Building a Custom Home: A Homeowner Q&A

By John Nevadomski


For homeowners Doug and Lynne building a beach house in Washington State was a dream years in the making. Designing and building a custom home is often challenging under the best of circumstances but going through the process in 2020 when the Covid19 pandemic struck added new challenges.

We caught up with Doug to talk about the challenges of custom home design, the unique building conditions the project faced, and why they selected Pioneer Millworks Larch Shou Sugi Ban cladding for the exterior of their new home.




Q: How did this new-build custom home project get started?


A: Previous to this new home we lived on the East Coast in Virginia, we had visited and vacationed in this part of Washington state a few times over the years and on one of those visits found this waterfront property that we thought was fabulous in terms of the views and the location. We bought the land as an investment with the intention to one day build on the site and relocate for our retirement years. Eventually the timing was right, so we started the building process in June 2020.




Q: How did the design process start?


A: When we first bought the property in 2016, we engaged an architect with the objective to have a design in place and a good understanding for how specifically we could build on the land. The idea was to be as prepared as possible so that when we were ready to make a move, the detailed design phase of the build would be behind us and it would be potentially easier to get building permits, contract a builder, things like that. We had to be proactive like this because a lot was changing in the area around the property as things were becoming more developed in the region.

For the high-level design of the home, we worked with a local architect Bill Lindberg at Lindberg Architects in Port Angeles Washington for a good two years prior to the start of the build. We were not under timeline pressures to complete the design, so we were able to iterate on it, think about it and dial in our ideas about this home. In 2019 Lynne and I decided that we were ready to make the move and we started the process to finalize the design and start building. Good timing… perhaps not, because we had made the decision to embark on this project just as the Covid19 pandemic was starting to happen. Despite the pandemic this build started in 2020 and we moved into the completed home in late 2021.





Q: What inspired the unique beach house aesthetic of the home?


A: Lynne and I had some different ideas for the look and feel of this house. We were both interested in Pacific Northwest architecture and styles and wanted to incorporate a lot of different types of natural wood and other interesting materials into the home. We had also planned to incorporate many windows to take in the surrounding views, which is why we bought this property in the first place. The best part about this property is the view, we have a view of Mount Baker, the Cascades, the Olympic mountains, the New Dungeness Lighthouse and the wetlands around us. It is just a fabulous set of views in every direction.





Q: How was the Pioneer Millworks Larch Shou Sugi Ban cladding chosen for the project?


A: Lynne and I had worked with Pioneer Millworks previously on two remodel projects at our home in Virginia using reclaimed Chestnut flooring and were very happy with the products and service, so when it came to our new home, we were already familiar with the company and brand. 

Originally the exterior design of the home specified a corrugated galvanized steel in all the areas where we now have the Pioneer Millworks white Shou Sugi Ban Larch. We thought that the steel siding looked really interesting on some of the other homes and buildings in the area that the architect had designed, but we wanted something a little warmer and more natural looking for our home.

When we were looking for alternatives to the metal siding, we immediately went to the Pioneer Millworks website and liked the idea of Shou Sugi Ban as an option. The white Shou Sugi Ban Larch turned out to be a good substitute for the metal siding because it had a similar look and texture to the metal but brought the warmth of a natural material to the exterior without significantly deviating from what the architect intended with the design.

We also used Pioneer Millworks Larch Siding for the soffits along the roofline to complement the White Shou Sugi Ban, and it looks fabulous. We really liked the story behind the Larch that Pioneer Millworks offers, how it is grown in the Pacific Northwest and is harvested as an underutilized species in managed forests growing alongside Douglas fir and Cedar. The local/regional aspect of Larch as a material really speaks to sourcing building materials sustainably as well, which was important to us.




Q: Overall, how do you feel about going through the process of designing and building a custom home now that you have completed the project?


A: When you are building a custom home the beginning stages are fun; finding a build site, meeting with architects & designers, choosing materials & finishes. But when you get to the build phase, things start to get stressful. There are still a lot of decisions that must be made on a daily basis and finishing on a schedule is always a concern. There was a building frenzy going on in this area of Washington in 2020, so we were competing for resources. The pandemic had an impact on the trades, many of the building contractors would be working with a full staff one week, and then out with Covid the next so delays were inevitable. Our builder did a great job of navigating all of these challenges, but at times it could still be a stressful process.




Q: Do you have any advice for folks who may be considering building a new home?


A: My advice to someone looking to build a custom home having now gone through it is to be as prepared as possible before construction starts. Explore and define every detail you want in your new home and be very hands on during the design process. Do a lot of research, talk to your architect, and when it comes time for the build to start, be present on-site for it every step of the way as much as you can be. We wanted to live in this beautiful part of the country, it was a journey to get out here and to build this home from scratch but in the end that effort was well worth it.




Pioneer Millworks materials used on this project:


Shou Sugi Ban — Charred Siding & Shiplap | Larch White | Pioneer Millworks


Larch — Wood Siding & Shiplap | Larch Unfinished | Pioneer Millworks