Building a Home on the Canadian Shield

As beautiful as they are, the varied landscapes that make up our vast province can present challenges for Ontario home builders. Building in cottage country often means building a home on the Canadian Shield, which extends through much of Central and Northern Ontario.

Wondering what it’s like to build on the Canadian Shield? These are a few of the things you need to consider.

The Appeal of Building a Home on the Canadian Shield

Millions of years ago, the Shield was a mountain range. Now, the forces of nature have shaped it into a band of rock that is one of Canada’s defining geographical traits. Think of how often the image of stalwart pines clinging resolutely to rocky cliffs features in the works of the Group of Seven! It’s no surprise people are drawn to this landscape.

There is a definite appeal to having the bare face of the Shield on your property: its shape creates natural steps and levels, making the land unique and interesting. However, it is not without challenges both for landscapers and home builders in Ontario.

Laying a Foundation

The first challenge is excavation. Even where the rock is not visible, there may be only a few metres of soil between the surface and the bedrock, which makes levelling and digging for the foundation difficult.

In that case, builders will need to either blast the rock or raise the ground with additional fill in order to create room for a basement. Both may be expensive propositions for the homeowner. Homes built on the Canadian shield often have a shallow foundation with a crawlspace instead of a full basement.

Laying the foundation on an outcropping of the Shield requires more care and skill than pouring on flat ground since the concrete forms must conform to the contours of the rock. One must also account for the movement of rainwater and melting snow over the surface of the rock, ensuring water will not become trapped and accumulate under the foundation. This is definitely a job for home builders with experience in the area!


If the property is outside of town, you must also account for water and sewage during the building process. Country and cottage homes typically rely on a well for fresh water and a septic tank for wastewater disposal. However, on the Shield, this process is not as simple as excavating and laying a septic tank and well tile.

Adding underground plumbing may require blasting through the rock, which is often expensive; it may be worth exploring above-ground alternatives.


While rugged stone can be a beautiful addition to your landscape, it can also impose limitations. For instance, not all plants can thrive in shallow soil, and the terrain often has poor drainage.

Your first year on the property should be spent observing how the terrain responds throughout the seasons, especially during the spring thaw. Only then should you begin making major changes to the landscape.


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