Reprinted with permission from the Tucson and Southern Arizona Edition of Builder/Architect:
“I really enjoy building custom homes,” says Merrill Niles enthusiastically. “Some builders will essentially build the same house repeatedly. I like creating and building new designs that will enhance each site. When the home is complete, I feel such pleasure, it is as though the home is a trophy.”
Merrill adds, “Whether I work with a client’s architect or mine, I believe I can make the biggest contribution if I am involved from the conceptual stage. I love working with clients, listening to their ideas, needs and desires. Listening is one of my strengths and then I can offer practical advice on creating a home that will be of superior workmanship while complementing their lifestyle.” Issues such as drainage and soil compaction contribute to what Merrill considers one of the most important parts of a home – the foundation. He prefers to construct a home on an eight-inch post-tension slab to ensure the integrity of the foundation. Once the foundation meets Merrill’s approval, his team of experienced craftsmen will create the exterior walls, patios, pools, and landscaping that complement the interior.
“In fact, I like to help design from the outside in. I believe in destroying an absolute minimum of vegetation and whenever possible I will remove and replace trees and plants. The final result should appear as though someone just picked up a home and put it in the middle of undisturbed land.”
In gated communities, there is usually a Design Review Committee and house plans must obtain approval. Considerations include lighting, exterior elevations, color, driveway, and exterior landscaping. A study by a hydrologist may be required and vegetation may have to be tagged for replanting. Merrill deals with all of these requirements as well as local building departments on behalf of his clients.
Merrill also offers clients a good well-rounded knowledge of available materials, both traditional and ‘alternative.’ He explains, “I don’t cut corners. I build homes to the best of my ability. I will build a home better than required. I know what makes a difference. For example, in a wood-framed home, I sheath the whole exterior, not just part. A minimum of R-38 insulation is used in the ceiling, while only R-30 is required. In the walls there is R-21 rather than R-19. In a masonry home, I fill the walls with foam or concrete and fur out the walls. I recommend overhangs and pop-outs over windows to shade the sun from entering on east and west exposures. The ductwork, heating, ventilation and cooling equipment is all tested.”
From firsthand experience, Merrill can make recommendations. For example, he strongly recommends Andersen Windows as he uses them in his own home and knows the benefit.
Clients also benefit from the fact that ‘building is in Merrill’s blood. He is a third generation builder – his grandfather started in Arizona, his father built in California and his brother is a builder. When asked what his clients like the best about doing business with him, Merrill replied, “Probably the fact that I am not a procrastinator. I am on the job everyday, I have a great eye for detail and have sound relationships with the vendors and tradespeople. My word is good, I follow through on what I say I will do and during the construction of the home a wonderful level of trust builds between myself and my clients.”