Should You Hire an Architect or a Design Firm for Your Remodel?
If you're planning to build a custom home or submit your existing one to a deep renovation, one of your first questions will be whether to select an architect to design the project and manage the build or a contractor who will both design and complete the build, too. Here's what you can expect with either choice.
- Architects, in order to earn that special designation in most states, must have at least a Bachelor's Degree in architectural design and engineering, then pass board certification exams. New or experienced, they all will have formal training in building design and a state or trade association oversight structure. The plans they draw up will be more than just schematics, they'll be comprehensive down to the smallest details.
- Once an architect completes the drawings to your satisfaction and receives payment, you own the plans and can decline to hire the architect to bid it out to a general contractor (GC). If you prefer, you are free to shop out the project yourself and manage the GC, or the whole array of tradesmen, throughout the build. If you would rather not have the headaches of the day-to-day oversight of the project, you can hire the architect to manage the job on your behalf.
- Architects generally charge by the hour for the design, so the cost to acquire a final set of drawings can become quite prohibitive, especially if you need a lot of changes.
- Because they will need to bid out the various components of the project, architects often have difficulty offering a price estimate until the plans are settled. While they are familiar with building materials, they may not have their fingers on the pulse of prices and their frequent fluctuations.
- They may not have trusted contractors with whom they've established good and honest working relationships. They will probably call for multiple bids, some to unknown GCs or individual contracting companies, just as you would. So the quality, integrity and costs of the job could end up all over the board.
- Companies that can design the project and build it usually charge a low flat rate by project for the design stage. Usually, you will pay for the design before a final contract will be offered for the build. As with the architect, once you pay for the design, you are free to walk away with the schematics.
- The builder knows exactly what to expect by way of prices, or will have very good educated guesses, so they can discuss budgets from the inception of the design discussions.
- As a company that does many custom builds, a reputable design/build company will have trusted workers and subcontractors with whom a good relationship already exists.
- Project design and management live under the same roof when your builder is also the designer. This creates an efficiency that can save you quite a sum on the project. The builder will have control over the entire project and be the only contact you need. When (not if) problems arise, the contractor can devise budget-friendly solutions and re-designs quickly. With all the moving parts confined to one builder, communications never lag and no one set of tradesmen will stop work because the issue is "not his problem." Your whole job is everyone's responsibility, and the cooperation between trades will speed your project along.
- Design/build firms may not have a certified architect on staff with the full academic training.
- If the design/build company offers "free" design services, they will work the cost of those efforts into the project on the back end, and not just yours, but all those "free" designs that flee to another builder, too. These costs will probably be an extra percentage on top of the labor, material, overhead and profit calculations. Lunches don't come free, so don't let a builder eat yours by expecting free designs.
- You will have no say in which subcontractors the builder chooses. It's possible you could find tradesmen at lower costs were you to manage the project yourself or through an architect.
Not possessing a degree in architecture hardly means you won't get a great professional design service, though. Because experienced builders are the "boots on the ground" force, designing projects comes pretty naturally for them. They can discuss budgets and arrive at the right plan for your means within the early stages.
If you're ready to start the process of remodeling or building your dream home, please call us at Owens Construction. Our expert design team would be happy to meet with you for a free consultation on your project.