Dec 8, 2012

If you are not sure about using an architect...

Architects and painters have at least one thing in common; some people try to remove them from the job's list of costs in order to do it themselves.  The success rate is - not surprisingly - based on the talent of their replacements.  With regard to painting, often "Uncle/cousin Joe" can paint, and will do it for a "few bucks and pizza".  Or the homeowners want to do it themselves since they saw a commercial on TV from Home Depot and decided it looked fun and easy.  

Some people think that "architectin" is the same - we just need a room (or two or three)- how hard can that be?  There is a saying about knowing just enough to be dangerous...

In a perfect world, a job without an architect could possibly turn out, but a much more likely outcome will be messy and lacking in panache.  Sort of like bad painting.  

As a general rule I wil say that I advise strongly against not using an architect on any size job larger than a one room makeover.

Good architects, like good painters, will be able to add things to the job that novices will not even think of while guaranteeing cohesiveness in style.  They also excel at many tangential parts of the project that help make it a more fluid process from a scheduling and oversight perspective.

For people who may strongly think they do not want to use an architect, there are "architectural draftpersons" available.  These people are usually connected to an architect's typical resource pool, such as structural engineers, plan checking expediters, interior decorators, and even contractors.  They work on an hourly fee as opposed to a job fee.  But remember that they will almost certainly not give you anywhere near the level of service or facility.

They will typically not have the repertoire of a well-respected architect, which is important to certain clients.  Also they may not be able to keep the style of the project on theme as well as an accredited architect, simply due to their lack of study of architectural styles, so buyer beware.  I have met very few homeowners and contractors that are capable of replacing the role of the architect.  And fewer that will venture forth to do so - even if they have a good chance at moderate success.

My experience is that if you are unsure of how to go, talk to an architect first.  If you feel that you and your contractor can "take on the world", then start with an architectural draftsperson.  You can always go back to the architect later if the project gets too complex, and with the draftsperson you have only committed on an hourly level.

The drawings will not be a bad thing to have either, but be open to a complete revamp if that is where the architect is going.  After all, they are mainly there to help you from an aesthetic and lifestyle perspective, and it's one that they went to school for a long time to get right!