Building an MCM Hillside House on Stilts


Building on a downslope hillside lot in the hills of Los Angeles is, of course, absurdly expensive, labor intensive, and time consuming. It’s undoubtedly a fool’s errand for an average, inexperienced home owner like myself. 

But as I understand it, building a hillside house on stilts is marginally less expensive and easier than constructing a standard hillside home with an elaborate foundation. 

Purely for my own edification, how much less expensive is it? What’s involved? For context, my dream is to build a single story, 1,500 to 2,000 square foot classic MCM Neutra-esque hillside house on stilts. 

Aug 5, 22 12:06 pm
Non Sequitur
  1. Hire a fucking architect and structural engineer. Pay them for their time and they will answer all your questions.
  2. See point 1
  3. Hillside construction is wicked expensive... your foundation could be a million or more depending on condition esp in California.  Again, refer to point 1.
  4. Professional advice costs real money.  If you can't afford to hire professionals, you can't afford to build.
Aug 5, 22 12:10 pm  · 

Hire and pay an architect to answer these questions. 

I'm sure you're not aware but answering the questions you've asked are what architects are paid for.  

Don't go online to try and get answers to questions like this.  You have no idea what you're doing and thus won't know if the 'free' advise you're getting is accurate.  

Good luck.  

Aug 5, 22 12:51 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

but Chad, my free advice, as well as yours, is certainly accurate. Are your saying that paying a professional might result in a different answer? Please help keep me distracted on this sunny Friday afternoon.

Aug 5, 22 1:00 pm  · 
Wood Guy

I'll give you a somewhat less snarky answer. There are too many variables to answer your question with anything approaching accuracy.  

Aug 5, 22 3:28 pm  · 
1  · 

No idea on a delta btwn stepped foundations vs stilts...not sure it's significant for this level of dreaming

$3-600k to the foundation work

$2-5M for the house

18-22% for the professional fee

all guaranteed if you sign today

(just as good a guess as anyone's without any info...)

Aug 5, 22 3:53 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

What everyone else said about hiring an architect and engineer, but a little bit of free advice from an LA architect (and, no, before you ask, I'm not available):

Building Codes have changed a LOT since all of those beautiful stilt houses were built back in the 40s-60s, which is why you don't see many newer houses built that way. I'm not an expert, but my guess is it's probably not a big cost saving anymore, possibly even more expensive, and maybe just not possible at all.

(Also, a bit of an architectonic history digression: Those houses are not actually supported by those skinny little "stilts" - what they actually are, structurally, is cantilevered, with the "stilts" primarily there to stop the house feeling like it's bouncing when you walk around [think diving board].)

There are structural engineers who specialize in Los Angeles hillside construction - I'd look for one of them for real advice.

Aug 5, 22 4:16 pm  · 
3  · 

Someone watched Bosch recently, eh?

Aug 5, 22 4:30 pm  · 
1  · 

That is such a nice house though

Aug 5, 22 4:46 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

I loved that they explained how he got the money from a movie, since anyone in LA knew immediately that there's no way a detective's salary bought that house.

Aug 5, 22 5:34 pm  · 
1  · 

Thank you for all the replies. And apologies if I offended anyone. I have the utmost respect for everyone here and wouldn’t dream of asking anyone for free professional advice. Were I to persuade this as anything beyond a hypothetical question for my own edification, I would, of course, hire a professional architect and structural engineer. 

And I’ve actually never seen Bosch. :) Just currently live in an mid-century home and love design and architecture from that era. 

Aug 5, 22 10:34 pm  · 
1  · 

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