Tips from the Builder - Dan Steiner

A LOT Affects Your Homebuilding Choices, Cost

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Building your own home presents a lot of choices, but selecting the LOT is one of the most important. This decision can be daunting; however, Steiner Homes can guide you in lot selection with the helpful information below or by contacting us. Once your choices are narrowed down, our experienced personnel will even do a complimentary lot evaluation to make you aware of factors that could affect your budget in building on a particular site. Items to Consider in Selecting Your LOT…
  • Tree Removal.
    The need to clear trees and shrubbery off a site is an expense that will depend upon the number and size of trees or shrubs, as well as any unusual circumstances, i.e. a large tree leaning toward a neighbor’s house can affect price.
  • Lot Elevation.
    Terrain that climbs sharply up or drops steeply down changes the dynamics of a property. Likewise, a walkout costs more to build than a daylight basement, since backfill usually must be brought in or dirt hauled off the site. A rule of thumb: the greater the elevation change, the greater the cost involved in preparing a lot for construction.
  • Drainage.
    Beyond normal drainage around a home’s perimeter, a residential lot may require special drainage to prevent water from impeding on neighboring properties – an uncommon yet potential expense.
  • Septic.
    If a lot requires a septic system with a well, the costs will typically be higher. Although this is a greater initial investment, you are likely to recoup this amount over time since there will be no monthly sewer and water bills.
  • Developer Fees.
    A developer may charge a review fee. Some developers charge a 1% fee to build in their subdivision. Others charge a $1,000 reimbursable fee to ensure landscaping is completed. Know developer fees in advance.
  • City and County Fees.
    Within Northwest Indiana, a few cities charge up to $7,000 more for a building permit, and some areas require conduit for electrical wiring that could add up to $5,000 more a home. Call Steiner Homes to find out what communities charge higher fees.
  • Subdivision Covenants.
    Some subdivision covenants govern things like the amount of masonry and siding type, Steiner Homes will help you review the covenants and provide a quote for these items if needed.
  • Driveway Length.
    A longer than normal driveway requires more materials, more money. A Steiner home includes a concrete driveway using stone as a base to prevent washout. If the driveway is longer, we calculate a price of adding stone to the pad in front of a garage, and provide a cost breakdown of using asphalt versus concrete so you can make a cost-effective decision. Note: adding sand for the foundation of a garage or front porch also requires more materials.
  • Curb Cut.
    In a few subdivisions, the curb is required to be cut out to create a driveway; however, in most cases, this decision is left up to the home buyer. Either way, we can handle this request for a nominal amount.
  • Location.
    Our team at Steiner Homes are exceptionally familiar with Northwest Indiana and can guide you on the location that best fits your needs, your budget. Call us for more info.
Did you know?
In addition to lot selection factors, we, at Steiner Homes want you to be aware of various other expenditures in building a home so you can plan and budget accordingly.

Construction Loan.
Construction loans include the interest, inspection fees, title work and miscellaneous costs during home construction. The advantages of a builder carrying this loan far outweigh the minimal costs to a home buyer, as a builder assumes the risk and insurance on the house; reports directly to the bank with a higher level of accountability having already established a relationship; and expertly expedites all draws and fee issues. Note: 80% of Steiner Homes’ customers prefer us to carry this loan.

Engineering work is a normal part of building a home. This includes staking out the new lot and verifying the house is in the right location and elevation, i.e. the right height for a particular subdivision. Expenses vary depending on the level of complexity, as engineering septic and well systems take more time and labor. The costs are commonly passed on to the home buyer after they are established by the engineer.

A builder can and should provide up-front pricing for upgrades such as kitchen tile backsplash or crown molding, as this will avoid sticker shock to you later. Steiner Homes already offers numerous features as standard (solid hardwood floors, excellent trim package and others listed on our web site), but we are happy to quote on further desired upgrades.

To be competitive, builders select specific products to incorporate into their homes and negotiate pricing with local suppliers accordingly. Beyond a builder’s package, your requests for highly customized features can result in significantly higher prices, which are often a way for suppliers to realize a better profit than possible with builder-negotiated products. Typically, this is not builders applying an excessive mark-up.

Change Orders.
Once construction starts, home buyer requests for changes will incur charges that could significantly impact a home’s price. Even simple changes can cause a mountain of paperwork, involve extensive coordination among different contractors, and potentially cause delays in the building process. To minimize changes, we meet with home buyers during the design phase to ensure you are comfortable with all decisions before building begins. Rule of thumb: the farther along in the construction process that you change items, the greater the expense.

I Love my Great Room

As Steiner Homes we love to design great rooms that people love and that make it very inviting for family and friends to gather in. Here are some things that we focus on to make this a “great” room.

My wife and I are very relational, so we try to set up our great room so that is a place where we can gather, talk and laugh. Here is what we do:

Our couches and chairs are pulled out from the walls and face each other. The center focus is our fireplace which is always decorated for the season but the seating is intentionally close and facing each other. We found that a floor outlet or two are great for putting lamps alongside couches and chairs for nice warm lighting without cords tripping someone behind the seating. We put a coffee table with cool building ideas on top for great conversation starters.

Tall windows with transoms over the top make the room warm and bright. We put lighting on the exterior of the house outside the great room so that in the evenings you can watch the snow, wind and rain. It’s very relaxing to watch snow fall against the trees. As a builder I try to encourage people to have the great room, kitchen, and master bedroom facing south wherever possible. This gives great light, warmth, and sunsets to your main living areas. Large windows make all the difference.

Fireplaces with a raised hearth are really nice to have. A raised hearth is perfect because it provides seating and a great spot to warm up with a nice fire going. We usually put in fireplaces where you can burn real wood or put in gas logs depending on your preferences. A nice deep mantle gives you a place for candles, seasonal garland and vases for flowers. We like a fancy mirror above the mantle so that the light from the candles or lighted garland shines off of the mirror. Make sure to put an outlet on top of the mantle so that you can plug a small lamp in or your garland. We love the smell of a real fire and Yankee candles burning.

If possible a cathedral or vaulted ceilings in the great room give it an open feel. Warm paints that aren’t too bright seem to make the room more inviting. We also try to connect the great room to the kitchen, nook by columns and arches or by doing that with a half wall in between the rooms. A half wall is nice in that furniture can be set but you still feel a part of what’s happening in the kitchen. Some people don’t want to eat in the great room but my wife and I want people to have a snack or a glass of wine without us being upset about it. There are 2 ways to deal with this: one is to have wood flooring with a large rug in the middle, this ads a small amount of noise but feels rich and warm. The other is to install a carpet type that is easily cleaned. We installed a short tight woven commercial carpet that is very easily cleaned even with a wine spill. We love our carpet and it feels and looks comfortable.

Often times we build bookshelves alongside the fireplace, this provides a great area to decorate and to have interesting books close at hand. Built in shelves can be fairly inexpensive to build but give the room a really nice feature. We have made a lot of our fireplaces either with stone, tile, or brick surrounds or with a limestone cap on the hearth. Side columns and a well built mantle seem to anchor the fireplace as a focal point. Often times we take the stone all the way to the ceiling and that is really a stunning effect.

Some people prefer a television in their great room so we try to decide on a location before we build so that we can get an outlet and cable into the wall for a wall mount TV. We have found that a television over the fireplace works okay if you lower the hearth so the television is not too high. When we do that we will put a 2” conduit pipe through fireplace wall to run your cables. That way, any changes in cable technology don’t force you to rip apart your drywall.

We have pictures on our website so that you can see many of these ideas. We also customize almost all of our homes so that you can really design the great room that you love. We have many floor plans with pricing and standard features on our website. We work very hard at designing a house of your dreams quickly and with your input in mind. People have been very happy with our pricing and keeping it within their budget. Feel free to check out our website and to understand what we are all about. It has always been my wife’s and I dream to build unique cool homes that people love to live in.

A Kitchen to Gather In Part I

How can a builder help you create your kitchen so that everyone loves hanging out there?

Most moms love when the family gathers in the kitchen to relax, talk, and to eat together. So the challenge that I love as a builder is to make that kitchen/ nook as warm and as functional as I can so that everyone loves to spend time there. Here are a few of our secrets that we use to make the kitchen warm and usable.

We have found that if the kitchen is too tight or constricting it feels and works badly. We always try to have at least 42” between islands, cabinets and appliances. 42” inches allows 2 people to work or walk in those areas of use. The nook which we always try to make free flowing out of the work area of the kitchen needs to be large enough to have a table that fits the needs of seating family and or friends. There again we try to have 42” behind chairs so that getting in and out is easy.

Having a large kitchen pantry is so valuable for storing lots of items out of the way but still within easy access. We try to build lockers off of the kitchen so that all of the things that come home with the kiddos are easily stored before they come into the kitchen scrounging for a snack or a drink.

Having a good amount of large windows in the kitchen/nook make the rooms feel open and warm. That normally includes a double full glass door that has easy access to a back deck with a grill and an outdoor sitting area. In Northwest Indiana it is really nice to make this area screened in. If the area is a deck with screening and a roof normally the costs are generally pretty easy on the wallet.

The island presents so many nice features for the way we live today. A large island with plenty of seating around it provides the opportunity for people to help prepare food, drink wine or just chat with whoever is working. The chairs or bar stools need to be very comfortable and not too tight together.

Quality cabinetry with certain features can make the preparers life so much easier. Dovetail drawers with wood sides and easy close drawers will give lasting ease. Some specialty cabinets that aren’t too costly give mom the ease and enjoyment of working in the kitchen (or husband as in my case).

To be continued

Dan Steiner

Build Your Perfect Master Bedroom Suite

As a builder, we do everything we can to make the master bedroom a retreat area, without adding much expense. When the pressures of life have come down on Mom and Dad on a given day, it can be quite refreshing to be able to “get away.” I will provide some of the features/finishes that we create to make the master bedroom suite a worthy getaway.

To make the master bedroom feel roomy, we recommend constructing a cathedral or tray ceiling. We make the sides of the tray ceiling flat, so that we can add crown molding trim and place rope lighting behind it, to give a warm and pleasant feel. From that point, we angle the tray up to give it an elegant feel. In our current model home, we painted the walls of the room and the flat part of the ceiling a green color, leaving the tray ceiling in white. This allows the room to feel “tall” and open.

Lighting, air circulation, and television location are all considerations when designing the master suite. As a standard feature, we always wire all of our bedrooms with an option for a fan light. Most customers install a decorative fan light, centered in the tray area of the ceiling. To add to the comfort of the master suite, we take time selecting a television location, and occasionally set-up the room for a nice sound system. We often place the television opposite the master bed on the wall, to enjoy watching a movie away from everyone. We recommend installing wall switches on either side of the master bed, so that lamps can easily be switched off. My wife said that if she built her dream master suite, she would install a fireplace, for that warm, romantic feel.

The size of the room is an important factor, especially when considering the size of the actual bed. For those that have a king size bed, a room that is at least 14’ x 17’ is generally pretty important. Our master bedrooms are typically designed with a minimum of those dimensions. Also, we like to design our master suites with sitting rooms alongside the bedroom area. This room can serve as an office, a reading room, a workout room, or even a nursery. A set of glass French doors or a single closing door can separate this room from the bedroom. This room is serviced only through the master and provides that “retreat feel.”

One subtle little thing that we advise people to do is to put a keyed lock on the bedroom door - that goes without explanation – ha ha! Seriously, we try to keep this room separated from the other bedrooms as much as possible in the floor plan, to provide privacy away from the children’s bedrooms. Another effective trick of the trade is to insulate the master suite from the first floor and other rooms around it. If the master shares a wall with the Great Room or Kitchen, insulate the wall and the noise level reduces, substantially.

Dan Steiner

Steiner Homes is building beautiful new homes in all of Northwest Indiana.
Contact: Steiner Homes -
Christina Gerke: (219) 916-3744
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