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Design FAQ

Discover essential insights and advice for embarking on your home design journey

Essential Home Design Requirements


You will need a boundary survey to understand if the home you want will fit on the lot you own.

The survey should include the setback lines that you can build within. There are front, side, and rear setbacks on most properties. Some also have a mean high water level indicator that will dictate the distance from the water you can build. Any easement for utilities, HOA use, etc. should be clearly marked.

The flood zone should be indicated on your survey.

It is best to have your first survey include a benchmark on the road or near the property that gives an elevation above sea level. Several spot elevations within the lot should also be given. This helps us design your house taking into account the appropriate flood information if applicable.


It is crucial to understand if your lot is on a public sewer with a verified lateral from the local water authority before launching a project. If a septic system will be required then there are design and budget consequences that need to be taken into account.

Understanding if your electrical service will be overhead or underground is also important. The costs of connection to the electrical service can be an important consideration in the budget.

If natural gas appliances, water heaters, of furnaces are desired in the house please ensure the details are provided early. Also note some areas like Navarre Beach have no natural gas service, and propane tanks would have to be used.

Geotechnical Report (Piling Homes)

If you are building in an area that will require pilings, you should obtain a Geotechnical Report before purchasing the lot. The soils in our area are not uniform, and this report will tell you how likely the pilings may have to go to support the structure of your home. We have seen pilings range from 18 feet, 80 feet, and also too deep for pilings. Pilings can range in price from $25,000 up to $150,000 of the build cost. It all depends on the soils. Not knowing in advance of lot purchase can lead you to purchase a property that you may not be able to be able to build on. Expect to pay about $2,800 for the report, which is better than $125,000 on pilings that blow your budget.

A Realistic Budget

You need to clearly understand how much you will be able to spend on the build of your home. All to often people design homes that they later learn they cannot afford to build. If you communicate with us your maximum or desired budget, we will work to try to help ensure we design a plan that you can afford. This is critical at this time with the price of materials escalating, supply chain issues, and labor pool issues. You need to think in terms of $240 + per living square foot for homes on slabs, and $325 per living square foot for piling homes. Those are modest numbers to help you budget for a custom home, but realize they do not take into account things like gourmet kitchen appliances, very high end finishes like shiplap, or overly large decks or porches.

Create your wish list, must have list, and can live with list before meeting us or a builder to get a realistic idea of costs.

Give Thought to the Type of House You Want

It is always helpful if you have some ideas of the type of house you want to live in. This applies to the exterior style, but also the interior. Do you want a traditional beach house, a ranch, downtown shotgun house, ultra modern, or something in between. Also think about the interior of the house. Do you want a modern house, farmhouse style, traditional, low maintenance, etc.?

Consider the lifestyle you want to live in the house. Where do people congregate, where do you spend most of your time, what type of views do you want, how many people do you need to accommodate, how comfortable do they need to be, do you cook a lot, do you entertain a lot, and things like how much time you want to spend indoors vs. outdoors?

Refer to A Realistic Budget above, and think about how many square feet you want to budget for.

How many floors would you prefer?

Is there a possibility you will need or want an elevator?

We provide a questionnaire to help you with some of these questions.

How Long Does Designing a House Take

This is a very variable question. The more you have an idea of what you want, and can express it clearly the faster the design process can be for most homes. The less you know what you want the more difficult it is. Also responding to questions about the design or versions sent to you makes a huge difference. If you answer questions fairly quickly we can stay on track with the design process. The average time is 6 to 10 weeks for the home design, not including the structural engineering.

Size and complexity of the house does impact the design time. The bigger the house the more there is to design. The more complex a house is the more time that is needed on designing structure and other systems.

The plan has to be reviewed and stamped by a structural engineer of the designer’s choice. Due to current workloads or the complexity of the build the structural engineer may need 4 to 8 weeks to review and approve the plan. Having a structural review and certification is crucial in Florida.

Make sure you have your Survey and Geotechnical Report (if needed) up front. If you do not have a proper Survey or Geotechnical report you may have to wait weeks for engineers to visit your property and create the needed documents.