If anyone ever told you that building a home can be stressful, they were right. However, savvy homeowners choose a builder who will make it less so. But beyond making certain the company is licensed and insured and has provided a fair bid and a professional contract, how do owners determine whether a company will deliver on its promises and not tax their sanity? The answers lie in good systems. Companies with clearly defined management systems tend to be better organized, communicate more effectively and minimize unwanted surprises.

Three key systems that are key to a comfortable building process have to do with communications, schedules and responsibilities.

Communications. A recent Consumer Reports survey of more than 900 homeowners confirmed that, when it comes to building projects, miscommunication is the root of most ills. That’s why smart builders have solid processes for keeping homeowners informed at all times. Signs of a company that communicates well include detailed project descriptions (leaving no question about what the finished product will include), the ability to explain financial concepts (where, exactly, the dollars are going) and regular meetings.

Meetings eliminate problems by getting everyone to think through the job. A good example is the preconstruction meeting, where the homeowner meets with the builder’s team to review plans, schedules and job rules. This is also a time for the homeowner to ask questions and make requests (for example that certain trees be protected during construction).

Ongoing meetings, at a schedule agreed on by the builder and homeowner, tend to be shorter and less formal, but keep everyone updated on job progress and let the homeowner voice concerns and questions.

Schedules and Payments. The old adage “fail to plan, plan to fail” may have been penned by a builder: a schedule that details the job from start to finish is crucial to getting things done on time and within budget. Of course weather delays, delivery problems, change orders, and other unforeseen events can shift production schedules over time, but a well-managed company starts with a plan and updates everyone should dates change.

Payment schedules are just as important. The builder receives a percentage of the job cost as a down payment, and subsequent payments on completion of certain milestones: the finish of framing, the completion of mechanical and insulation inspections, etc. Well-planned payment schedules allow owners to clearly understand what is expected of them and helps the builder to manage his resources over the course of construction.

Who, what, when? At CL Design-Build, we invest time to help our clients understand how our team is organized and how to interact with team members. Who will be responsible for the job at each stage, including the final closeout and punch list? Who to contact with questions or concerns, what’s the best way to make contact, and how long before you can expect a response?

Understanding how the builder handles these kind of issues has real payoffs. The answers will indicate how effectively a builder communicates, pays attention to details, and has systems for getting things done on time and according to plan — all of which help make the building process the positive experience it should be.

If you have any questions about these three key systems, please email us at CLDesignBuild@aol.com or post your questions here on our blog or on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CLDesignBuild. Visit http://www.CLDesignBuild.com for more information about our process.




CLDB plans & modelChicago area company CL Design-Build, Inc. celebrates 14 years of home building in August. The family-owned, award winning business was founded in 2000 to offer a complete design and home building service to those in search of a quality home that fits their lifestyle, tastes, and budget. The company offers a one-point of contact for their clients for any size or style of home.

“Most builders only build the home that someone else designed for them or build the same home over and over again as if everyone buying their home lives the same lifestyle. I felt that I could better serve our clients by creating the design-build team,” said Cheryl Lee, president of CL Design-Build. “What sets us apart is our homes are truly CUSTOM, not cookie-cutter, and our designs are unique, not outsourced.” The design-build team is comprised of experienced architects, interior designers, and construction managers. The process provides clients with greater flexibility and creativity, better communication, less risk, faster delivery, singular responsibility, and increased cost savings versus separately hiring the architect & builder. Unlike many architects, we know the costs to build, so we design with those costs in mind, and unlike most general contractors, we understand the structural capacity of material without compromising the design integrity, so we build with design in mind. Essentially we take our clients from an “idea” to handing them the keys to the door.”

Today the design-builder is able to help their clients in every aspect of the building process. If a client does not already have a plan or drawing, CL Design-Build will help them create a plan from clippings and pictures of what they like. The client is also asked to bring a “wish list” of amenities they want to see incorporated into their project. Just before the plans are completed, the interior design team works with the client to select the finishing touches of their home such as fixtures, flooring and cabinets. Once the drawing and budget is agreed upon, CL Design-Build starts managing the construction phase of the project as the builder.

CL Design-Build prides itself on the relationship with their clients as well. Lee adds “We are with our clients every step of the way. I personally meet with our clients throughout the design of their home, during color & material selections with our interior designer, and at least 5 or 6 times on site during construction to ensure that their home is being completed to their expectations. It’s about quality, not quantity.” Due to this personal attention, their relationships with their clients last long after the warranty ends. “It is not uncommon for our past clients to open their doors to show off the quality and design of their homes to our prospective clients. That means so very much to me.” says Lee.

Over the last 14 years CL Design-Build has designed and built homes ranging in size from 2,100sf to 11,800sf all over the Fox Valley area. If you are interested in finding out more about CL Design-Build, please contact them at 630-882-8822, cldesignbuild@aol.com or visit their website at http://www.cldesignbuild.com. You can also follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CLDesignBuild and see their work on http://www.houzz.com/pro/cldesignbuild/cl-designbuild-inc.

As a professional builder, we are practiced at taking a client’s concepts and ideas and transforming them into three-dimensional reality. It is a skill we have honed over decades. It is our work and our passion.

For our clients, translating their vision for their new home into words can be both challenging and frustrating. Putting a mental vision or a feeling into words is not easy. A strategy we recommend to our clients is to let pictures do the talking for them.

To start, gather a stack of home and lifestyle magazines and scan through them for photos of homes, rooms, and other features that match those in your head. When you see something you like, cut it out and set it aside. Similarly, if you see something on web save it  or pin it. A great website like Houzz.com or even Pinterest can provide you with many wonderful ideas. If you read an article about a particular feature, floor plan, material, or product that sparks your interest, clip it out or save it, as well.

The trick to this exercise is to work freely. Don’t think about it too hard. Later, you may discard images that, on second glance, don’t measure up or aren’t important to you anymore. Allow yourself to be open to new things that you may not have envisioned, but that are attractive or interesting in some way. It all helps in formulating a clear idea of what you want and will search for in a new home.

Another tip: Allow sufficient time to build a good collection of photos and clipped articles. Remember, this is your dream home. It deserves considered thought rather than a weekend rush job. That being said, a reasonable deadline will ensure that the process does not grow stale and fizzle out.

The best way to organize your dream file is up to you. You can create a collage or simply allow the clips to remain loose in a folder. Another approach is to separate your collection by categories such as exterior and interior features, types of materials, or by room.

Professional builders truly appreciate buyers who know what they want and can effectively communicate those needs and desires. Documenting your dreams with a collection of photos and articles will crystallize your thinking and provide critical information for a builder as you begin your search for a new home.

Warm regards from all of us at CL Design-Build!

Well, you can….and earn a little income as well. We all dream of taking the long deserved beach or mountain top vacation “someday” only to realize that work and family schedules prohibit this from coming true. What if you and your family created long-lasting memories EVERY weekend at a vacation home only a few hours away? Every weekend would be a vacation away from the stress of work and life. You would return to work on Monday rested and rejuvenated!

Apparently that has become a very popular idea…Since 2011, the vacation cottage movement has been gaining popularity. Sales of vacation homes rose 10% last year, compared with 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors. And despite today’s threat of rising mortgage interest rates, there are many would-be buyers who still see good opportunities to buy a second home, said Tom Gilmore, chief executive and founder and of VacationHomeRentals.com, a listings website for vacation rentals.

For one, it’s still possible to purchase homes at decent prices, and mortgage rates are still relatively low. Plus, vacation cottages can be income generators, if their owners rent them out when they’re not using them. Twenty-three percent of vacation-home buyers who participated in the Realtors’ annual survey on the topic said they planned to rent out their newly purchased home to others.

Craig Venezia, author of “Buying a Second Home: Income, Getaway or Retirement,” suggests focusing your search on destinations that are no more than two hours from your primary residence. “If you have to drive more than two hours, you won’t go there nearly as often as you think you will,” he says. In addition, Venezia notes, the farther away your vacation home is from your permanent home; the harder it’ll be to check on it or visit to take care of necessary repairs.

Have I piqued your interest? If you are anywhere near Chicago market, take a look at Heritage Harbor Resort in Ottawa, IL! You can find everything from boating, water skiing, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and even white-water rafting to off-road ATV riding, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding…even sky diving is available!

Would you rather kick back a little? Then you can also enjoy taking part in some more relaxing activities like bird-watching, yoga, theater, concerts, and nature photography…these activities are all available in the area… it is a perfect balance between recreation and relaxation. Looking for a vacation home builder in the Chicagoland area? How about a builder that can design your home as well? Go to www.CLDesignBuild.com , visit www.facebook.com/CLDesignBuild, or call 630-882-8822.



First-Ever Survey & Analysis of More than 1.2 Million Members Reveals Top-Rated Professionals and Current Design Trends from Across the Country

Chicago, IL –March 20, 2012 –CL Design-Build of Yorkville, IL has been awarded  “Best Of Remodeling” 2012 by Houzz, the leading online platform for residential remodeling and design.  The 12-year old design-build firm led by Cheryl Lee was chosen by the more than 1.2 million registered members of the Houzz community.

The Houzz “Best Of Remodeling” award for 2012 is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction award winners are based on homeowner members who rated their experience working with remodeling professionals in 12 categories ranging from architects, and interior designers to contractors and other residential remodeling professionals.  Design award winners’ work was rated the most popular among the 1.2 million members, also known as “Houzzers,” who viewed more than 16.5 million professional images.

“We are truly honored to receive this award,” said Cheryl Lee, president of CL Design-Build. “It means a great deal for our work to be selected by the large number of people that Houzz reaches throughout the world. It indicates to me that the creativity and quality of our team of professionals stands out no matter where these viewers reside. We have actually had communication with viewers from Wisconsin and New York!”

“With 3.5 million monthly unique users and 80 million monthly page views, Houzz has rapidly become the largest community of active remodelers, providing homeowners and design enthusiasts with first-hand advice from Houzzers who have been through the renovating and decorating process,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of marketing for Houzz. “This is a real stamp of approval for CL Design-Build from the Houzz community and we’re thrilled to welcome them to this elite group of ‘Best Of’ winners.”

With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals like CL Design-Build, but also those whose work visually aligns with their own design goals. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and evaluating their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.


About CL Design-Build

The CL Design-Build team is comprised of architects, interior designers, and general contractors and their work includes residential remodeling as well as new construction in the far western suburbs of Chicago. The design-build process provides their clients with greater flexibility and creativity, better communication, less risk, faster delivery, singular responsibility, and increased cost savings. Unlike many architects, they know the costs to build, so they design with those costs in mind. Unlike most general contractors, they understand the structural capacity of material without compromising the design integrity, so they build with design in mind. Essentially they take their clients from an “idea” to handing them the keys to the door. For more information call 630-882-8822 or email CLDesignBuild@aol.com. Please visit www.CLDesignBuild.com/customhomes or www.facebook.com/CLDesignBuild to get ideas.


About Houzz

Houzz (www.houzz.com) is the leading online platform for home remodeling, providing inspiration, information, advice and support for homeowners and home improvement professionals through its website and mobile applications. Houzz features the largest residential design database in the world, articles written by design experts, product recommendations, a vibrant community powered by social tools, and information on more than 1.2 million remodeling and design professionals worldwide who can help turn ideas into reality.

I recently received a phone call from someone asking me the question: “What is your average cost per square foot?” I get this question often and I cringe when I hear it.

People will ask me this question sincerely in order to compare me to another builder. I beg you; do not compare builders based on this question. The answer is more complex than the question and you will not have an accurate measure of what your home will cost.

So what do I do when I get this question?

First, I state that I have built homes before for $94 per square foot all the way up to a home I built for $156 per square foot. (Not including land.)

Why the difference?

1. You have to know what is being considered in the cost per square foot number. Does it include landscaping, irrigation, patios, or decks? What type (concrete, pavers, asphalt, or combination) or size of driveway? We have built homes with 700 foot long driveways and ones with 35 foot driveways. All of these (and there are more) represent a big cost difference.
2. A ranch home vs. a two story home. Many people will say to me that they want a two story home because it is less costly to build than a ranch. I agree with them. The reason for the less expense with a two story home is that you have a smaller foundation, fewer trusses and perhaps fewer floor joists than you have with a ranch home.

However there is a situation when a ranch home is less expensive than a two story home. That is when you finish the lower level, the basement. With a ranch home, you double your square footage when you finish the lower level. With a two story home, you can only grow finished square footage by approximately 1/3 when you finish the lower level. That’s the difference.

3. Structure – the majority of the cost of a home is in the structure. Simplify the structure and you lower the cost per square foot of a home. We once built a 2,400 square foot home that had $15,000 trusses, whereas most of the 2,400 square foot homes we build have trusses of $9,000. Comparing the same homes again, the windows in the more expensive home cost $32,000. The other home had $11,000 worth of windows. Therefore, two homes with the same square footage and one has $27,000 more cost in just two components of the home. Other components can have a greater impact on the cost than the two examples I selected.

One more point on structure, building a home shaped like a rectangle is less expensive than building a home that has lots of jogs, angles, and so forth. Again, simplify the structure and you lower the cost per square foot.

4. What is on the inside of the home? We build homes that have aluminum clad wood windows, lots of tile, wood floors and solid surface countertops. We have also built homes of the same size that have vinyl windows, vinyl floors, and laminate countertops. So I ask, what windows/doors, plumbing fixtures, flooring, appliances, cabinets, countertops and woodwork? There are many options with varying quality available to suit the taste of each homeowner.

Imagine comparing a Mercedes E350 sedan (3.5L V6 7-speed Automatic) at $50,490 to a Ford Fusion SEL sedan (3.5L V6 FFV AWD 6-speed Automatic) at $27,150. Both are 4- door sedans with what appears to be similar performance. Could you simply ask these manufacturers the cost per pound and get a true comparison of these two vehicles and would you buy your next car based on the price per pound? Hardly not.

Oh, and don’t forget what is on the outside of the home makes a difference too. Brick or stone (real or man-made), siding (vinyl, fibercement, or cedar) has a great impact on the costs. In some cases the subdivision will dictate what and how much of the exterior cladding will be permitted on the front of a home. A big front porch (like a wrap-around) or a small front porch is another cost consideration.

“Yeah, yeah all that stuff above is fine, but how can I get an answer to my question?”

1. Sit and meet with the builder to review the plan that you have (or desire) and go through a brief list of the features you desire. A builder can ballpark a price for you.

2. Ask the builder to show you some homes that they have built and determine the price of those homes and the square feet. Then talk about the features of the home that make it more expensive or less.

Please keep in mind the old adage “garbage in, garbage out.” When you are seeking a cost estimate from a builder; the less detail you give, the less accurate the estimate. Do you want accuracy? Then give detail.

When can you compare builders on a cost per square foot basis?

This is tough, but you can compare some builders in this manner when you are comparing homes that are in the same subdivision with similar features like bedrooms and bathrooms, similar exteriors, similar interior features. Look at the homes that are already built. The reason that comparison may be valid is because their building components are likely similar. Their development requirements are similar and they probably have a similar look. You have heard the saying, “compare apples to apples”.

In summary, I go back to my earlier statement “the answer is more complex than the question”. Comparing builders on a cost per square foot basis is misleading.

Build on! Build well! Build with confidence!

If you arrived at our blog from a source other than our website, please visit us at www.CLDesignBuild.com. Further, if you are considering building a home, please contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to be a part of your dream.

Lastly, please know that we build homes in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL area – Yorkville, Oswego, Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield, Geneva, Batavia, and many other beautiful areas surrounding Northern Illinois.  My words above are universal.  It doesn’t matter where you build.  The dollar amounts may be different, but the philosophy and practice are the same.

For years recycling programs have focused on reducing residential waste. Now it is time for businesses to focus on their recycling efforts as well. If your business does not have a recycling program, it is time to start. If you have one, it is time to re-evaluate and enhance it. In either case, begin with the basic building-block materials of recycling…

Aluminum, glass, paper, plastic & steel are the crux of most recycling programs. Collectively, these materials are known as the “big five” in the recycling industry as they comprise more than half of the municipal solid waste stream. They also are easily collected and recycled through most established recycling programs in the United States.

Recycling saves energy, resources, and landfill space as well as reduces the environmental impacts caused when creating new material from virgin resources. The big five commodities are prime candidates for helping businesses reduce waste and improve sustainability. Aluminum, steel and glass can be recycled infinitely. Paper can be recycled (from its highest-quality form) seven times before fibers are too short to recycle further. Virgin plastic is made from non-renewable petroleum resources.

The environmental impacts of a carefully formulated solid waste management plan can do more for the environment, and your business, than you might think. There are multiple beneficial and compelling reasons to recycle the big five – in general and at work:

1. Lower Cost for Waste Removal – Reducing your waste stream through recycling can lead to lower waste removal costs.
2. Income – When markets are good-especially for paper and old corrugated cardboard-recycling contracts can be negotiated with your recycling service provider to create income for your business as well.
3. Tax Credits – Twenty-five states offer tax credits for recycling market development. If you work for a recycling industry or manufacturing business that uses recycled materials, you may qualify.
4. Recognition– Many communities and trade associations have recognition and awards programs for companies that recycle. Waste Wi$e, and the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) Paper Recycling Awards are good places to start.
5. Corporate Social Responsibility – Aside from the environmental rewards, benefits also include improved public image, reaching new markets and improved employee morale.
6. Creates Green Jobs – The EPA Jobs Through Recycling program estimates that recycling creates almost five times as many jobs as landfilling.