Properly Planning Your Kit Home Project

Properly Planing Your Kit Home Project

Show Notes:

Proper positioning your home on your land adds to the home’s value and enjoyment.  Setting the floor plan up for entertaining and family enjoyment.  Can a home be “wheelchair friendly”, ADA compliant?  Cathedral ceilings add to the style of the home.


Interviewer: Hey everyone and welcome to 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. Steve, how are you doing my friend?

Steve Landmark: Excellent. How are you doing today?

Interviewer: Good.  I thought today we might hit upon the topic of design ideas and just the best – the way to get the best home possible when you start out and start thinking about how you want to plan your home project.

For one thing, we always talk about facing windows the right way, things like that. So I would like to get your opinion on how best to take advantage of let’s say the views around your land. Positioning the home itself on the land with windows, porches, things like that. So why don’t you run by some ideas for us on how Landmark can help us make that happen.

Steve Landmark: Yeah, we’re very flexible in the planning processes. But I think the point that needs to be made is typically a land will have a focal point, whether it’s in a city lot. Maybe it’s just the location. It’s easy to get somewhere. Maybe it’s literally a focal point of a mountain range, a waterfront situation or whatever it is.

So it’s good to take time in the planning phases to make sure that the value of the lot is achieved and the lakefront or waterfront lots, you’re probably paying a premium compared to a lot without a view.

So a lot of people want to take advantage of that and sometimes people come in and say, “Hey, here’s the plan that I want. It’s not taking advantage of the view.”

So we always like to work with people to see what the site is like. What are you achieving there? Is it just flat land? An ex-cornfield in the Midwest? Is it a city lot, a 50 by 100 where you’re pretty restricted on what you can do? But also what is a view if you are in an area with mountains or water or trees or sunsets and sunrises, whatever it may be? So we could take advantage of that so that people’s enjoyment of the land and the home is improved. But it will also help in the resale value.

Amazingly, a lot of those things will also affect the energy efficiency. You know, I brought up the sunrise. If you’ve got a very strong Southern-facing home, it’s going to affect the way your home is insulated and the heating systems. So there’s a lot of details that we’ve got to tie together to make sure that a house design is proper. It’s the comfort – you know, you liking the floor plan, being able to get in your driveway easy, trying to get in your garage easily. But also the energy efficiency of it as well.

So that’s an important thing for people to take a step back and we can help them with that. But to be able to go through and say, “Hey, what’s happening here?” and some people can envision it. Others will need a little more help. But that’s pretty simple to do on the design phases. We can sort different details out, make suggestions on window sizes, make suggestions where to put porches, where to put garage entries and different details like that so that the property flows well. It makes a more comfortable living.

Interviewer: Yeah, that makes sense. Now, I’m sure this has probably happened a few times. Maybe a lot of times. I don’t know. But what if someone comes to you and says, “Look, we like to entertain.” We want to design a house about – around – like say you have big family events. You know, people getting together a lot or you’re the kind of family that likes to barbecue a lot and invite friends over. If I were to bring that to Landmark and ask you about that in basic home design, is that something you guys would be willing to give good advice on?

Steve Landmark: Yeah, we could help and what’s interesting is we were working with a family in Hawaii where a lot of their family entertaining was done on the porch. So they wanted a huge porch. You know, Hawaii has got some nice weather. So they’re more of an outside situation. Then there are other people where they’re going to want a big inside situation and then also different people are going to live different ways. Some people literally have a table for 15 people. Other people, there are little packs of the family scattered around.

So the formal dining room is kind of becoming a little bit extinct and taking – being taken over by the great room.

Interviewer: Ah, OK. That’s interesting.

Steve Landmark: So some people could be watching TV. Other people could be sitting to the side. Other people could be doing certain – getting food ready in the kitchen. So there’s a lot of different situations. Then there’s also the classic man cave where you’re having a lot of people that have projects or some of them have little secondary living rooms in there. Others have a project car or something that they’re working with and it goes.

So the way that family lives I believe is very important. There’s no sense in having a formal living room for eight when you have 15 people and they’re scattered around in different hobbies or if you’re in a location where maybe it’s more of an outside activity situation, whether it’s barbecue outside or throw the kayaks in the lake and go for a ride.

So that’s I think a very important thing because a lot of people come through and go through and say, “Oh, I want a big house. I want 4000 square feet.” Well, sometimes a 3000-square-foot, well-designed home is better than a 4000-square-foot home. So I think working with people to find out what they’re after, what their needs are, what it is that they’re particularly looking for in a home and how they’re going to use it is very important. You can’t always assume that a typical husband and wife with two kids is going to live the same as every family that’s a husband and wife with two kids. There are different – just different activities that people take care of. Different climates kind of dictate different lifestyles.

Interviewer: Now what about – we’re talking about rooms, like formal dining rooms kind of being something that may disappear in the future. But there are some rooms that will always be mainstays of a house. One is, of course, the kitchen and the other one is the bathrooms and when someone comes to you and says, “I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for. But I know kind of what I want to do like say in a big kitchen or I know how I want my layout of my bathroom,” can people design their own bathroom-kitchen areas, et cetera with you guys?

Steve Landmark: Oh, that’s definitely the case. They could go to our website, find a plan that they like and still make adjustments to it. So we’re fully capable of making all the adjustments and that’s the key element because – you know, there are dual incomes, people with different schedules or hey, everyone has got to leave the house at 8:00. So sometimes taking a house and putting a double sink in the master bedroom or even the secondary bath – sorry, not a double sink in the bedroom but a double sink in the bathroom. It helps people get in and out.

More people are going where the sinks are kind of secondary and removed from the toilet and the shower. So we can break things up. So depending on people’s flow and their scheduling, they can get it put together. A lot more people are getting involved with larger closets compared to 1900 – modern day people have a lot more clothes. So we’re able to go through and lay the bathrooms out so that it’s convenient for them.

Some people like big showers. They just like to take a big, hot, steamy shower. So we’re finding more people are going with the walk-in showers instead of a tub shower combination unit.

And you know what’s interesting is in the design phase it’s relatively easy to put all those things there. We’re just making changes on paper and we can go through and make sure it ends up in the house. It’s a lot better than framing a house up and then doing the change. That’s the key element is doing it on paper and I think you also asked about kitchens. We can do the same thing there. Some people want simple kitchens. Some people want kitchens, gourmet kitchens. Other people want kitchens with big peninsulas or islands on them or three, four people can sit around. It becomes kind of entertainment central.

So all those details can be worked out and we can work with customers to draw the plans up, show the size of each room. So that then when they’re getting cabinets or appliances, they can go through and say, “Hey, we’ve got space for this,” or “Hey, we need to add something.”

We can lay it all out on paper and make sure everything fits. So the design phases upfront are very important to make sure that you get the house you want.

Interviewer: You had mentioned in passing anecdotally Hawaii. I have a good friend in Hawaii who’s in a wheelchair. She’s a young woman with a young family. She has got a little boy and husband and they just bought a house and had to have it retrofitted for her and let’s talk about that in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Are there certain design elements that you guys can help to add and does it affect the building site overall and how does Landmark help with that?

Steve Landmark: Yes, it’s very interesting because of the American with Disabilities Act kind of lays out details on everything and how the house needs to be designed and how it can work. But sometimes people don’t realize. It just doesn’t affect the house. It affects the site. Like, let’s just say someone had a wheelchair. Can they get their vehicle in? Can they get out of the wheelchair in the garage? Is there a ramp to get into the house? So there’s a lot of details that can affect the sinks and a lot of people generally think that the ADA is generally a physical handicap, like a wheelchair type thing. But it can also be a physical handicap in vision.

So people can – if they can’t differentiate colors or shadows as much, sometimes there are details that are done for colorizing appliance or certain kitchen items or different details. So depending upon how deep someone wants to get into it, we can do it all. A lot of people just say, “Hey, make it wheelchair-friendly. I’m OK now. But I had an accident from high school football and I’m 70 now. It’s kind of catching up to me. I might need a walker or something in the future.” So some people just say, “Hey, make it wheelchair-friendly or walker-friendly.” Other people want to get a little deeper into it.

But that’s the key element is understanding that all this stuff can be done on paper up front, making it real easy and then make sure that you understand the process. But the ADA deals with like the handicap situations or the disability situations I should say. But there are also situations in design much similar of hobbies.

You know, if someone is into writing music, if someone is into building model airplanes, if someone is into riding their bike. We’ve had people that are into equestrian activities and they need certain tack rooms or accesses or clean-up areas.

So just as with the ADA, just your lifestyle and how that all gets put together is very important as well and that’s what we’re able to help people with. I think people will see the value in taking the time upfront to make sure that details like this are put together.

Interviewer: That’s interesting what you bring up about things like – you had mentioned man caves earlier or even just TV rooms, home theatres. Nowadays, there are so many different things that just didn’t exist 15, 20 years ago and your business has been around longer than 25 years. So I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of changes in the sort of overall design that people are asking you to do.

Steve Landmark: Oh, there is. There’s a big difference. Just if you look at people’s lifestyles, home computing, home offices, home-based businesses, gaming rooms. You know, the dining rooms go in the way of the gaming room. You know, it’s better to have a place for the family to sit in comfortable chairs and play some games together. You know, there’s a lot of the attitudes and that’s the key thing.

So yes, trends change. Lifestyles change. Technology changes. The way people work change and sometimes people work at home. Sometimes it’s two generations of families combining to be able to afford a nicer home in a better location.

So it’s kind of interesting to see what’s happening with the economic crunch and the economy getting better and just the cycles that it goes through. It’s interesting to see how that affects it.

The bottom line is people want a comfortable home that they’re proud of. So you can still have a simple home and make it comfortable, usable and enjoyable to be there and also achieve the utility of taking care of you and what you need, if you have a home office, if you have a – you know, if you’re someone that has a work truck and you need a bigger garage door to get the truck in there or whatever it may be.

We had one person that had a little home-based business. They needed a separate little warehouse in their – or sorry, after the side of the garage so that for their tax situations, it was a separate little business. We also have people building little in-law units and the short term rentals like Airbnb situations where they’re adding little apartments for in-laws, rentals, a future place for kids to live after they get out of college. So the economy is kind of adjusting the design of the home. But it can all be put together.

Interviewer: That’s interesting because I have a friend who started a business and actually built a little factory right next to her house.  She and her husband had this separate but right on the same property. What I found also interesting is what you were saying about sort of – it seems to me like a design can actually bring a family together. They’re always talking about getting the kids off of their iPhones and get them sort of engaged with the overall family and house design, it seems to me, is a really good way to do that.

Steve Landmark: That’s exactly right and it can mold the lifestyle, the flow and how the family interacts. So it’s – you know, you have an eat-in kitchen. People get together at a certain time to eat or there’s the weekend barbecue or get-together. It allows people to engage. You know, remain human in this electronic world.

Interviewer: I was reading something about the kitchen island is becoming the new place. It’s where the family gathers. They’re just sitting right there in the kitchen and people are eating as they’re standing, as they’re walking.

Steve Landmark: Right.

Interviewer: Everything is changing.

Steve Landmark: Well, it’s becoming the kind of focal point, the central point. Way back, someone might have sat in the living room and talk. Now someone is leaving, someone is coming in, someone is in between something. So it’s kind of the crossroad where they can do it and so that’s what’s important.

But you bring up the kitchen. A lot of people are eating healthier as well. You know, the expensive eating out and then compared to eating at home, people are able to do it. They’re spending a little more time in the kitchen, making sure that they get the right food.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So …

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s great. It’s amazing how the actual design of your home can bring the family together just by how you’re thinking of how – where everybody is going to be.

Steve Landmark: Right.

Interviewer: Let’s jump to another subject and that’s ceilings and different sort of – I’m a fan of cathedral ceilings. What are the different design methods used for putting in a – let’s say a cathedral ceiling or something along that line?

Steve Landmark: Well, a lot of the times there are cathedral ceilings also kind of interchangeably called vaulted ceilings. Sometimes it’s just tall ceilings. You know, a tall wall with a flat ceiling, 9, 10, 12 feet tall. There are also tray ceilings which are kind of an indent into the ceiling. So if you had a flat ceiling, seeing a 12 by 12 room, you might have an indent going up 6 inches or a foot. Say that’s 10 by 10 within here.

So people can recess lighting or they just like the effect in the vaulted ceilings. The key element to this is there are always different ways of doing it. You bring up the vaulted ceiling. Like seeing a chalet type of home, which might have a 10-12 pitch roof, which is a relatively steep pitch roof.

A lot of people don’t always understand the connection of what that means to the pitch or the cathedral on the inside.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So you could have a steep pitch roof on the outside and still have a flat ceiling, a flat ceiling that’s eight feet tall.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Steve Landmark: You can then go through there, put a tray ceiling if you wished or if you want the full cathedral ceiling, you could do it in a variety of different ways with a variety of scissor trusses or in some cases, the scissor truss will allow for roughly half of the exterior roof pitch.

So a 10-12 exterior roof pitch will give you approximately a 5-12 interior roof pitch with a scissor truss. But you can also go through and do a parallel chord scissor truss which will give you a 12-12 or 10-12 pitch outside, 10-12 pitch on the inside. It’s a little bit easier.

Then the other one is a rafter and beam system which is a little more complicated and can sometimes be more dramatic. So it all really depends on what it is that the people are looking for, budget ranges and the desired effect.

Some people just want a cathedral on the inside that’s – you know, just has a little more volume. Others want a steep 45-degree angle going up. So it’s really dramatic. They could have big windows to look outside, you know, over a mountain range or water or just to let the sunlight in.

So that’s the important part and I’ve – I’ve never done a complete analysis of this. But I think a big expense in the house, at least the structure, is the roof system. There’s a lot going on there. If you’ve got a lot of ridges and valleys and corners in the home that complicate the roof, it can add to the cost.

So if someone wants a certain look, like a chalet design, there could be different ways of achieving that to control the cost. That’s what we’re able to do is look at this and say, “Hey, what is it that you’re looking at?” and let us kind of help you cut in the learning curve. We’ve got a lot of experience. So we could go through and come up with ideas to kind of value engineer and value design the home to make sure that you get what you want at a price that also makes sense.

Interviewer: You guys are so known for your customer service and being able to answer all these questions and that’s a good thing because this is – there’s a lot to know about designing a home.

Steve Landmark: Oh, definitely.

Interviewer: When you’re deciding to build your own and not buy a pre-built house. So yeah, it’s a good thing Landmark Home and Land Company is around.

Steve Landmark: Well, the key to it is taking the time upfront to understand what you’re doing, pay attention to it and we can help. We’ve got the designers and engineers, the energy code people, the site plan people, the green code people to take this. So someone doesn’t have to be an expert architect. They could just say, “You know, this is what I’m envisioning. I’m envisioning a big garage with a workshop at the end. I’m envisioning a kitchen with an island for four people.” We could take that concept and put it on paper.

Interviewer: That’s great. Well, we’re about out of time for this episode of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. But before we leave, Steve, tell our listeners how best to contact you guys over at Landmark Home and Land Company.

Steve Landmark: Now the best way is you can just give a call. We have 800-830-9788. You can view our website at That’s basically just the letters for Landmark Home Land Company, so You can also send an email to Mike at or I’m at We’re also on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube.

Interviewer: Right.

Steve Landmark: So we have a lot of information out there.

Interviewer: Well, all right. So for Steve Tuma and myself, thanks for joining us once again and we will see you next time.

Steve Landmark: Thank you.

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