Do I need an architect?

8 Replies

I just bought a house in Northern NJ that needs some renovations and I'm trying to determine if I need an architect or if a GC can do the work. I want to take out half of a wall (to open the kitchen to the living room) and expand the footprint of a couple of bathrooms, but I'm not adding additional square footage to the home. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

@Laura Levine First off, welcome to BP! You should be able to find someone that has a full service remodeling company that can handle the design and construction. When you do a search, look at their websites, then when you find some, call and ask if they handle design, permits, and construction. If they do, pick 3 and get bids. Make sure they're bidding on the same quality, type of finishes, etc. Check their licenses and bonds on the State contractor website or wherever that's found in your area. Ask if they have any past customers you can call. Good luck.

Most ranch style home floor plans will have a load bearing wall below the roof ridge, the kitchen to the rear, so if that's the wall to be knocked out it will be more critical. You need to see a GC first, many can do this without issues, it's just money! The CG can tell you if there is a need for an architect or engineer. Usually not for interior work, but your local jurisdiction may require darn near anything, the contractors will know. :)

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Thanks so much for the feedback! @Karen Margrave I actually did have one of those all-in-one companies come and give me a rough estimate, but I wasn't sure if they recommended the architect just because it's the way they do things as a company, or because it was really necessary. I guess I'm just wary of being taken advantage of, and I don't want to pay for unnecessary plans.

A GC is likely sufficient. It is also it is important to consider people who have worked in your area. They may be more in the know about how the town is to work with any quirks of the area. For what you are doing probably not as big a deal unless the reno gets bigger. @Karen Margrave

has the process right. Don't skip the due diligence or you will be sorry latter.

@Laura Levine For simple remodels like that, it shouldn't require a licensed architect, unless the building department requires it. Most contractors have draftsmen they work with for simple designs. A contractor should be able to tell if it's a load bearing wall or not. If it is, and you want to open it, then it may require a structural engineer to draw plans etc. (If the wall is not longer there to carry the weight, then that weight has to be dispersed somehow, meaning a beam spanning the area to hold up the overhead weight)

It's not a matter of IF it can be done, but the cost of doing it!

Not sure if this is too late....but having an architect allows you to do a couple of things that would help in the overall planning and bidding. Getting their input on what you are doing and putting it on paper so you can bid the project out so all are getting the same info is invaluable when it comes to bidding construction projects. If you bring three remodeling companies in and on talk about what you want a lot of times you get ideas thrown around that don' t get conveyed to the other companies and then you get bids all over the place. Make sure you talk to an attorney about having a contract put together or have them review the contract the remodeling company uses. Who ever does the work needs to have their workers compensation policy up to date and you should have a copy of that before any work starts along with copies of their up to date insurances.

Don't waste your money on an architect unless the project is over 100k (sounds like your just moving a couple walls). Make a drawing yourself and have the contractor bid that. Make sure they list their scope in their bid with a list of what is and is not included. Contractors will typically avoid being too specific so ask them to revise and add detail 2-3 times. Don't waste your money on a lawyer either. Buy and download the AIA105 contract for small commercial/residential and alter it to include the terms you want - its not rocket science.

If your project ends up becoming more complex - or you are unsure/confused after trying this approach first - then consider and architect.

Full disclosure, I'm an architect.  I can't speak to your local municipality, but in most jurisdictions if you're moving any walls, plumbing, ect you need to file for building permits.  To do that you need a licensed architect or PE.  You have no choice, it's the law.  Regardless of your local laws, hiring a professional architect will save you time and money in the long run.  A good architect's advice and design expertise will be invaluable to maintain schedule and budget, and also will add value to your project.  Having a proper set of construction drawings will allow for the contractor to properly bid the job and understand the scope of work.  This will save you time onsite (ie $$), reduce coordination issues, additional costs, and change orders.  An architect will also oversee the contractor, ensure quality control, and advise in the bidding process to negotiate the best price.  

At the end of the day, you will make money off your architect.  There is a reason you hire a professional.