There is no question that the vision of a new home fires up the imagination. Who hasn’t dreamt of a home with beautiful architectural design,  enough space for favorite activities, desired features, colors and style. It is a big reason enough for people to consider building a new home over an buying an existing one.

The advantages actually go way beyond the obvious: A new home offers many hidden performance benefits.  Some of these benefits come as a result of saving energy costs. Thick walls, closed cell foam insulation, air sealing, triple pane windows, and new heating and cooling equipment make homes very energy efficient, and save you money on your monthly utility bills. But they go way beyond that:

Comfort. Closed cell foam insulation, along with careful sealing of the building shell, and the HVAC ductwork minimizes drafts, and helps keep temperatures even throughout the home. The home can be further optimized with low-e, energy efficient windows. These windows can be ordered with a coating that protects furnishings from UV light. Window options include shades and blinds between the glass, and screens that roll up and down.

Health. Those comfort-enhancing, air-sealing details also keep pollen and dust out of the home. High performance windows resist condensation that can lead to mold growth. Today’s HVAC equipment is optimal at removing unwanted humidity, and other pollutants, while bringing in fresh, filtered air from outdoors. Sealed combustion heating equipment keep your family safe by keeping carbon monoxide out of indoor air.

Quiet. Double or triple pane windows, doors with good weather-stripping, and the sealing and insulation already mentioned, make a new home much better at blocking noise than an older one. (Great if you don’t want to hear the neighbor’s late night patio party or jet skis on the lake disturbing your peaceful morning!) Inside – if you have a home theater room, or a loud bunch of teenagers in your lower level space, sound-dampening soundboard between floors and by the bathroom and bedroom walls will create spaces that are a quiet oasis in your home.

Latest Technology.  You can opt for alarm systems, speaker systems, internet wiring, and lighting control functions to be built right in, saving you future holes in the walls.

Less Maintenance. Professional builders use proven products with long (even lifetime!) warranties, and use highly skilled and experienced tradespeople.Exterior materials, such as siding and decking materials made from composites will not rot, are highly resistant to insect damage and will need no future painting / staining. (Or not for a very long time.)

Universal Design Features. An open floor plan not only makes entertaining easier, it makes getting around easier for the mobility impaired. Wide hallways and doorways look great, and are  functional for all. A great feature to plan for is stacking closets on the1st floor, 2nd floor and lower level. The electrical and HVAC systems can be designed around this space during construction so that if an elevator is needed at some point, it is easily installable.

Your new home with all of today’s innovations facilitates your enjoyment and appreciation of life. It is life changing to have everything in your home just the way you want it. For many people – it’s what they always dreamed of coming home to, and we are happy to make their dreams come true!








A question we get a lot from potential clients is “What is the cost-per-square-foot of your homes? We understand the question is really, “How much will my house cost?”

And the answer is: “It depends.”

Professional custom home builders rely on proven management systems to finish a home on time and on budget. Creating an accurate budget is as much craft as a science. No responsible builder will quote a per-square-foot price without more information, because doing so would risk misleading the client. That is because a custom home is not a product. Instead it is the physical realization of a particular client’s dream home on a specific site. Each person’s dream home is unique; so the only way to estimate the cost is to ask some follow-up questions.

First we need to clarify what the client means by square foot cost of the home. Does it include the garage, unfinished lower level, or other unfinished space – such as a over the garage bonus room? Does it include costs for lot clearing, driveway, utilities, well and septic, and permits?

Once the assumptions and variable costs have been clarified – what kind of home are they dreaming of? Is the floor plan simple or complex? Is it a traditional style with intricate interior mouldings and built-ins, or a modern structure with lots of glass and minimal trim?

Then we need to define the level of desired finishes. A professional custom home builder can help refine the expectations, starting with questions about exterior materials, windows, plumbing, flooring, cabinetry preferences and special features of the home.

After sorting through all of the above, we may be able to reference plans and photos for similar homes built in the past. We can often provide a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to built that home with their specifications on their site.

However, it is not something you can do over the phone. The client needs to spend some time with us before we can offer a realistic idea of what they can get for their budget. Regardless of whether they ultimately decide to build with us, this is time wisely spent.

Wouldn’t you want the hardest-working room in your house to allow you to perform tasks with ease as you get older? A kitchen with Universal Design features can be your body’s best friend (at any age).


According to the National Association of Home Builders, a pantry was the kitchen feature most desired by new home buyers.  Kitchen pantry possibilities range from a closet, a nook to a dedicated room.  A couple of interesting trends in pantry design:

  • Wanting more daylight in the kitchen prompts a shift in storage design. Delivering more daylight means less available wall space and that has translated to an increased interest in walk-in room pantry space.
  • A really large pantry can serve as a secondary kitchen; also known as a “messy kitchen” , or a back kitchen – complete with cooktop, dishwasher, sink, prep space, floor to ceiling storage for canned goods, serving platters, oversize pots and pans, and space for caterers to set up. With open kitchens adjacent to living areas, a back kitchen provides a place to keep kitchen chaos out of sight when company comes.

Convenience, accessibility,  and “at a glance” visibility are the key attributes of a great pantry.  A walk-in pantry doesn’t need to be fancy since it’s behind closed doors.  However, even if it’s only simple shelving, it’s a good idea to include a countertop for a landing zone. It’ll make it easier to stock items, provide extra place for food prep, and space for a blender, a stand mixer and a coffee maker.  You can add as needed wall cabinets with pull-outs and built-ins. Other features can include pullout baskets for root vegetables, narrow cubbies for large platters, and nooks for cookware. The pantry should be large enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries and close enough to the food prep area. Organization and the right location are more important than size alone though.

Other pantry design ideas to keep in mind are: Pantry Tip

  • Which way will the door open? A door that opens inward can work, but it may make an already small space smaller. When space is at a premium, the best options are a pocket, folding or a sliding “barn door.”
  • Ideal lighting illuminates every shelf evenly, so be sure to install quality LED lighting. A skylight is a great idea if the home design allows. And make sure the light switch is in a spot by the pantry door.

Whether your pantry is  built-in cabinetry, a butler’s, a walk-in, or a combination – storage is never in short supply, and your kitchen layout is optimized for maximum efficiency.

A newly constructed Thelen Total Construction home - built to look like a 19th century farmhouse.

A newly constructed Thelen Total Construction home – built to look like a 19th century farmhouse.

Why this is a great question to ask a builder.

The National Association of Homebuilders estimates that it takes at least 3 to 5 years to create a sustainable building business. Most builders never get there: residential contractors have a failure rate higher than nearly every other business type, surpassed only by restaurants.

Only the strongest  homebuilding companies survive.

High-end custom home building is even more competitive. The few companies that rise to the top of this challenging niche are financially sound and professionally managed. They work to exacting quality standards. They know how to keep customers happy. These top builders all have a lot of experience. One only learns to excel at building complex homes for demanding customers by, well, building complex homes for demanding customers.

But it’s not just a numbers game. Besides having completed lots of homes for lots of people, the best builders make a point of learning something from each job. They spend time at the end of the project analyzing what worked and what didn’t, and they put those lessons to work on future projects. That’s one reason they have risen to the top of their markets.

Another reason is that they stay abreast of industry trends. Like everything else in today’s world, the demands on builders are growing faster than ever. They include ever-evolving tastes in home design, as well as codes, standards, and regulations. Successful, experienced builders educate themselves and their staff on these trends and smoothly incorporate them into their business practices.

Tuscan villa home constructed by Thelen Total Construction featured in 2015 Parade of Homes.

Tuscan villa home constructed by Thelen Total Construction featured in 2015 Parade of Homes.

Depth of experience and a culture of learning have direct benefits for customers. Top builders systematically track the time and money required to complete each project.  Over the years, they have learned exactly what can and cannot be accomplished with a given schedule and budget. And they have developed the communication and problem-solving skills to help customers reconcile the vision with the reality.

Experienced custom builders will also have earned the trust of their business partners. A long track record with material suppliers ensures the best prices and delivery schedules. And because like companies tend to flock together, experienced professional builders have long-term work relationships with the most experienced and professionally managed trade contractors in town, including plumbers, electricians, and HVAC companies. These relationships play a huge role in getting the job done right for a fair price and in a timely manner.

Rustic lodge design home

Long after the home is complete, these relationships ensure quick responses to warranty requests. In fact, customers can be confident that if a warranty item needs servicing a few years down the road, the experienced pro’s team will be around to take care of it. How many new companies can offer that peace of mind?

The point is that high integrity, great communication skills, and a track record of successful projects and satisfied customers raise the odds of a smooth building process. Hiring a professional company with the resources needed to do a great job, on time, and with minimal stress pays off big in the long run.