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Zoning Laws

Module 2—Home Design Tutorial

This is Module 2 of the design your own home tutorial. These modules are best read in order. This tutorial covers complete house planning from initial site analysis through to creating construction drawings. If you are just starting out, go to the:

Home Design tutorial introduction or see our Tutorial Site Map to view the course contents.

Residential Zoning Regulations

Before you can start to design your own home you must investigate your local zoning laws to determine exactly what you are allowed to build on your land. You do not want to spend hours on a design you could never get approved to build.

There are a few ways of finding your local regulations.

  • Contact the building inspector at your local city hall or regional office.
  • Search online for published residential zoning laws for your city or region.

Your zoning by-laws will state:

  • Required setbacks from the street, rear and side lot lines.
  • Any height restrictions.
  • Limits on the percentage of land your home and outbuildings are allowed to cover.
  • Rules for the style of home you are allowed to build.
  • Regulations regarding whether you can build a multi-family home such as a duplex or triplex.
  • Any restrictions on the allowable uses of the home (such as operating a business out of your home).

Add Zoning Regulations to your House Plan Site Map

Now, on your site map that you created in the previous module,

  • Draw the setback lines for the front, rear and side lot lines. The setback distance refers to how far from each property line (front, side, and rear) that you are allowed to build your home. Remember that the setbacks usually pertain to decks, porches and even roof overhangs. The zoning regulations will state what must lie within the setbacks. Sometimes corner lots have different setbacks for the street side lot line.

Next, on the margins of the map:

  • Write out any other restrictions for the land. For instance, if the house can only cover 30% of the available land, write this down. If the lot is small or size restrictions may be an issue, calculate roughly what size house you can build.
  • Note any height or style restrictions your community may have.

Next Module—Planning Outdoor Spaces

With your map in hand, now it’s time to:

Plan your Outdoor Spaces—Tutorial Module 3

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