O: Oceanfront

Cape Cod Home  /  Annual Home 2020 / ,

Writer: Brenna Collins

Cataldo Custom Builders

Photo courtesy of Aerial Advantage/Emmagail Photography 2018

The Cape’s shoreline is dotted with homes perched and positioned to take advantage of a spectacle of changing ocean waves, the sun as it rises, dances with its diamonds across the water and ultimately drops into a far horizon, and every type of water-based activity the region has to offer. Whether they be rooted to a wild oceanfront dune or a cove’s gentle rhythm of lapping waves, with the diverse coastline of the Cape, the array of possibilities for a waterfront home is extensive. The sun’s paintings upon the sea and sky could be a morning wake-up call or viewed on the deck as a release after a stressful day, depending on the home’s positioning. Possibilities of leisure activities are also widespread, like an avid beach-goer spending days in the sand, or a family of boaters setting out to sea from the ease of a private dock. Enjoying the land may entail a pool, expansive deck, patio, or fire pit where families can warm up in the evening. Within the home, considering how to best take advantage of the view is paramount. Is the home benefitting from a high vantage point, or does it hunker down and become one with the shoreline? While these oceanfront homes and the idea of life within them is the pinnacle of serene beauty, the process of building one is complex and precise. 

“Sometimes you have to fit the client’s dream inside of a bubble and its quite the challenge,” says Ralph Cataldo, president of Cataldo Custom Builders in Falmouth, a true master of oceanfront building on the Cape. With decades of experience and over several hundred successful projects under his belt, Cataldo comprehends the big picture and all of the intricate piece-parts involved in an oceanfront project. When purchasing a one-of-a-kind piece of land, and planning a home of a lifetime, entrusting the plan to someone who has a lifetime of experience is invaluable. 

Photo courtesy of Emmagail Photography 2016 / Aerial Advantage

“Oceanfront homes are in a category by themselves,” Cataldo remarks. “They do not make any more oceanfront property. Clients need to hire the right professionals upfront to accomplish their goals and maximize the value of their site. Most sites are very unique, each with its own potential. The builder, the architect, an engineer, an interior designer and landscape architect are key members that should be on the team as early as possible to understand the client’s goals so nothing goes off track. Each team needs a good quarterback.” And like a good quarterback, Cataldo is often found in the huddle with his team at a client’s new project.

Previously, Cataldo had a successful career as a senior engineer and corporate manager in the high-tech industry. One project included completing a 750,000 square foot manufacturing facility in the 1980s. After years in the corporate world, Cataldo decided to leave his high-tech career in Boston behind and remain on the Cape full-time, forging ahead in the building business instead. In 1982, he built his first house in East Falmouth. “It took years to get the nerve to quit the career I went to college for. Thirty-seven years ago, I built my first house, a 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom ranch,” Cataldo recalls. “Transitioning from senior engineer to beginner builder with a young family was a risky move, especially with all of the local talent that was already established on the Cape.”  

Today, the company has been building some of the most remarkable properties on the Cape for almost thirty years, all while successfully collaborating with some of the premier architects, and subcontractors of the region. Cataldo Builders focuses primarily on new custom homes and major remodels, while servicing and maintaining a majority of their homes. Cataldo’s knowledgeable team of employees, some with over 30 years of experience, ensure the thought and expertise going into each project is top-notch. Cataldo deliberately limits their projects annually to ensure individual budgets and schedules are under control at all times. “We communicate well as a team and are always available. This is absolutely key in ensuring client satisfaction on every project,” Cataldo adds. 

Photo courtesy of Dan Cutrona

After years of building dream oceanfront homes, Cataldo is fluent in successfully communicating the solution for the various hurdles that invariably arise. Projects begin with a client’s wish list that include almost anything that can be imagined. Things like: maximizing ocean view and unique demands for how the home will function; how the landscape will contribute or perhaps offer a maintenance-free solution; and an endless variety of recreational activities that often span generations of family members. First, the right team needs to be assembled and needs to collaborate as a group of highly qualified professionals that can rely on and trust one another. To complete a wish list, site meetings are necessary to address and resolve precise details of how the home is best sited, how to accomplish elevations that meet the clients’ needs as well as local zoning, and how the family will ultimately use the space. The land dictates a variety of components, and Cataldo’s team needs to be in tune with the site to understand how it is going to live as they envision the final outcome. 

Photo courtesy of Aerial Advantage/Emmagail Photography 2018

Even before the first excavator lifts a bucket of dirt, the team must successfully navigate the permitting process all while juggling height, setback, and septic restrictions. Most of the projects require working with the local conservation commissions to consider environmental concerns like erosion control. Finally, when the foundation is ready to be excavated, the countless meetings and huddles pay off as adjustments have been made to realize a ground floor that is, as Cataldo explains, “just a gentle step from the ground,” an architectural and construction feat whose subtlety is often overlooked. Despite a home benefitting from waterfront proximity, many homeowners also desire the luxury of an in-ground pool and spa elements. It also is common to be dealing with lot restrictions and limited access to the waterside of the lot. In some cases, a pool must be built prior to the home or in the instance of a remodel, Cataldo has been known to exercise his charm and powers of coordination by gaining approval from abutters to drive heavy equipment across their property to get the job done.

Through the years, Cataldo has worked with a variety of talented architects, representing various styles that appeal to a range of clients. His unique advisory capabilities allow the team to foresee far enough into the project’s future where details may need to be adjusted, and ensure projects culminate in a highly successful outcome. With an experienced professional like Cataldo, any oceanfront home becomes a treasure to cherish for years with the confidence that it was built right.

Photo courtesy of Emmagail Photography 2016 / Aerial Advantage

Driving down the Cape’s shoreline and gazing at the plethora of majestic and intricately designed oceanfront homes, onlookers’ often wonder who built them. Repeatedly, it is the masterminds of Ralph Cataldo and Cataldo Custom Builders who are shaping the shoreline with homes built to do justice to their land and view.

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Brenna Collins