Everything you need to know about:
The Remodel Team
It takes a village to accomplish a large home remodel, and when it comes to choosing your team the options can be overwhelming. Read on to learn about who to look for, where to find them, who’s indispensable and who you can live without.
The level of service and skill you need will differ depending on your specific project and what you’re trying to accomplish.
In order to call themselves an Architect, an individual has to have gone through a rigorous schooling and state licensing program ensuring that they have in-depth working knowledge of building structures, systems, construction, and more. They’re highly trained and highly skilled, and because of this they’re generally the most expensive design professional you’ll find.
The Architect will generally take you through all the stages of design and construction, and you’ll benefit from their knowledge of building systems as they’re designing your space; they’ll know what challenges may arise from plumbing, electrical, and HVAC requirements in addition to spatial needs. They’ll act as your agent to locate builders, review and negotiate bids, and oversee construction to make sure work is done according to the plans. They can often handle the structural design of your addition in-house, but will sometimes still bring on a structural engineer to sign off on the framing and foundations.
When to choose an architect for your project:
What to watch out for:
A building designer will be less expensive than an architect, and can often provide many of the same services. Many designers have degrees in architecture and decided not to follow the traditional architectural path; their experience often comes from many years of hands-on work in the industry.
The designer will guide you through the early stages of your project, figuring out the best layout and then developing your design through final drawings (either for permits or construction). They may or may not help you select builders or be there during construction to keep an eye on things, and they likely will not help you negotiate terms or disputes with your builder. Ideally the designer will work closely with the rest of your team to make sure all elements of the project are coordinated and accounted for, from plumbing to HVAC and framing. They should have an in-depth knowledge of building codes and local zoning regulations in your area, so they can help you achieve your goals and also get them permitted and built. The best ones also have a very practical approach, with a knowledge of structures and construction so they don’t design something that’ll blow the budget or can’t be built.
When to choose a building designer for your project:
What to watch out for:
A drafter is an individual that has training in the software needed to take your sketches and turn them into a permit-ready set of plans. They may have built a career from working with architects, builders, or engineers to develop plan sets, or may be early in their careers and developing their skills through translating designs into blueprints.
Drafters are the least expensive option for getting your design permit-ready. They’re usually limited to just the plans portion of the project; for small or simple projects they may be able to offer support for laying out your ideas, but usually won’t be very involved in the early design or development process. The really good drafters will have extensive knowledge of code clearances and construction standards, and should be able to offer feedback on any design issues and how to adjust them.
When to choose a drafter for your project:
What to watch out for:
You may or may not need an engineer, depending on your project.
Structural engineers are the most common. On home addition or large remodel projects they evaluate the framing and foundations to make sure whatever you’re building will stand up, make sure the existing home’s structure is not compromised, and do calculations to size new beams, headers, posts, foundations, etc. Smaller, simple additions can be designed to follow “prescriptive code,” which is a full set of code requirements detailing the basics of framing, bracing, and foundation construction. If your project meets prescriptive code, the drawings don’t need an engineer’s stamp. If it doesn’t, your permitting jurisdiction will likely require a structural engineer to prove that it works or develop methods to make it work.
On new construction projects you may need a geotechnical engineer to evaluate your site’s soils and groundwater flow, and possibly a civil engineer to develop grading and stormwater disposal systems.
The general contractor is the builder spearheading the efforts to take your plans and get them built. He figures out what it will cost to build and how long building will take. He’ll decide which trades are needed, gather and direct the team of craftsman, and will be responsible for keeping them on track and on budget. The GC will generally be your main point of contact during the construction phase, keeping you updated and keeping the job site clean and standards met for quality. Some of the work he may handle himself or with his team, and some of it he may subcontract out. Some general contractors are willing to help you work through design details like finishes and paint colors, can help you choose tile and flooring, and can assist with lighting and electrical design; some may even be able to help with basic layout design for smaller remodel and addition projects.
Different GC’s will offer different services, and their pricing may vary considerably depending on their level of service, how much they handle in-house, and how much they have to hire out. As with designers, make sure you ask plenty of questions and find one who can meet your needs. If you get multiple bids, make sure you compare apples-to-apples and get estimates for the same services, or keep an eye out for what’s included and what isn’t.
Sub-Contractors / Tradesmen
Unless the general contractor has an in-house team, he’ll sub-contract some of the trades to other professionals. Often the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work will be done by very skilled subcontractors; there may also be subs for framing, tile, painting, or anything in between. These are the guys and gals with their hands on your house getting the work done.
If your project is very small – a cosmetic remodel, removing a wall or two, or basic layout changes – and you’re willing to put the work in, you may be able to handle the coordinating and estimating yourself and save the general contracting fee. Do a thorough evaluation of your confidence level, experience, and available time to handle the project before deciding to forego the GC. You’ll be taking over the task of interviewing subs, managing the budget and the schedule, keeping the team on task, and dealing with any issues or surprises that come up during construction on your own.
How to Find Them
How to Choose Them
There are a lot of really good service providers out there, so how do you narrow down the list and choose the best professionals for the job?
What Happens Next
Choosing your team is one of the biggest pieces of the remodel puzzle, and once that’s done the rest should be smooth and easy. They can help you finish planning, get financing lined up, organize your ideas and work out a timeline.
Have you gone through choosing a remodel team? How did it go, and what did you learn? Anything you would do differently? We’d love to hear your thoughts or any other info you can share to help others along the path!