Hiring a Home Designer

The following article outlines the importance of having proper plans for your new home or renovation project.

1. Hiring an Architect

Architects are well schooled and usually very creative professionals. They are the obvious choice if you need a design for your new project, right?...

Architects are well schooled and sometimes too creative. Many don't have hands on working knowledge of residential construction and renovation practices. This can translate into higher building costs. Experience in similar types of projects, and even a familiarity with the specific construction methods of existing buildings in the neighborhood, can be helpful to your project's targeted budget.. You may have little control over design once an architect takes on a job. There are many cases where the client takes a back seat to the "vision" of the architect. If you are familiar with a particular architect, and you like his/her work, and can afford them, hire them.

2. Hiring Unqualified Designers

You learn that a friend of a friend, or an in-law "does" drafting work on the side. It won't cost more than a few hundred dollars, and he can start the job right away...

This is a bad idea, especially for a renovation. Even experienced builders and designers don't know every situation that will arise in the course of a renovation or addition, but inexperience can lead to disaster! Many times the advice of an engineer is required, and if work is done without expert input, major structural flaws may go unnoticed. Which brings us to the subject of bylaws and permits. Interpretation of municipal building and development bylaws could constitute a profession in itself! If you hire someone who is not familiar with zoning bylaws, permit processes and the Building Code, you will inevitably run into problems somewhere along the way. Insufficient drawings will delay your project, and in the end, you will likely have to pay someone else to finish what was started.

3. Buying a Magazine Stock Plan

You have been thumbing through stock plan books, looking for a layout that suits your needs. Most likely, you find a plan that is very close to what you want , except for a few minor changes. The company that supplies the plans will make these changes for you for a small additional fee...

Although the price of the plan seems reasonable, take into account the additional costs; Changes to the plans - some companies will not make changes to all their plans, if any; Extra sets of plans will cost you; Add extra costs if the plan needs to be reversed (mirror image); Site plans are extra and likely won't be sufficient for a permit application; Shipping and handling costs. Looking at the bigger picture, are you really getting the home you want?
All this for drawings that probably will not satisfy the local authorities, or the BC Building Code, and may not be suited for your lot conditions or geographc location. Again, you may have to hire someone to finish what was started.

4. Hiring a General Contractor

Excited to see your dream home/renovation a reality, you start looking for a home builder. At this early stage you have a general idea of the style, layout and size of the project, and you are told by the contractor that they can offer design services. Some may include this service at no charge if they are chosen to do the work...

Rest assured that you will pay for that service. It will be a hidden cost in the estimate. But that's only if the contractor has to hire someone else to do it. In many cases the contractor will draw up the plans himself. This is a way for him to cut down on his costs, and the result could be the same as scenario #2.
One other option is to contract the services of a building technologist or building designer. A creative individual can guide your ideas to reality, maintain structural integrity, and do it for a reasonable fee.

More to come........

*Going Green - Building materials and ideas
*Basements - Is your basement sick?