You may be considering doing a home project, but you aren't sure if the scale and complexity of the project is worth hiring an architect. Here are some situations where hiring an architect might be the way to go.
When Dealing With a Contractor
Whenever you work with a contractor, it’s no secret that they speak their own language. It’s a language of referencing certain types of construction and materials that most homeowners don’t understand. I like to tell clients that architects are interpreters that provide the bridge between contractors and homeowners. Architects are able to understand the lingo contractors use and in-turn communicate what the contractor is talking about with the homeowner in layman’s terms, and vice versa. An architect can communicate the homeowner’s wants and needs to the contractor speaking while speaking their same language.
If you are hiring a contractor to do minor home cosmetic work like replacing flooring or windows, it is not necessarily worth it to hire an architect on your behalf. If you as a homeowner are getting into complex renovations, an architect might be the way to go to interpret your design vision.
Now, there are a lot of good contractors out there that can communicate with homeowners with ease and know that not all homeowners are knowledgeable about home construction. I do not want to take any credit from great contractors, but architects are also able to communicate with drawings. Drawings provide another layer of communication to make sure everyone is on the same page (literally) with the design.
When You Need to Deal With the City / AHJ For Your Project
If your project requires a permit, you will need to deal with a governing body either in the form of a city or an AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) and sometimes, what they request can be a whole heap of information. Each city and AHJ have different requests on what they need and require and it may require information in the form of drawings, floodplain information, historic building information, site surveys and much more. Certain architects are well-versed in finding and researching all this information and will communicate with the city on your behalf. With that being said, make sure to ask the architect you are considering hiring upfront as to whether or not they would be willing to do all of this research and file the permit for you. Some architects will fill out the permit information for your project and some will only provide drawings. Clearly define what you want to hire the architect to do and make sure your needs are being met.
When a Project is Very Detailed
With any project, there are many moving parts and pieces. However, some projects require more details or more sequencing and the details can be very minute. Architects are detail-oriented by nature and oftentimes think two-steps ahead. If your project has lots of moving parts and pieces, or is very intricate, consider hiring an architect.
When You are Adding on to Your Home or You are Creating a Ground-up Structure
At the end of the day, the contractor you have hired is the one who will build the project, but they will need some direction. Most commonly, this direction is interpreted to the contractor in the form of drawings which are provided by the architect. Additions and new construction projects require all of the items listed above. These projects require working closely with the contractor to make sure your needs as the homeowner are being met and understood. They also require permits (depending on where you live). Theses projects are also very detailed and intricate. Architects are able to fulfill all of these needs and they also understand how a building goes together.
To Ease Your Burden as the Homeowner
Going through a renovation or ground-up project takes a lot of time and energy and adding this while you also have a full-time job and a family can be even more strenuous. An architect helps relieve some of this burden by understanding what you want as a client and thus presents their solutions to you as the homeowner. They will do the research for the best products and options to meet your needs rather than all this falling onto you. While the project is under construction, and if it in their scope, they will also manage the construction for you by visiting the site during construction and communicating with the contractor on your behalf.
I'm not going to sugar-coat it, hiring an architect isn't necessarily cheap, especially if they are good, but if you as the homeowner are finding it hard to wrap your mind around a project, it may be worth the money to hire a professional. Of course I'm biased, and that's because architects are able to relieve homeowners of project burdens and advocate for great design that meets the clients' needs.