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Modern Lake Home by Schill Architecture

Expert Advice to Build Your Lake Erie Dream Home

Ever Thought of Buying Lakefront Property in Cleveland?

Do you dream of owning waterfront real estate without the threat of hurricanes? Welcome to Cleveland – home to the beautiful shores of Lake Erie. Along the coast, you’ll find impeccably designed lakefront real estate, public and private beaches and breathtaking views.

While living near Edgewater State Park and Huntington Beach feels like a vacation in the summer, the winter brings heavy winds, lake-effect snow and crashing waves. But fear not – we’re here to show you how to build a Lake Erie home that will stand strong no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Waterfront Property in Cleveland

When you’re building a home on Cleveland’s coast, it’s important to find architects and builders with experience in lakefront construction. We spoke to Schill Architecture and BVC Enterprises, Inc., two well-known names around Lake Erie, to walk you through the process.

Part 1: Planning and Construction Advice from an Experienced Architect and Builder

To combine your lakefront design dreams with the right building materials, it’s important to hire an architect who is well-acquainted with Cleveland weather and the impact it has on your home.

Stephen Schill has built 85 homes and counting on Lake Road. With 30 years of architectural experience and an understanding of Lake Erie’s unique microclimate, Schill prides himself in designing great works of architecture, built to withstand the test of time. Here are his three tips for the design and construction phase of building a home on Lake Erie.

1. Choose a team who knows how to work safely while building on the lakefront.

A windy day can send demolition and construction debris flying into nearby homes or littering the lake. An experienced team knows the proper precautions to take for a safe and environmentally-friendly work site.

“People think of the lake as sunny skies and sail boats going by, but it gets crazy at a moment’s notice and you have to plan for it,” Schill said. “The guys on our sites never leave anything laying around and always cover our dumpster because when the wind kicks up, it blows everything out.”

Lake Erie Home Construction in Progress


2. Use building materials that can handle Lake Erie’s heavy winds.

During severe storm systems, wind gusts off the lake directly into your property, often without any trees or structures to block it. To prevent wind damage to your home’s exterior, an architect like Schill will design with Mother Nature in mind.

“A lot of my houses are masonry – either brick or stone – because that helps build mass. The best built house in the world wants to move when crazy winds are affecting it.”

Stephen Schill | Schill Architecture

On top of that, the framing and structure of lakefront real estate differs from homes built even a few miles away from the lake. For instance, many of the mansions nestled along Lake Road are built with steel frames for additional support on windy days. 

3. Protect your lakefront home from moisture.

With heavy winds come big waves. To prevent moisture from entering your home, Schill uses closed-cell foam insulation, which is very similar to what you’d find in your home’s refrigerator. When installed, closed-cell foam turns into a concrete-like substance, creating an air and moisture barrier to keep the elements out.

“With the water that is pushed off of Lake Erie during a storm, you have to be very, very cognizant of wrapping the house to make sure water doesn’t migrate in. On breezy days, if you hold your hand over a light switch or an outlet, you can sometimes feel the air come through. Living on the lake, that could be water and that would be a very big problem.”

Stephen Schill | Schill Architecture

Lake Erie Home Designed by Schill Architecture


Part 2: Safety Advice from a Break Wall Expert

Constructing your Lake Erie dream home is the first step. Next, you’ll need to pay special attention to your landscaping.

Bill Votruba, owner of BVC Enterprises, Inc., has over 35 years of experience building break walls along Lake Erie. Each of his creations not only provide easy access to the shore, but also transform your backyard into an artistic statement for boaters to enjoy while passing by. These are his three tips for keeping your backyard safe to enjoy.

4. Build a lakefront retaining wall.

A break wall is designed to protect your property from pounding waves and control natural erosion. During heavy storms, strong winds can bring water crashing into your backyard. But a retaining wall helps to control the lake’s intensity, keeping your home safe and sound.

“Lake Erie has been high for four years now and that makes the waves larger; it makes it meaner. And it’s not just the water – you never know when there’s going to be a tree that falls in and you’ve got a battering ram coming at you. You have to be ready for anything.”

Bill Votruba | BVC Enterprises, Inc.

Lake Erie Break Wall by Bill Votruba, BVC Enterprises


5. Know your goals for building a lakefront break wall.

First, a builder will meet with you to find out your vision for the project. Do you want to build multiple levels with room for entertainment space? Do you want a simple slope to stop the waves from crashing? An experienced builder will combine your wish list and their knowledge of the lake to build the right break wall for you.

“I show them other places that are comparable to theirs, then I find out exactly what they’re after and I let them know what I believe is possible,” Votruba said. “There’s lots of variables when you’re building on the water. The height of the cliff, depth of water, that kind of thing.”

6. Use natural stone for your lakefront break walls.

Many lakefront properties choose a natural stone for break walls to fit the beach environment. On top of that, it’s a more sustainable alternative to manufactured stone or concrete. 

Votruba harvests natural sandstone from a personal farm in Erie County for his projects. And if you’re looking for a harder stone like limestone, he also collects rock from local quarries that most builders can’t use.  “There are certain veins of rock from the quarry that aren’t the right color or not the right hardness for other projects. To them, it’s not what they need and they need to get rid of it. To me, those are pieces of art.”

After you’ve selected your material, your builder will get to work, placing each stone to create a protective wall that also meets your design and functionality goals.

“When I bring stone into a job, I scatter it all over the place. When you’re building a puzzle, you need to see all your pieces. And once you start putting it together, the stones tell me what the break wall is going to look like.”

Bill Votruba | BVC Enterprises, Inc.

Ready to Build a Home on Cleveland’s Lakefront?

Sure, the winters are tough – but our homes are built tougher. And the summer makes it all worthwhile. From surfing and sailing to swimming and sunset gazing, you’ve got plenty of reasons to buy the lakefront property you’ve always wanted and start a Lake Erie construction project that will stand the test of time. 

What do you envision for your lakefront dream home? We work with skilled Cleveland contractors who can help make it possible. If you’re ready to start building, visit our Cleveland service area page to find the right dumpster rental for your project.