Architectural Design Process for Home Remodeling

Have you ever noticed how large commercial buildings go up so quickly and that some residential remodeling projects take forever? Barring bad luck or a terrible general contractor, the major reason may be lack of planning and poor or none existent construction plans and drawings. The architectural design process has six major parts for a home remodeling project. They are designed to make you think and plan your project systematically so that construction is done quickly and that the proper materials are used.
  • Existing Drawings and Questionnaire,
  • Preliminary Designs,
  • Final Designs,
  • Working Drawings and Specifications, and
  • Release of Liens and Final Check list to release 10 percent retainage
For an average home remodeling project, figure on 12 months from start to the completion of the project. We strongly recommend that you hire an architect and have him provide you with full service, especially during the construction of the project. Existing Drawings Your existing floor plan and elevations of the house are especially important. Don't think that all you have to do is deal with the new space. That's definitely not the way to go. The success of your home remodeling project is going to also depend on how well the new part blends with the new addition. If you have existing architectural plans, your architect will use these. These days, he/she can scan them into a CAD system and take some actual measurements to make sure the scale is correct. This includes a survey of conditions, all systems and zoning. Provide your architect with a Platte of your house so he/she will be aware of the set backs and easements. There is no reason to re-measure the existing space unless you don't have architectural plans. If your architect insists on doing this something is wrong. Before signing with any architect, ask how they will get started and how much it's going to cost to get the existing plans into the computer system. Questionnaire Each of you should answer separately a questionnaire that will be used by the architect to prioritize your project. Preliminary Designs Your architect will usually provide you with 2-3 preliminary designs. Computer CAD software makes this relatively easy to do. This also include elevations which should help you visualize the project. You and your architect will meet and discuss each design, it's pros and cons, relative costs, etc. This is not the time to be bashful. Speak up and communicate your needs both on the exterior views of your home and the interior. Your architect should be receptive. If she has done her homework, one of the preliminary designs should meet most of your needs and turn into the final design. Final Design The final design is where you and your architect will make decisions about details. This includes details about the kitchen, electrical fixtures, plumbing fixtures and large items like roofing material. Your architect should be giving you a sense of the relative costs of the details such as hardwood floors vs. carpeting, metal roof vs. cedar, stucco vs. brick vs. siding. At this point about 2.5 months have gone by. Working Drawings and Specifications Once you agree to the final design, your architect will produce construction drawings. She will also have a structural engineer and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) subcontractor review the drawings. One of the major challenges in home remodeling is getting the HVAC work done correctly. Armed with the construction drawings, your architect will prepare documents that allow contractor to bid for your job. Good architects usually recommend that 3-5 contractors bid on a job. Others say that you can achieve the same thing with just a single contractor. We disagree with the latter. There is usually a negotiation associated with the bidding. Your architect should assist you so that you can make a good decision. When you sign a contract, you'll probably use the American Institute of Architects contract. This ties payments to your contractor to actual progress. Permits and Construction Your architect should assist you in gaining permits from the county and or town you live in. As work begins, the architect should check on the work to make sure that the contractor is following the construction drawings. Keep in mind that some contractors will try to cut corners. Insist that the architect review critical work. When your Contractor gets paid An architect should not only make sure that the building inspections are completed, but that the project is build according to plan. Some contractors may cut corners or substitute materials during the construction phase and you'd never realize it. Your architect is there to prevent this from happening. The architect will also determine when you write that check for the contractor. Release of Liens and Final Checklist A release of liens by subcontractors is necessary to make sure that the general contractor has paid the subcontractors. Also, you should be retaining 10 percent of the total contract until the final inspection and checklist items have been completed. That 10 percent keeps the general contractor around. Guarantees There is usually a 1 year guarantee on labor and materials from the time the project is completed. HVAC systems usually have a 2-year guarantee while the structural elements of your project generally cover a 10 year period. Architectural Fees Architects work on a fixed fee basis which is determined by the scope of the job, not the cost of construction. Fees thjough generally range from 5-15 percent of the cost of construction with larger projects resulting in a lower percentage fee. Keep in mind that services include all of the above phases of the project from design through construction and all required engineering of solar, mechanical, electrical and plumbing for the project.