Designing your new home

Designing Your New Home
Show notes:

Building your new home is exciting and it all starts with the initial design ideas.  We discuss preliminary architectural design to fit your family’s needs and lifestyle.  How different building sites and geographic locations affect your home’s design.

You don’t have to be an Architect to design your own home.  Listening to your ideas and placing them in our design processes creates the first set of plans so you can see and understand your home project.  Quick permit approval through properly designed and detailed plan sets specific to your building departments requests.

On this episode, Landmark Home and Land Company president Steve Tuma discusses the process of designing your new panelized kit home.


Stephen Interviewer: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me as always is the President and Founder of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want exactly as they want across the nation and worldwide since 1993, Steve Tuma. How are you doing buddy?

Steve Landmark: Excellent. How are you doing today?

Stephen Interviewer: Life is good. I’m excited to get into this episode. I’ve been talking through with some friends of mine about building new homes and perhaps getting into the process of a panelized home. Since you know so much about it, I thought I would ask you a few things like – well, let’s say I were a new Landmark customer. How would Landmark – sort of layout how Landmark would work with me to start off with to design my new home?

Steve Landmark: Well, that’s an interesting process because a lot of this depends on kind of where you’re going to build and different lifestyles that people have. If you’re living in the city, maybe where you’ve got a 50 by 100 lot or 75 by 100 lot, that’s one situation. Maybe you’re a family that has got an active lifestyle and you live in the mountains Colorado. Maybe you’re someone that likes to ski. So again, it’s a mountain property. Maybe it’s a city situation. Maybe it’s raw acreage. You know, you’ve got 20 acres somewhere that you want to build or even waterfront or ocean or lakefront. They’re slightly different processes. But fundamentally, we’re believers in making sure that the house fits your lifestyle, but also that it fits the land properly.

So generally what happens is families will come through and they will have an idea to some point of – at the preliminary thought stage, saying, “Hey, I need 2000 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths and a two-car garage and we’re an active family. So we’ve got bikes and motorcycles and trucks and minivans and whatever we need.”

So there’s generally an idea. So some people may be active. Some people might be centered more around the work. They need something set up at their house. A lot of home offices are coming in, retirees that have businesses, younger couples that have businesses. So they want to have a separate office or work space. There’s also many people that have like really interesting hobbies. Some people are into woodworking. Some people make large scale model planes. Some people are into railroad. Some people are into music.

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So you kind of tie the whole concept together of where they want to live and sometimes people say, “Hey, I want to build in a certain town in Colorado and this is what we want.” So they will go through and generally the customers will have a general idea of what they believe they want. So they will go through and say, “I want a two-story. I want a big wrap-around porch. I like wrap-around porches. When the families come over, we could spend time together and we got to have a two-car garage or a three-car garage,” for whatever reason.

So we will work at that general idea. We will review the plans, look at it. Customers will generally say, “Hey, I need to make that better and bigger. Make the garage larger, you know, or move the garage to the side,” or whatever it is. So then we would work with them and also figuring out where it’s going because if you took a house, say just a – for the purpose of a simple picture in everyone’s mind, a 1000-square-foot ranch, just a typical all-American ranch and you put it on flat land in Iowa, the foundation and design will likely be very different than if you stuck it on the hill in Colorado with a higher snow load.

Then yet if you said, “No, I want to go build this in Key West in Florida where the hurricanes are at,” suddenly the structure will look a little bit different. You know, so we have to be able to be flexible. The concept being that if you’re building in Iowa on a flat piece of land, you could do a slab, crawl space or basement.

If you’re on the side of the hill in Colorado, you’re probably going to have a crawl space or maybe a walkout basement to work with the slope of the land. If you’re building on the Florida Keys, it’s probably going to be up on stilts, so that the home is above the storm surge. So that’s what we have to look at is how does the concept of the customer saying, “Hey, I want a certain size home with so many bedrooms and such a garage.” How do we actually fit it to the land and make sure that it works? That’s one of the very important things because there’s regulations that come into it, but there’s also just kind of common sense things.

I want to be able to get my house. Obviously, if you’ve got a house on stilts in Key West, you got to have a staircase to go up to the door and you’re not going to have a basement. In Iowa, you could do whatever you want. So that’s one of the things. We kind of take the concept, the light bulb. Hey, I want to build a ranch home and then we can take it down to the point where we could develop a permittible and buildable set of plans. That’s where we come in is taking the concept, putting it on paper, so that it works, makes sense, works in the budget that they’re shooting for. You can obtain permits and then also build it.

So that’s how we work. We take their idea and formulate it down into something on paper, so that they can see the house, obtain permits and then also go through to build it.

Stephen Interviewer: Well, I’m your average customer and let’s say this is the first time I built a house. Now I’m not an architect. So is there some way, like is there a variety of templates or plans that I can work with that I – to start with say and design my own sort of ideas based around something that Landmark already has or do we have to start from scratch?

Steve Landmark: We can start from any point. We’ve actually got a couple of thousand plans on our website. So –

Stephen Interviewer: A couple of thousand?

Steve Landmark: Yeah, a couple of thousand and so people can go through and search through to say, “I want a two-story from 2000 to 2200 square feet with a three-car garage.” It will come up with a selection. They can use those as a starting point or they can actually develop their own ideas. We’ve actually had some people that have sketched it on a napkin.

Stephen Interviewer: That would be me.

Steve Landmark: Yeah. Well, it works. You sketch it out on a napkin. You text it to us or fax or email it to us and then we can grow the idea from there. So you don’t have to be an architect. You don’t have to go back to your high school drafting class ideas and figure this out. Just get us your concept. We’ve worked with people that are deaf. We’ve worked with people that are blind. So they don’t always have an ability to get the details to us. But we are able to understand the concepts and then get it to paper. So whether you can put it on paper or not, we can work with you. But most people have a general concept. They will say, “Hey, I want 1500 square feet with a basement and a two-car garage.”

But we do have the ideas on the website. They can send us their ideas. We will take it from there, put it on paper and in our preliminary plan stage, we can go through and actually review their needs. So we could draw it up. They could see the rooms with all the dimensions, the elevations, the roof plan and a preliminary foundation plan. So then you could look at it and say, “Hey, that’s what I want. But I still want to add a two-car garage. I need to redo the kitchen. Let’s add a window in the dining room overlooking the big backyard.”

We can work all those details out in the preliminary plan stage. The idea is they can then get – design and build and get the house that they want. That’s the key element. They’re not stuck with having to choose from 10 plans and then hope that they work.

Stephen Interviewer: So if I’m working with Landmark and I’m designing a plan, either on my own or based on something that you guys have on our website, let me ask you one thing. Obviously, you’re not going to make me feel like an idiot when I call. But is there some way that I can count on Landmark sort of talking me through things or even let’s say I’ve got a good idea, but it may not work with that design. Are you guys able to tell me why and maybe tell me what the alternatives would be?

So maybe I’ve got an idea for a certain stairwell or something. But – and you say, “Well, that won’t work for that design. But here’s what we can do.” Are you guys that involved in the process.

Steve Landmark: Oh, yeah, we can help. We have full architectural services, full structural engineering. So let’s just say someone is asking for something that they saw in a picture someplace and sometimes this happens. They see a picture of a $10 million home and it has got some dual spiral staircase that’s suspended and all these things. The staircase could have been $200,000 itself. They say, “Hey, this is what I want. But I want to put this in my $300,000 house.”

We could take the concepts and put it into the house so that we can work through to make sure that the rise and run of steps, make sure the steps fit, make sure it puts together and go through to a – make sure the end result is there.

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: Now obviously, if it costs $200,000 to build a custom staircase in some mega mansion, it’s probably not going to fit in a regular $200,000 home. But the concept being – is we can give them a nice staircase. We can give them the entry they want. We can work with them on the kitchen layout and that’s the key element that we could do is go through to put some reasonableness to the design, so it makes sense on what they’re building and also work towards the target budget.

That’s one of the key elements that I see because a lot of times, people’s ideas are pretty good. It doesn’t match the budget or sometimes they just don’t understand like you were suggesting, saying, how do I go through and take this general concept of – hey, how do I get my bedrooms here? How do I get a Jack and Jill bathroom? How do I get a big family eat-in kitchen? Or hey, we don’t really need a dining room but we need a gaming room or a theater room.

How do we tie it together? That’s exactly what we do in the plan process because a lot of people understand, hey, I want a bedroom 12 by 12, the extra bedroom 12 by 12, the master bedroom 14 by 14. But the actual putting it together is the key element I think of how we can help and that’s where we come into it because there’s a lot of code details. Hallways have to be a minimum width. Staircases have to have a certain rise and run on the steps and those are things that we calculate so that it’s all put together. Make sure there’s enough space in the kitchens. Make sure the windows are the right size for egress so that if there’s an emergency and someone had to jump out the window, the window is the right size.

So we can work in a lot of those details. So you’re right. You don’t have to be an architect. You can just be someone with an idea and then we formulate it into a set of plans that’s usable.

Stephen Interviewer: You had mentioned Colorado for instance. I imagine your experience since 1993, it’s a long time to be in business, you guys have pretty much built houses in every state. I would imagine in every kind of terrain possible. So are there some terrains like mountainous areas or beach areas or desert areas? Are there some environments that are maybe a little more difficult or can you pretty much solve everybody’s problem no matter where they’re building?

Steve Landmark: Well, we’ve been able to work in all those areas. I mean we built in areas that are below sea level. We built in the highest populated city in the 48 states, Leadville, Colorado. We built houses in the Florida Keys, right in Hurricane Alley. We built them in California right on the earthquake zones.

So all of those, we can help customers. But they have different applications.

Stephen Interviewer: Right, right.

Steve Landmark: And in certain places, there’s more regulations. Like if you go into certain states, there’s parts of Texas and Missouri and other states, where in some areas you don’t need a building permit. You could just go out and start building your house and then there are other places where it gets to be very complex. There’s a lot of regulations. But the reality of it is we’ve done it. So we understand the codes. We understand working through the processes. We understand what the building department requests. So it’s pretty rare that we get stumped.

Some of these details can be pretty in-depth. We’ve got different projects going on right now where some building departments are asking some questions that are pretty extreme. They sound weird. But when you think about it, it kind of makes sense.

Let me bring one up. This is the first time ever. It’s in Newport Beach, California. They’re asking us to do structural engineering for the handrail, to know that it will support a 200-pound weight if – you know, so the idea being that if someone fell, they grab the handrail. It would be supported. It wouldn’t come out of the wall.

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: Now someone could say, “Hey, that’s picky.” But hey, if you were falling on your staircase, wouldn’t you want that?

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So it sounds interesting. We got another one where they need to do a landscape plan. We’ve done them before. So I kind of thought, “Hey, they probably just want to make sure you don’t plan the big old oak tree between you and your neighbor’s house so that the fire department couldn’t get through.”

I’m thinking, “Well, that kind of makes sense.” But they’re asking about where their geraniums are, where all the different posies and the tulips are going and they actually want to know if the nutrition – there’s enough nutrition in the soils to support that plant. Now someone could say, “Hey, that’s crazy,” and it kind of is a little extreme. But on the other side, isn’t it nice to know that people are going to be spending money to plant plants that will grow instead of spending money on landscaping and it doesn’t?

So those are extreme situations. But most situations, the building department wants to know that it’s clear what you’re building. So that they can go through and make sure like egress for windows are good, hallways are the proper width. Make sure light and ventilation codes are proper. They want to know structurally it’s sound, so it stands up and it doesn’t sag.

All of us have gone through neighborhoods and you see a sag in a roof or a deck or a front porch that’s kind of leaning. That devalues the neighborhood, so the building departments want to know that structurally it’s sound. More and more want to know that the house is energy-efficient. You know, a lot of people say, “Why do I have to do energy codes?” I’m like, “Well, it’s going to save you money.” Your house is going to be more comfortable. It’s going to be more affordable to heat or cool it.

Then in some places, they have green codes just to make sure that you’re building a house with the most sustainable materials that are there. So we can go through and do all these things. We can also develop the site plans, make sure the house fits on the lot, building setbacks, make sure the driveway is put together properly. Those are the details that we can work with to supply a set of plans so that it’s clear to the building department, the customer and the contractor what’s to be built or the subcontractor.

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: A lot of our customers actually build their own homes. Some people, their whole family is involved. Other people kind of manage it and they hire people. So we look at the set of plans not as a hassle. We look at them as a method of communication to make sure it’s clear between the customer, the building department, and then the subcontractors. That gives you control of the project. It helps you control your schedule because you’re not doing a bunch of changes and getting delays and people say, “Well, I thought you wanted that. There it is right on the plans.”



Then it also helps you control your budget because you could preplan what you’re going to build and then go through. Sometimes people say, “Oh, Steve, why do I have to engineer the house? Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to do that?” and I said, “Well, it’s kind of simple. When was the last time you drove from Los Angeles to New York and said, hey, let’s just drive west from Los Angeles? Never.” You kind of get an idea. You look at a map and you get a general idea.

Stephen Interviewer: Yeah, of course.

Steve Landmark: So building the home is – should be the same thing. It gives you control and understanding of the project. That’s how we can help people. I think that’s an extremely valuable process and I kind of call it doing your homework upfront. Know what you’re doing and then start building instead of start building and then doing changes because – an interesting thing that I hear is, “Oh, home projects always go over budget.” I say, “Well, are they going over budget or were they improperly planned?”

Interviewer: Ah-ha. Right.

Steve Landmark: Or are people doing changes? So when they’re working on the budgets – say Stephen you were doing something and you’re working on a budget. Say you have a $350,000 budget to build a house and you said, “Oh, OK. To make 350, I’m not going to put the Jacuzzi in the back deck.”

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: Well, the house is built. You fall in love with it. You say, “Oh, I got to do the Jacuzzi.” Well, is that a change or is that an over-budget? Because you just weren’t straight with yourself upfront on the budgeting. So that’s what we suggest people do.

Stephen Interviewer: It sounds to me like there’s an extensive consultation that comes with being a Landmark customer, which I think is pretty amazing. I’m not so sure that – even if the average customer might think that they have a – that they have a solid idea of what the house is that they want to build. It sounds to me like Landmark is willing to work through the process of design, to get me as close as possible to my let’s say dream home and yet bring me into reality in a nice way.

Steve Landmark: Right.

Stephen Interviewer: So that I know that I’m getting good advice that’s going to help me in the building process.

Steve Landmark: That’s kind of the point. Sometimes it’s not just getting into reality. It’s understanding the process.

Interviewer: Right, yeah.

Steve Landmark: All of us have lived in a home or apartment before. We know what a window is. We know what a kitchen is. We know what a toilet is. We know what a door is. We know what a floor is. But how do you put that together so that it works for you? So people will understand that that’s where we come in.

So if someone has got an idea, step A, and they want to get to step Z, Z is the finished house, move in, invite your family over, we can help in the processes that are there to make it easier for them, make the project more successful and then minimize the learning curve. That’s kind of the key element.

So someone could call up and say, “Hey, Steve. My building department just asked me about green codes. What is that?” Bam! We have the answer. We can go through, figure out exactly what needs to be done, put it together. Other things that are coming up, building departments might come up with sound-deadening situations. Some of them are saying, “Your house can’t emit more than 50 decibels of sound, so you don’t annoy your neighbor.” You know, different situations like that.

We can help with it. So instead of someone having to research or go ask other friends, we’re an email, a text or a call away and then we could provide that answer so that they can go through. The key to it, a lot of these things we’re dealing with upfront and the customers don’t even realize it. It’s just part of our process.

Stephen Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: It’s part of our process of doing it right and helping the customer. We’re providing value. We’re not just drawing plans saying, “Hey, here’s a cute house.” We’re making sure that the design makes sense for what they intend to do.

Stephen Interviewer: Well, we’re about out of time now. But Steve, once again, thanks for all the information. Can you give us the website and the phone number, so the listeners out there can get a hold of you?

Steve Landmark: Yeah. The best thing to do is you can give a call, 800-830-9788 and then also the website, it’s four letters, kind of the initials of Landmark Home and Land Company, So L as in landmark, H as in home, L as in land, C as in company dot com.

Stephen Interviewer: Awesome. That’s about it for today, folks. Thanks for joining us again on the Panelized Home Show for Steve Tuma. I’m Stephen Savage and we will catch you next time.

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