Updated: Oct 13, 2019
We all take on home and business projects. Usually, the goal is... I want "this" and I "only want to spend, this..." What we often don't factor into the equation is, how much better could it be if I hired a professional architect?
You will spend more upfront, but how much will you save overall? Here are four ways, you save.
1. Clear defined work scope = fewer surprises.
In the construction industry, they call it scope creep. You begin construction, all the trades are there: electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc. "While, you are here.." you say, "Could you also look at this?" And that's how it starts. It begins with a defined work scope, like a kitchen remodel, but it turns into a bathroom remodel and new hardwood flooring for the first floor. The problem with jumping into a project is two-fold. First, you never considered the project as a whole. If we were to consider remodeling 80% of your first floor, maybe there is a much better layout. One with a better flow and better views? However, if we're hired to work within a defined area, we try to stay within the parameters. Why present you with options that exceed your brief and budget? Problem number two: changing and or adding to the work scope while under construction puts you at the contractor's mercy. The time for competitive bidding has come and gone. The contractor knows they have the work, you're not likely to change contractors midstream and they know that. Even fair contractors are not going to be giving you a great deal on added work. And truthfully, if the contractor did enter the initial part of the project with a low bid, he's going to make it up on the change order. This is just the reality of business.
Here's another "scope creep" scenario. One, that I've seen happen before. We're under construction and the homeowner thinks, "wouldn't it be great if we widened the opening from the kitchen to the dining room?...Let's do it!" On the surface, it's not a big change. It's a little demolition, a little framing, drywall, trim, and done. From a planning standpoint, we would try do a little investigation. Where is the duct work located? Is there a bathroom above this area? Might the plumbing drains be located inside of this wall? Instead of answering these questions, the contractor tears into the wall... Surprises are abound. The wall is loaded with plumbing: drains, supplies, and vents! The anticipated $800 change turned into a $3,200 change!
2. Good Design = Longevity
Good design means guarantees that you won't redoing something in two years because it wasn't thought out or it just wasn't designed that well. Good designers and good architects do not chase trends or fads. Trends fade quickly. That design that what was seemingly everywhere, quickly becomes a blip that screams, I was the hottest trend of 2017! In the 2017, that's not so bad, you seem cutting edge. However, in 2020, you feel like you were sold a bad bill of goods and buyer's remorse sets in. The worst part is, you feel like you have redo what you just finished paying off! Not to mention, who wants to have their life turned upside down by construction, again.
Truth be told, even great design does feel old eventually. But, a good architect or designer will not chase a trend that leaves you with a prematurely aging project.
3. Transparency. Your architect will be your guide through construction - making things transparent along the way. The contractor says, "I have to change this or upgrade that..." Do, I really?
The quick answer is, without another professional opinion, who knows? Many contractors are great guys who also have strong opinions. We always joke that if you gather 4 contractors, they will have 4 different ways of building the same thing AND, without fail, each contractor will say the other guy's way is wrong! It's a sad truth. The contracting or building world isn't black and white. It's not like accounting or medicine, where there are defined ways of doing things. Many contractors learn through apprenticeships and the teaching vary, wildly.
With that said, when a contractor says, "this is done completely wrong and this should be redone..." I would strongly suggest you get another opinion. Many times, it's just not the way this contractor would do it.
Also, keep in mind, building codes change, constantly. Your house was built to the building code, at that time. It has most likely survived just fine in the meantime. So while, codes may have changed, do you have to retrofit your entire house? The quick answer is no. However, if your project uncovers or impacts non-code compliant items, you will most likely have to update those areas. This is especially true if the code items impact life and safety.
4. Speed. You know those construction projects that seem to go on forever...? It's because the plan or the design wasn't thought out very well. With an architect involved, we think through design decisions together before construction begins. We also visualize the design, so when construction begins, there is no uncertainty.
These are just a few of the benefits an architect can bring to a project. Another thing to keep in mind, there are really no projects too small. A kitchen or bathroom should be well designed. Kitchen and bathrooms are the most expensive rooms in your house and can be one of the most impactful rooms in your home. However, we either wing the design ourselves or let someone at Home Depot design the space for us. Is this really a good investment of your money?