Buying and developing a plot of land often involves needing to build a driveway to get vehicles there. So how do you start building a driveway on your land?
Among the steps you potentially have to take to build a driveway on vacant land includes asking the city for a permit to build a driveway or do construction. If your property is “landlocked” and doesn’t have a street you might have to ask your neighbor if you can build a driveway on their land.
While the process may vary based on the situation, we’ll talk about some basics regarding how to approach building a driveway on a vacant lot. Some of this involves working with your city, some of it your neighbor, and potentially a construction crew.
- You’ll want to start by ensuring that your property joins the road at some point. If you are landlocked, you should start talking to your neighbors about joining driveways.
- A permit will be needed at some point for the purpose of construction as well as for joining a street.
- If you choose to do it yourself, you’ll be responsible for passing your city’s code. A contractor bears that responsibility if you hire one.
- A driveway is often the first thing you’ll want to build if the vacant land needs building materials but is not driveable.
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How do I build a driveway on vacant land?
If you’ve owned a fairly typical home before, you may not have thought about the importance of a simple driveway. The driveway just connects the street to your land and home, making it more convenient for you to arrive without parking on your lawn or going over a curb.
Building a driveway might be one of the first things you have to do on vacant land - just in an effort to bring construction materials onto the site. While many new land buyers could easily take a truck or even a sedan and access land that has grass and not grown trees, it’s often easier with a bit of pavement or gravel.
Optional first step for building a driveway on vacant land: contact your neighbor
If your land doesn’t have a road connected to it, you might have to ask your neighbor for permission to build a driveway through theirs. This is definitely a situation where it helps to build a positive relationship with the people around you!
Why is that? Well, you are going to need what is called an easement anyway. A solid relationship with a friendly neighbor can produce an easy easement - with at most paying your neighbor a bit for consistent access to their land. The other option involves going to the local court and in some way, forcing your neighbor to allow you to build to access a public utility.
Note that if you have multiple neighbors, you might be better off asking more than one to see which is the easiest to work with. Asking can be really easy, as it is possible to just share a driveway and connect one to someone else’s.
We bring up the idea of your neighbors first because building on your neighbor’s property without their knowledge is not a good idea. You could encounter legal problems and have to tear down any structure you built or risk further penalties.
Get a permit from the city
Most cities will require that you pull a permit in order to have local authority permission to connect your land to the street with a driveway. This does make sense considering that you are joining a public street, and there is likely to be curb work done to make the driveway possible and safe. The process of asking for a permit should be fairly easy, and any company you hire to make the driveway. A permit can also result in an inspection by a city representative to make sure that the driveway is up to local code.
You may also have to pursue your local department of transportation (sometimes within the same place as city hall) to get authorization to connect to the street.
Clear the land
Do you have trees or other natural elements on your plot of land? You’ll need to remove any “obstructions” from your land before you are able to start paving or laying down a gravel driveway.
You could do land clearing yourself, but the next important part is a bit more difficult: Grading the surface so that it is nice and even so that the driveway is nicely driveable. While not everyone needs a perfectly smooth or straight driveway, the use of certain inflexible materials like concrete may require a flat surface.
Who fills out the permit for a driveway on vacant land?
If you are hiring a contractor to do the work, they will often pull a permit for you and charge you a small amount - mostly because their time isn’t free. Contractors become experts on pulling and completing permits because most of their work requires a city permit, and once they understand the city code, they can get it done easily. Having the contractor pull the permit also means they are responsible for the final outcome.
Let’s say that you decided to pull the permit and do the work yourself. If you completed the work but later the city deemed it not code-worthy, you would have to repair it to legally use it. In the case of a contractor, the contractor who pulled the permit would have to come back and make repairs.
The schedule and guidelines for how your city works within the code is often outlined on the permit. You probably don’t have to worry about this too much if you aren’t pulling the permit, though.
How many permits will I need?
We suggest contacting your city and local department of transportation. The low answer is 2, which includes a permit for any construction going on within your land. The other is for connecting the street. There could be more!
Do you need a driveway right away for a vacant lot?
If the vacant lot isn’t hilly or full of trees, you might not need a driveway immediately. Hopefully, you have a truck or large SUV capable of moving materials in the event you need any.
We’ll also point out that in some cases, you’ll need a complete plan for your vacant lot before you can buy it. This would include the construction of a driveway as well as a business or home. You’ll probably know the order of these things before signing the final purchase agreement.
What materials should I use?
This one is entirely up to you! You’ll want to call or look around to see how much materials like gravel, concrete, or asphalt cost. Gravel requires some maintenance but often has a cheaper upfront cost.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling