patios to create useable living space.

5. Curb Appeal. There is still a need to maintain your home’s good visual impact on a sloped lot. If the garage and entrance will be located on the ground floor, there are ways to break up the purely utilitarian look. Garage doors can be set back under upper level balconies or decks, and more doors and windows on the upper levels will add visual appeal.

You don’t have to compromise on your dream home because you’re worried about the challenges and difficulties of sloped lot construction. Working with a design-build firm like Foley who can give you expert advice allows you the peace of mind you need to know your new custom home will be built to the highest safety and quality standards.

We have over 30 years of experience constructing custom homes on sloped lots throughout the greater Northern VA area. We know how to design and deliver in the most structurally sound and cost-effective way while gaining all the benefits your home site has to offer. Schedule a conversation with us today to learn more.