Outer Banks builders and homeowners understand the unique challenges of building and living on a sandbar. Seasonal hurricanes and exposure to natural elements like salt, water, and wind, make constructing a structurally sound home in coastal environments a complex process. Despite building challenges, the Outer Banks’ grow in popularity for visitors looking to build second homes and primary residences, in fact, it was ranked the #1 best family beach vacation destination in the U.S. according to US News & World Report.
Building a beach house is a huge investment, and as Outer Banks custom home builders we understand the complexities of the coastal construction process. Before you start planning to build on the Outer Banks, you want to be fully aware of the challenges you can expect before beginning a project so close to the Atlantic Ocean.
Outer Banks Home Building Starts with a Custom Design
Building in coastal environments like the Outer Banks is different from other beach home construction projects. The home building journey needs to start with a custom design. Stock home plans do not always take into account the wind and water that come with living on a barrier island. Other challenges that dictate home designs are flood zone elevations, and height restrictions, which often dictate custom home designs.
North Carolina state building codes are very specific for coastal areas. Starting with a stock plan means you will still have to create the foundation and structural plans to address wind loading. Developing your own custom design can be done often for less money and gives you more control over the aesthetic appeal and ultimate cost of your oceanside home.
If You Must, Use Proven Existing Plans
Sometimes a custom home plan is out of the question. If you must use a stock plan, consider finding an existing plan from a coastal architectural expert. After designing a number of custom homes in Eastern North Carolina, we often suggest our own existing plans that are proven to withstand tough conditions for our clients.
“Over the years, we’ve noticed that after looking at a client’s ideas from house plans that they have been looking at, we end up using ideas from several different plans and incorporate them into a custom plan anyway,” says Paul Henriques, President of Premiere Contracting. “We have also made minor revisions to one of our existing custom design plans that meet all the client’s needs. Either way, the end result is creating a design and building a home that our clients are beyond excited to call their own.”
Working with a design-build construction firm can make all the difference in helping you develop a completely customized yet structurally sound home.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing Property on the Outer Banks
When you are purchasing and building in a coastal environment you and your home builder will need to consider a few extra steps compared to traditional projects. Here are a few tips from our experience that we use to help prep our clients before they start constructing a beach house on the Outer Banks.
Is your Home Builder Local and Knowledgeable of Coastal Environments?
Engaging with a local home builder that is knowledgeable of construction in coastal environments is very important before purchasing Outer Banks property. Local OBX home builders can help you identify restrictive covenants and architectural guidelines specific to the area you are considering building on. You’ll want to be aware of these rules as they might narrow the available options for your custom home design
Although a knowledgeable real estate agent can navigate you through most of the information, the builder can take construction considerations a step further. Looking at flood zones and wetland areas within the property. Even the shape of the lot can make a big difference in what type of house you can build.
Get A Site Evaluation with the Health Department
We recommend that future Outer Banks property owners request a site evaluation by the local health department. The evaluation shows if the property will support a septic system. A home builder uses this information to select a functional and correct location of the property’s septic field. This is typically required by a bank prior to closing on a lot purchase, but for owners looking to not finance the property through a bank then this will be an important consideration prior to the properties purchase.
Don’t Forget About Flood Zones
Under FEMA’s Flood Map, last revised in 2020, there are over 20,000 properties in unincorporated Dare County classified in various flood zones. While flood zones are not always bad news, they will affect the cost of your project.
Building in a V Zone, near the oceanfront, is more expensive and can potentially add cost to the total construction. You will also want to consider the additional costs required for upgraded wind-rated windows, homeowners insurance, and other building code-related requirements.
Before You Build
Once you have the perfect lot picked out for your new home, you will need to find the right Outer Banks home builder before you can start construction. The Outer Banks housing market has boomed in recent years. You might find builders from outside our sandbar who want to give coastal construction a try. We would suggest not doing that.
Choosing a home builder local to the Outer Banks offers you many advantages. Builders here have working knowledge of the right construction methodologies unique to coastal home construction. Most builders here have great relationships with building inspectors, permitting officials, local subcontractors, and vendors, giving you a strong team to handle your project.
Consult With an Outer Banks Construction Expert
Whether your Outer Banks property is oceanfront or sound side, coastal lots tend to have more setbacks than traditional landlocked projects. If you already have a design in mind, consulting with a construction expert can prevent major setbacks with your build. Misconceptions about a property’s risk, home design, and construction processes to withstand beach elements, can be costly later on.
“The trend is now maintenance-free exteriors which can be a real challenge to achieve in a coastal environment. Here at Premiere Contracting, we have developed product specifications that can meet that need and look amazing when completed,” adds Henriques. If you’re interested in finding more Outer Banks home design trends, we’ve compiled a list of 10 popular elements that will work with any coastal home.
Premiere Contracting designs coastal architectural plans that avoid the everyday look and withstand extreme conditions. Outer Banks new home construction projects are not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Our team has familiarity with localized building codes and understands the constant challenges of building on Outer Banks environments. View our portfolio or drive down Highway 12 to see our expertise for yourself.