Site Clearing | House Building Update No. 1

As step one in the construction of our new, custom designed cottage, we are starting site clearing. Our building site is essentially covered with mature trees, some of which are possibly over one hundred years old.


Arrow Hill Cottage Construction | Week 1

For future construction updates, please visit this link

It feels a little surreal to be writing this post documenting the start of a construction process, after ten plus years of dreaming, planning, and calculating. And, in full disclosure, we aren’t even fully sure that everything will be going ahead just yet.

site clearing in preparation for our new house build

We are currently in a holding pattern, waiting on appraisal results. The bank wants to know what the value of our property, with the house we are proposing, will be worth when completed. This appraisal valuation will determine the amount of money they are willing to loan us for the construction.

Ideally, we would not have to go through the bank at all. Yet, as you are probably aware, building a brand new house is quite the investment. Knowing that we are planning to live in this house for hopefully the rest of our lives, we are willing to put more money toward it upfront.

However, as mentioned in a recent post about how to save money, we are a frugal pair. Spending this large sum of money is scary for us, and we want to be sure we are doing things in a financially wise way. Being guided by emotions alone could get us in trouble.

cutting down trees on the building site

So, for now, we wait to hear back. In the meantime, we want to be productive and moving in a forward direction. And so, this past weekend we started clearing the site.




Our building site features over two and a half acres of mature trees. Mainly, species of oak, maple and aspen. The land slopes toward a 6 acre pond. It is an incredible setting, and we absolutely want to be mindful of the unique natural features during construction.

building site with many mature trees

The photo above was taken many years ago, when we first purchased the property. Standing on the frozen pond and looking toward the land, one can get a clear view of the site’s beauty.

You can read about why we chose the name Arrow Hill Cottage for our property in this post. Take a virtual tour of the site by checking out this post.



Though it is sad to think of having to take down any tree, removing a hundred year old tree is that much more painful. However, there is simply no way around the fact that some trees will need to be lost in order to build a house on this particular site.

I was very careful, during the design process, to minimize the house footprint. This decision will reduce the number of trees that will need to be removed.

using a chainsaw to clear building site

We walked the property with our contractor and the excavator, to determine a general position for the house. They marked the trees that they felt would be within the footprint, or would be too close to the finished house. Then Craig and his dad set to work.



Thankfully, Craig’s dad has a lot of experience with cutting down large trees. Craig’s parents continue to heat their house through the winter by using a wood burning furnace. It definitely isn’t the most convenient method of heating a home, but the warmth is unsurpassed.

Instead of paying a tree removal company to come and cut down the trees, we were able to do a trade of service. By helping us remove the trees, we compensated Craig’s parents with wood that can be used to heat their house. A win for everyone involved.

preparing to build on the property

A few of the very large oak trees have long, straight trunks. We hope to find someone who is able to mill these into boards. These boards would then create a very special feature piece for the finished house – a harvest dining table.

one hundred year old oak tree will become a table



Though it was sad to cut down such large trees, it was an amazing site (and sound) to watch.




This process is so special for our family. Our boys especially are very interested in how the house will come together. They want to be involved as much as possible, and clearing the site offered a wonderful opportunity. Our oldest and youngest son joined us this time, while our middle son helped out by watching the girls.

Keeping the kids involved in the building process

They got a kick out of trying to use semi-dulled axes to cut at a few of the smaller trees. Hauling away the branches and loading the logs into grandpa’s truck were a couple other things that kept them busy while the adults were doing the heavy work.

hot chocolate break

Of course, there is always time for a short hot cocoa break! Showing our children the hard work that is involved in building a house is invaluable. We hope that these memories will stay with them throughout their lives. And I will cherish these photos.



After a few more trees are cleared, and we are able to mark out the property lines and the setbacks, we will be able to position the house. There is still a bit of a question as to the most suitable angle for the house.

huge oak tree felled from our land

On paper, it made sense to angle the cottage so that the porch was oriented toward the road. When standing on the site, however, there is an argument to be made in favor of rotating it so that the long dimension faces the pond. This would give the best pond view out of the living room window. It would also, according to the excavator, be less expensive when it comes to positioning the walkout and the amount of retaining wall that would need to be used.

site clearing by cutting down large oak trees

The trade off of this rotation is that the view from the kitchen sink wouldn’t be ideal. It’s likely we will end up splitting the difference between both rotations.

The positioning of the cottage is going to be pretty important. It isn’t like a wall color that can be changed in a few years!



If you enjoy following people who build their dream homes, consider checking out these fun blogs!

Little House Simple Living

The Sunny Side Up Blog



Keep this post handy, as a shortcut link to our entire building process! It should be a pretty exciting and busy summer!

Preparing the building site for our custom designed cottage




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  • This is so exciting!  I would agonize over the big decisions like house placement.  When you buy a house you can deal with the quirks or maybe less than ideal placement, but to have to make the decision and then live with it!  Yikes!  Such a great experience for your kids!ReplyCancel

    • Oh yes… there will be plenty of agonizing and over thinking every little detail! I hope we can survive this! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Oh I really hope you find someone to mill the straighter trees!  That would be anazing!ReplyCancel

    • We found someone! Talked to him this past weekend and he is coming to get the straight logs this week! So exciting!ReplyCancel

  • How exciting! I’m with you. It’s sad to think of the trees coming down after being there for so long, but you’ve done it so purposefully. It will be exciting to see the table in the future too! Best wishes!ReplyCancel

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