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What I wish I knew prior to hiring an Architect

Shortly after I moved into my house I started noticing that certain aspects of the general design of the house don’t serve me well. As a result I made a resolve to hire an architect as well as a general contractor to see through minor renovations to the house according to my personal preferences. Some of the obvious places around the house that I wanted the renovations to touch on include the kitchen, the closets, ceiling and floors. Through the renovations however, things do not go smoothly. Besides running way past the budget, it took twice as long as expected.  

Even though I did a lot of research prior to commencing the work, I wonder why it still took more money than expected and a lot more time than anticipated. Popular opinion is that when doing renovations, there is always the risk of running into trouble with the architect hired. For me, this was not the case, sine the general contractor whom I had hired ended up playing such a significant role than expected as far as the quality and smooth running of the renovations is concerned. In spite of all that: there are still some things which I realized that I wish I had known prior to signing the agreement with the architect.  

By the time the renovations were complete, I realized that architects won’t necessarily handle most of the responsibilities during general renovations. Had I not assumed anything during the initial do over in choosing an architect we certainly would have discussed and gone through all the options which in turn would have provided for a joint shared set of expectations from the contract and most importantly from the budget? More specifically, below is an overview of what I wish I knew prior to hiring an Architect, they include the fact that:

Architects are responsible for drafting plans

Architects are designing the house plan.

Architects are able to come up with technical drawing which just so you know are also key in helping flesh out construction or renovation ideas. As a matter of fact, the drafted plan by architects help set realistic expectations and most importantly help fast track permits besides guiding contractors while onsite working on construction or renovations.

Architects should be creative

I love anything that is visually appealing and if I knew in advance that architects are also able to incorporate visually interesting elements such as having more light featuring on the floor than the actual plans seems to allow, including secretive storage areas amongst other things then I would have definitely asked the architect I hired to feature some of the special elements into the initial plan and feature a few more others during the course of the plan.

Architects should advise on fixtures and finishes

The phrase fixtures and finishes is mostly used in reference to paint jobs, tiling, flooring, kitchen and countertop works, lighting etc as such, having hired an architect, they should be able to serve as the point person and recommend fixtures as well as finishes especially if you haven’t contracted a designer to see through your finishing.

Architects are responsible for identifying and managing the contractor

Blueprints on an architect table. House project and drawing

Most experienced contractors always have a work towards maintaining good working relationships with several reputable contractors. Whoever you hire should therefore recommend a few potential contractors to bid on your project that you can work with

Architects should be responsible for the overall management of the project

Renovations just like constructions have several constantly moving aspects.  This is clearly evident from the fact that besides having people to coordinate, you also need permits and have to see through finishes and fixtures not to mention orders to track. Although contractors are more than able to handle some of the above mentioned responsibilities, architects too can serve as point men for instance by helping you understand the deadline of specific items you may have ordered, identifying specialized sub contractors and even keeping track of processes which fall slightly out of the general scope of the construction or renovation.

Architects should offers suggestion that would help keep the project on time

Design Studio Architect Creative Occupation Meeting Blueprint Concept

This is another level of managing the project. There is no denying that getting some for of assistance in terms of timeframe can also be something that you prioritize. Besides just staying on top of the contractor and other players involved in he construction or renovations, the architect that you hire should recommend attractive finishes which should also be delivered promptly. In fact, he/she should even help you properly understand which pieces you can reasonably have taken care of shortly after you finally decide move in.  

Architects are also responsible for making suggestions that help keep the budget in check.

Design Studio Architect Creative Occupation Meeting Blueprint

This an architect can achieve by including appealing suggestions as well as cheaper alternatives for finishes that seem rather pricey. For example, they can recommend features that you should consider spending on and highlight areas where you can easily save. At the same time, they are also best placed to help you anticipate the costs which you might not be preview to having decided to undertake the renovation or construction works.

In addition to all of the above, asking the right questions would also have helped seeing through the project to its intended conclusion, questions such as:

    1. Which responsibilities does he/she handle and which ones can I handle?
    1. Which role do I play in choosing and handling fixtures and finishes?
    1. What is your strategy to see through a project of this size to its conclusion and on time and according to the budget?
    1. Are there any unexpected solutions which you may have suggested on previous projects and worked out fine?
    1. How do you deal with or handle conflict?
  1. Do you have any notable references I can contact?

From the above, you can clearly see that time during renovation or time during construction can directly be equated to money. As such if you can get an architect who you can join hands with and he would help you see through the renovations or construction according to the initial plan and work timetable then leave nothing to chance. Doing so will definitely keep you in touch with details of the project besides largely ruling out the possibility of any exorbitant budget overruns which are very common when the construction works or renovations fall behind deadline.

In as much as the architect that I hired drew up the required plans and even went as far as helping me identify the experienced contractors to bid on the project not to mention helping manage the contractor I settled for, I was still disappointed on several other fronts. This is primarily because the fees involved turned out to be way more exorbitant that initially accounted for. From the above, it is clearly evident that I never asked the proper questions during our search for an architect to help with the renovations. Had I only know the above mentioned things, I would definitely have found the perfect fit to see through the project and it would have turned out completely different.