When undertaking a remodeling project—whether it’s in a commercial building or a home—finances are almost always a consideration. This leads some people to ask, “Do I really need to hire an architect for my remodeling project?” The cost to hire an architect can certainly add to the overall project budget, but is it worth it?
I may be biased, being an architect and all, but I’m of the opinion that just about every remodeling project can greatly benefit from the help of an architect.
How Using an Architect Can Impact the Permitting Process
Most people who undertake a remodeling project understand that it will likely be a lengthy process. Even seemingly small or simple projects can drag out when there are multiple contractors and subcontractors involved. And then there’s the permitting process. Unless you’re only doing cosmetic changes, most remodeling projects require you to obtain the proper permits from local building authorities. In the City of Long Beach, California, where I work as a commercial and residential architect, that means getting permits from the City’s Development Services Department.
There’s a lot that goes into the permitting process, but the most important part of the process is submitting plans that meet local building codes. Very few professionals know building codes as well as architects. General contractors are certainly familiar with the more common code requirements, but architects deal with code on an almost daily basis. If they don’t know the answer to a code-related question off the top of their head, they know how to find the answer.
You may come across a general contractor who will offer to draw up remodeling plans and submit them to the local development department for approval as part of their service. I’ve known a few general contractors who do a great job of this. They take the time to draw up the plans correctly—according to code—and the process goes fairly smoothly. Most of the time, however, when a general contractor draws up the plans and submits them for approval, there is a lot of back and forth between the contractor and city officials, with the city asking for multiple corrections or additional documents. This can extend the timeline of a project quite a bit.
When you work with a good architect, on the other hand, your project is more likely to travel through the permitting process a little more quickly, which helps keep the project on schedule.
Space Planning: An Architect’s Specialty
Another great reason to use an architect is because they have received special training in space planning. An architect will take into consideration who will be using the space and how it will likely be used. If the architect is designing a remodel for a commercial space, they’ll take into account how it will be used by both employees and customers. They will think about the flow from room to room and how to maximize the square footage.
An experienced and talented architect will likely have ideas for your space that you never would have considered on your own, so even if you already have a good idea of what you want your remodel to include, an architect may have ideas that will elevate the design even further. If you’re going to do a remodel, you want to make sure it’s done right. Any money you spend with an architect is almost certain to be money well spent.
An Architect Can Double as Your Project Manager
One thing a lot of people don’t know about architects is that they can also serve as the project manager for a remodel—helping ensure the success of the project even after the architectural plans have been approved. An architect can work with your general contractor to ensure that the actual remodel accurately reflects the design that you approved. An architect can also help troubleshoot any issues that come up during the building phase.
Not every architect offers this service, but if he or she does, you might want to consider adding it to your contract.
When You Might NOT Need an Architect for a Remodel
While most remodels could benefit from the services of an architect, there are situations that wouldn’t necessitate hiring one. For example, if your project is largely cosmetic—simply changing out finishes such as flooring, cabinets, or moldings—you could work with an interior designer instead of an architect (or choose the finishes yourself if you’re so inclined). In addition, the design of a remodel that doesn’t involve substantially changing the floorplan of a space could be handled by an experienced general contractor. Most general contractors know their limitations when it comes to design and will let you know if they feel comfortable handling the design of your remodel or not, but it’s always wise to ask for referrals from previous clients for whom they’ve done design work.
“Ask the Architect” is a regular column of Businessing Magazine. It is written by Mark Grisafe, owner and lead architect at Grisafe Architecture in Long Beach, California. If you have a question for the architect, send it here, and you may see it answered in a future column.short url: