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Are you thinking about or planning a new home construction project or a home addition? You’re thinking you need some help from created plans and documents to make it all happen and you want it built right. So, the question is — do you need an architect to help with your project?

Do I Need an Architect
The importance of the architect is often overlooked in home improvements. After all, the general contractor is the one getting the work done, right?

Well you don’t have to be designing a new home from scratch to need an architect. If you’re making any structural changes to your home at all, whether it is an addition, a remodel or adding a whole new floor, an architect should be one of the first people you call.

An architect can provide many of the same services a contractor would, but he will also be able to incorporate these changes into the overall design of the house. Though some contractors do have an eye for design, an architect has had extensive training in blending form and function. If you bring an architect in at the beginning of your project, it can save you from aesthetic and design disasters that could ruin or frustrate your project completely.

WHAT AN ARCHITECT CAN DO FOR YOU

Architects can handle the management of the entire process, from design to completion. Or they can provide just the design plans for your new project.

Here are some functions an architect performs when working on residential projects:

DESIGN

Do I Need an ArchitectAn architect will help you plan the project and come up with designs. A good design will take your needs, the style of the current structure and the building site into consideration. Expect an architect to ask you to consider questions like: If they have not been to the site they will ask what direction is north? Where are your neighbors? If this is an addition they will want to know when your present house was built. How does your family want to use the new addition? What are the traffic patterns in your home and how does this project fit with them? An architect will make sure that eras, materials and roof lines match. There’s nothing worse than a colonial home with a modernist addition or vice versa.

COORDINATION

Once the designs have been drawn up, the architect can also coordinate and manage the project from start to finish. This begins with calling for quotes from contractors. The next step is helping you to review the quotes before hiring the contractor that will do the work. This management part includes dovetailing the work of all the subcontractors who are going to be contributing to the final project. The Architect can also supervise the work as it progresses making sure that everything goes according to plan as far as quality, time and budget are concerned. Though some or all of this can be done by the contractor and at less cost the architect should be involved in making sure his quality and design factors are followed.

KEEPING IT LEGAL

Your Architect can obtain any of the necessary permits and ensure that all local building codes and bylaws are observed. They will also make a final inspection. An architect is professionally liable for the soundness of the work. An architect is accredited and licensed after completing a five year architecture degree or master of architecture program, while no formal education is required for contractors.

CAUTIONS

Do I Need an ArchitectArchitects are lovely and creative people who (for the most part) have sometime little acquaintance with cost and budget. Do not believe them when they say things like “this should be relatively inexpensive”. Their ballpark figures can be wildly off. Do not be seduced by late-breaking ideas (unless they really are strokes of genius, these can really be expensive). All of the practical matters are best discussed with your contractor or at least finalized with him.

HOW DO I FIND AN ARCHITECT?

Finding an architect isn’t as simple as opening the phone book. An architect may have a lot of experience but is it the right kind of experience? They may have experience designing commercial or industrial projects but custom homes are a different matter. They should have at least 5 years of experience designing custom homes. Often times, residential projects require more hands on service with the client. Designing a building is an art, so look around for homes you love, then talk with the owners and discover who the architect was. See if you can afford them! If you can’t get a recommendation from someone you trust, meet with prospective architects and look for values that mesh with yours, common philosophies and good chemistry. A great way to help the process go more smoothly is to know what to ask your potential architect.

From design to construction the whole project should be a collaborative effort – your architect and your contractor need to be people you can work with and who can work with each other.

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