Skip to main content

Caveats of Mountain Living (Part 2)

Fortunately, the occupants of this once two-story home survived a damaging flood on Sept. 11, 2013. Theirs received the most significant damage within the Boulder city limits.

From wildfires to water supplies and the need for four-wheel drive, here are six things to consider to see if mountain living is right for you. You can read Part 1 here

WINTER ROAD CONDITIONS

Snow piles up quickly. If your road is not maintained by the county you will have to split maintenance and clearing fees with your neighbors and find that snowplow yourself. Four-wheel drive is a must (all-wheel is a fallacy, folks). Steep, icy lots are very slippery and many driveways have no turnarounds. Backing down a steep driveway in the dead of winter with a cliff on one side is definitely a brave art.

FLOODS AND SLIDES

This isn’t a game of shoots and ladders. Springtime and heavy rains can cause severe damage in the blink of an eye. Flash floods are serious, and you don’t necessarily need to live near a creek or at the base of a canyon to find yourself in harms way. Need proof? See the picture above.

Just because it hasn’t happened in 100 years doesn’t rule out the possibility of a flood, or worse. Rock and mudslides decimated numerous homes in Boulder County during the 2013 flood, so make sure to pay attention to the weather reports and see if you qualify for flood insurance.

WELLS

If your property is not on a district water system it most likely has a well. First and foremost, is it safe? It must always be down hill from the septic tank, and you should have it tested before moving in to make sure it’s potable and radon-free. Know your rate of production (gallons per minute). Waiting a full day to fill a bath might not be the luxury you were looking for.

Is there a history of other wells in the area running dry? If you’re building your own home there's a whole other set of questions to ask to see if a well is viable. Check before purchasing the plot.

SEPTIC SYSTEMS

As the most common method of household waste disposal in the mountains, septic systems are delicate. They are designed to handle a limited flow of water, so you may have to alternate baths and laundry, for example. It also leaches into the ground so it is important to make sure your septic tank is not uphill from your well or any other potable water source.

Make sure to use biodegradable and non-toxic products and realize that typical items you may dispose of in a city sink, such as eggshells, grease, etc. cannot go into a septic system. Even a well-maintained system will eventually fail and a new one can cost between $10,000 - $25,000, so keep putting pennies in that piggy bank to be prepared when that time comes.

There is a lot to learn about wells and septic systems. For in depth information specific to the Rocky Mountains, read the Colorado Extension's guide to mountain ground water systems.

FIX IT VS. DIY

If you have an appliance or other home repair that needs to be addressed quickly you may have to wait your turn. Often the nearest service person is from the not-so-near next town over, and with a large area for them to cover you may be waiting days or even weeks to get what you need fixed. Definitely learning the basics of home upkeep and maintenance will save you not only a bundle of money, but also a chunk of time and piece of mind.

WILDFIRES

A pristine Rocky Mountain view historically comes with the unfortunate chance of wildfire. Therefore, your insurance company will require a fire-defensible space around your home. Your mountain home takes maintenance to help stave off radiant heat from wildfires:

  1. Keep gutters, roofs and yards clear of leaves and flammable debris.
  2. Keep firewood away from the house unless covered completely in flame resistant material.
  3. Learn about home ignition zones.

Each home ignition zone requires certain actions, including removing flammable vegetation and trimming branches of trees up to 10 feet above the ground. The zones range in size from 30- to 200-feet around your home.

Contact your insurance company for their specific regulations. For example, each company stipulates a minimum required distance from your house to nearby trees in order to qualify for homeowners insurance, which is required by mortgage companies.

Find lots more information on how to keep your home safe at Firewise.org. Be prepared!

Return to Blog