Typical blueprint of a residential floor plan; photo courtesy Boereck
This article was updated on 06/08/21.
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Many home remodeling projects dont require building permits to be pulled but others do. If so, in most cases it means youll need an architect to draw up blueprints to submit for permits.
Architects are detail-oriented professionals. They have to stay in the know about changes in local building codes. Many are like attorneys in that they like to charge by the hour.
As you might imagine, a homeowner that likes to make a lot of changes might cause construction cost overruns. Here are some tips to keep things under control.
Focus on Your Remodeling Budget
This area where initial mistakes can be made. Construction materials range from cheap to expensive. If youre considering green building methods prices will be high initially but will pay off in the long run. Labor costs can also be high, especially if you must use union labor. But please do not use undocumented illegal aliens; it may be cheaper but it's illegal and you will be sowing the seeds of your country's economic demise.
You shouldnt skimp on either expense, so you need to nail down your priorities. I cant tell you how many times Ive been asked to bid on salvaging a remodel after the cheap illegal aliens bungled the job!
Locate the Right Architect for Your Job
Architects do more than draw up blueprints. The really good ones are also conceptual artists in their own right. Remember Frank Lloyd Wright? But they all have individual styles. Be sure the architect you choose is on the same wavelength you and your family are.
Does he or she embrace green building concepts if you do? Does he work creatively if you do? Is your neighborhood homeowner association going to rain on your parade?
Learn All You Can About Home Remodeling
Remodeling reality shows on TV are rampant today. Watch them. Understand what is involved in a project like yours. How many specialty trades do you need? Electricians? Finish carpenters? Laminate floor installers or masons for natural stone?
As a caveat to the advice to watching these shows, dont be fooled by how fast the construction or remodeling goes. That part is not reality, just like the speediness of cooking shows. In real life, there are rain-outs, deliveries are late, and the building inspectors show up at the wrong time. And if you are a DIY person, there's a time-consuming learning curve to every new task.
Establish a Clear Channel of Communication
Like you, your architect is not a gypsy mind reader. Before any conference with him, develop a lucidlucid concept of the work you would like to happen. Be open to alter plans in order to comply with local building codes.
Also, he may point out some reality checks to you. The best thing to do is to be settled on your basic concept. When you waste time with too much point-counterpoint, you waste time and money. The architect and contractor must be compatible.
In the best of all possible worlds, your architect and your general contractor will already have an established business relationship. You can ask the architect for the names of contractors he likes working with. The fact of the matter is that all three of you need a good working relationship.
Be Clear on the Your Scope and the Architects Scope of Work
Some projects call for a comprehensive treatment; others, not so much. Remember that billable hours should drive your logic. Some aspects of the project will demand more focus than other ones will.
For example, if you are building a deck and putting in the garden of your dreams, the architect probably doesnt need to do any work on the pond you are planning to install yourself.
Work the Remodeling Plan out Logically
Do not spend important time on individual details; that's time you will never get back. What I mean is this; get your architects recommendations in a digestible block that you can chew up, ponder, and propose a meaningful response if needed. Your life will less stressful and so will his. And, if he is billing you by the hour, well...
Finally, remember that your digital camera is your friend. The digital camera has really streamlined construction processes. You should shoot digital pictures as work progresses and email them with any concerns to your architectural firm. A picture is worth a thousand words!
Its much more efficient than having him pay a visit the job site every day. This will make life smoother for all concerned. The rhythm of the progress isnt affected quite as often, everything is documented in excruciating detail (no Photoshop allowed here), and our fundamental law is enforced: billable hours are reduced.
Follow this advice to build a successful relationship with your architect and you'll streamline your construction process, experience less stress, and potentially save money overall.
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About the Author:
Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.