Building to Higher Standards Requires the Right Attitude and the Right Products
Building a custom home comes with high expectations from clients. It requires quality craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail, and professionals with relentless passion. The home should be able to stand the test of time. Chris Donatelli of Donatelli Builders in Illinois has spent the last 30 years helping families get into the homes they deserve. The upscale luxury homes he builds are designed to maintain their structural integrity spanning generations, not just years. He believes people deserve the best when it comes to their homes.
How Donatelli Builders Began
Having an interest in real estate and development, construction was a natural progression for Chris. His father was also a builder, so, shortly after high school, Chris started working with his dad learning carpentry. Throughout the years, he spent time working with other carpenters and framers, expanding his knowledge within the field and completing hundreds of projects within the Chicago area. Now, 30 years later, he still holds the same dedication and passion to changing the lives of homeowners for the better. “We’re in the business to help people be in love with their homes – it’s not just building or renovating,” said Chris. “We do one-of-a-kind projects for the right clients.”
Setting High Building Standards from the Start
The trend in building has been to subcontract workers to get the job done efficiently. From plumbing to electrical to framing – subbing out has become part of the norm. Unfortunately, many times when builders hire subcontractors, issues can arise, or details can be missed along the way. In Chris’ eyes, having upper management stop in to the job every now and again isn’t enough. Part of what makes Donatelli Builders different from other builders is that his core team is there from the start.
“I look at our roles as carpenters as a lot more than just framing or installing trim,” said Chris. “Our team of contractors is there to think big picture and protect the owner from the first day they get there. We are onsite to make sure that everyone is adhering to the best practices that we want to adhere to.” His team also works with other trades who are involved in creating the building envelope so all of the critical components are looked after. “There are a lot of things that could potentially fall through the cracks. We want to be there to make sure that we can address that before it’s too late.”
DELTA® Products that Make the Difference in Home Building
Chris started working with Dörken products eight years ago, when he was asked to work with an open joint cladding system. Prior to that, he was installing siding like other conventional builders, by nailing the siding to the building. Chris noticed that as he was doing home remodels, the membranes behind the cladding were completely destroyed. So, he contacted Dörken to learn more about what made these products unique. Compared to other products he used in the past, Chris was impressed with how DELTA® products were made to perform, giving peace of mind when it came to quality and durability. His products of choice are DELTA®-VENT S and DELTA®-VENT SA.
When starting the building process with homeowners, Chris brings in DELTA® product samples to show them the difference compared to other products. Homeowners can immediately see and feel the quality of the product and why these building materials are selected. “I always say that everything looks great in the showroom on the first day – what’s important is how they look after 20 or 30 years being exposed to the elements.”
DELTA®-DRY is another product that Donatelli Builders uses often when building custom generational homes. “Stucco can be a problematic product,” said Chris. “Many times, the manufacturer will recommend a drainage mat that won’t work in many situations.”
“I’ve used DELTA®-DRY on my own house when I redid my stucco, and have since never done a project without it.” Using high-performance building products is just one way Chris differentiates himself from other custom home builders.
Digging Deeper than Superficial Building
Before Donatelli Builders begin a custom home project, Chris meets with the owners to ensure that their values align and they share the same desire to build a home that’s built to last. “What I call ‘superficial building’ is when most of the budget is spent on dressing the home with nice appliances and finishes rather than the things you can’t see.” In his experience, homebuilders need to think about what kind of windows are going to be installed, what kind of flashing, and what air and water barriers will be used within the home. These are just some of the areas where substitutions are made based on cost rather than performance.
To Chris, it’s the home’s core that’s most important. “I have a personal belief that the core components of your house should last more than 50 years. If anything doesn’t hit that mark, I really have to think long and hard about using it.”
The issue with building superficially is that you’ll find yourself spending more in the long run due to repairs down the road. It’s these repairs that grow to be large-scale renovations. “We were working on a nine-year-old house that was structurally compromised due to inadequate beams, amongst other issues. As we went around the house, we started to see more things that were overlooked.” Chris has seen repair projects cost more than $100,000 on homes that are only a few years old. He recalls seeing homes that have had wet walls with moisture that traveled directly to the insulation. This is what drives Chris to do everything he can to help homeowners so they don’t face the same fate down the road. His mission is to give people a fighting chance to make their home as healthy as it can be, so it’ll last for years to come. “A lot of times people are blindsided; not everyone has that type of resilience to be able to spend that kind of money to fix their home,” he said.
Inspiring Change through Change
Builders always have the best intentions, but, without the proper oversight throughout construction, homes can be vulnerable. To combat this, Chris feels that there are changes that need to be made: attitude and education. He stated, “If we don’t put proper value on the industry, and people don’t learn that building a home is serious business, there are going to be consequences for doing things the wrong way.” In his eyes, it’s not just the technical skills that matter. It’s the attitude you have toward your craft and the values you hold that really make the difference. “To attract the right people for our team, we had to go beyond technical qualifications,” he continued. Chris wanted to find people with values that aligned with his company’s. From his experience, these professionals are more open to learning and are more passionate about the work they are doing.
Chris believes that these changes are the first step in creating a better industry as a whole. “It’s the attitude within our industry that needs to change. It seems that anyone can get into this business, whether you have the proper education and background or not,” he concluded.
Education, passion, and dedication are what Chris and the team of experts at Donatelli Builders work hard to instill every day with every home they build, repair, or renovate. Their commitment to using the right products, instilling proper building science, and connecting with clients who share their values has set them apart for more than 30 years.
As a leading manufacturer of high-performance air and moisture barriers, we take pride in working with industry professionals like Donatelli Builders who share our passion for quality building. We strive to support professionals at each stage of their business; from technical guidance during plan development to onsite support, we strive to help builders of all levels raise their industry involvement. To help us achieve this level of service, we collaborate with experts, institutes, organizations and associations within the building industry, creating a better building experience for all.