How To Work With An Architect On Your Home Remodel


architectural drawings for home remodels
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We’ve all been spending much more time in our homes the past 18 months, putting the squeeze on common living spaces as we’ve balanced work, school, and home life in one place. Maybe your dated kitchen needs an update? Have you started a family since you purchased your starter home and now require more space? Or are you planning to take care of an aging parent and need to provide a self-contained suite?

Whatever your reason for renovating your home, if it requires adding rooms or removing walls, you’ll probably need to get a building permit from your city’s planning department. Before they issue the permit, they’ll want to see engineer-reviewed architectural plans of your intended renovation.

Some builders can provide architectural plans, but for an independent assessment of your project, it’s best to hire an architect to turn your vision into a reality.

You will have to do some research to find available architects in your area. Most architects have a website with their portfolio of previous projects they have completed. Viewing their website will enable you to see their design style, and similar projects, to help determine whether they are a good match for your specific project. Search home remodeling and design websites to obtain a list of local licensed architects by searching your zip code and briefly describe your project. Another strategy is to ask family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations. Also, look for houses under renovation in your surrounding neighborhoods or on your drive to work. Often builders will post their sign in the front yard of houses they are actively renovating.

Finding an Architect 

You will have to do some research to find available architects in your area. Most architects have a website with their portfolio of previous projects they have completed. Viewing their website will enable you to see their design style, and similar projects, to help determine whether they are a good match for your specific project. Search home remodeling and design websites to obtain a list of local licensed architects by searching your zip code and briefly describe your project. Another strategy is to ask family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations. Also, look for houses under renovation in your surrounding neighborhoods or on your drive to work. Often builders will post their sign in the front yard of houses they are actively renovating.

Interview Process

Before you hire an architect, you want to interview a few prospects to determine who will realize your vision or provide an alternative solution that you may not have considered. Prepare for the interviews with a list of questions that can help you fully grasp what each architect can offer. Here is a suggested list of questions you can ask.

  • What is your design process?
  • What services do you provide?
  • What have your previous projects been? Are they similar to mine?
  • What will my role be in this process?
  • What are some unexpected issues that could occur? How would you solve them?
  • What is your fee structure?

Services of an Architect

There are a variety of services offered by architects that serve many different purposes in the renovation process. Depending on your requirements and how much extra you are willing to pay, an architect can work on your project from start to finish.

Drafting architectural drawings – This is the primary service provided by architects. The final drawings will provide the basis for your building permit.

Creative solutions – Architects can add particular elements, including brightening a room light through the addition of windows, skylights, or ceiling lights, or secret storage areas to hide the clutter of children’s toys in the living room.

Advising on fixtures and finishes – If the thought of making each decision regarding paint color, bathroom tile, flooring, kitchen countertops and cabinets, faucets, lighting, doorknobs, and appliances seems overwhelming, you should probably hire an interior designer. However, some architects can provide this service, too. If you need this additional service, be sure to ask in your initial interview.

Find connections to contractors – Architects often have relationships with contractors they have previously worked with and can make introductions to builders who they think would suit your project. If you meet their referrals, always find at least one additional builder to interview to compare service, price, and customer references.

Project management – Building contractors often manage the permit process; after all, the sooner the permit application is submitted and approved, the sooner they can start the project. Some architects will oversee the construction project’s progress and supervise the building contractor for an additional fee.

Staying on budget – Architects can redesign plans to save money if your builder uncovers unexpected problems during construction. For example, if a load-bearing wall is discovered to be dividing your living room and kitchen that you intended to remove to create an open plan living area. If your budget doesn’t extend to recessing the structural beam to support the wider opening, your architect can creatively redesign the plan to accommodate support poles for the ceiling or wrapping an exposed beam to become an architectural element.

Cost of an Architect 

The cost of an architect depends on their skill set or previous background experience and the services you require for your project. You will likely have to pay one of four ways; a flat fee, an hourly rate, by the square foot, or a combination of any of those.

Being charged a flat fee often means that an architect will charge a percentage of the projected building cost. If you expect a quick design process and not much back-and-forth conversation between you and the architect, finding one with an hourly rate can be more affordable. Being charged by the square foot solely depends on the size of your project. For that reason, it could be difficult to anticipate the total cost of the architect’s fee at the start of the project. Some architects charge a flat fee for the architectural drawings, then switch to an hourly rate for project management. One way to avoid overpaying would be to speak with a few different architects in your area and gather quotes to see which one would best meet your needs.

Working with an Architect 

Most architects follow a similar process, whether they are designing a new home or remodeling a home, so you can expect the process to proceed with the following steps once you have hired an architect.

  1. Pre-design consultation. At the start of your renovation process, your architect will meet with you to learn your needs and hear your ideas for a new layout. They will take measurements of each room impacted by your remodel to decide the best design to incorporate your plan into a schematic design. The schematic design consists of a variety of rough sketches based on your guidelines. Additionally, an architect can guide you on opportunities you may not have been aware of, such as interior stair placement if you’re adding a second floor, a hallway to connect an additional bedroom, and extra storage.
  • Design development. Once you have chosen a design scheme, the architect will turn the rough sketch into a set of plans which will enable you to review the floor plan, room flow, and size of your remodel.
  • Additional design specifications. Architects have the expertise to add elements to your renovation, such as materials and finishes. Some architects serve the purpose of interior designers and advise you on paints, tiling, flooring, and other specific fixtures.
  • Design documentation. After you have approved the design, the architectural drawings are handed over to your builder contractor for a final quote. Based on their quote, you might need to adjust the plans with your architect before submitting them to your city’s planning department for a building permit (if required).
  • Project management. Once the building permits have been issued, the building contractor begins the remodeling process. If you have hired your architect to provide project management, they will be there following the project through to completion. Otherwise, you will supervise the building contractor to ensure your vision is realized.

Financing your Home Remodel

Adding rooms, a second story, or extending the back of your home is an expensive undertaking. Even removing a few walls to open your living areas can be costly. If you’ve got more than 80% equity in you home, the most affordable way to finance your remodel is with a cash-out refinance. Interest rates are currently low, and much lower than credit cards or a personal loan.

Consider paying for the architectural drawings up front, then refinancing your home for the cost of the remodel. Create a Custom Goal for the Remodel in your FinLocker, and start a budget dedicating to saving for the architect’s fee. Having completed drawings to show a builder will enable you to obtain realistic quotes for the remodel so you’ll know the amount of money you’ll need from your refinance.

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