What to Know Before Talking to an Architect about Your Floor Plan

What to Know Before Talking to an Architect about Your Floor Plan

Custom home building and remodeling can give you the dream house you always wanted. But you’ll need to make communication with your architect and all contractors on the project a deliberate part of the process to get the best results. And when it comes to dealing with your architect (either a sole proprietor or an architectural firm), there are some things you need to know before you even start talking about your house plans and design ideas.

What You Should Know about the Architectural Process

The portfolio is a preview of what you’ll get. So, it’s important to have a look at a wide variety of your architect’s work if you want to know their range and preferences. Identify his or her signature style and compare that with your building and remodeling plans. You’ll want to find out if the architect is able to adapt your requests and ideas into a floor plan and design that blends into your existing home.

The architect’s personal style is going to end up in the final product, even if they’re trying to match another style you’ve chosen, so you don’t want to hire one whose stile you absolutely can’t stand. You’ll also want to know whether they can provide 3D drawings and simulations of the design, and whether that’s included in their basic fees.

The chief architect likely isn’t your designer. Unless your architect is a solo act, she likely is a partner in a larger design firm. Partners in an architecture firm often do the glad-handing with clients, while someone else at the firm does the actual design work. Just make it clear that you want to meet with the lead architect on your project before you sign a contract. They will need to have the communication skills to work with you and understand your design needs.

Know the fees that you’ll be charged. The architectural firm’s fee is often a percentage of the project, so keep that in mind as you’re choosing expensive fixtures, windows and other elements that could drive up the price. Extra services may add more to the firm’s costs and, therefore, to your bottom line.

Determine up front whether you’ll be billed monthly, by retainer, or by the hour for the initial design process and during construction. They may charge you differently at different phases of the design process.

You’ll want to get a lien waiver from all contractors. Otherwise, you could be giving an unscrupulous contractor too much power over you. Some contractors won’t sign a waiver because they can put a lien on your property in case you get into a contract dispute with them. If they refuse, it’s probably worth looking for one who will comply with your terms.

Design revisions may not be part of your contract. These services may not be included, so you might have to pay more, but they’re worth it to make sure the construction is proceeding well and so you can make changes if needed. It’s also worthwhile to lay out review periods with your architect, scheduled to occur at key points in the construction so that changes can be made before critical phases of work take place. This kind of schedule could be critical to communicating with your firm and saving money on costly revisions.

If you walk into a design firm prepared for with this type of knowledge, it will be that much easier to communicate with your architect on what home plans you are looking for. With better communication, the entire design and construction process will go more smoothly, and you’ll be kept in the loop about progress every step of the way.

Author Bio: Paul Foresman is the Director of Business Development at DesignBasics. He has many years of experience in small, custom, and luxury home plans. Paul enjoys helping people design their dream homes.

1 Comment

  1. one
    Comment by Shelly Upton: Aug 2, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Hi Paul,

    Excellent article! I’d add that when you decide on the architect you want to do business with that you consult with an attorney and get down everything in writing. I’ve seen building deals go off the tracks because things that were verbally agreed to at the table were either forgotten, or left ambiguous. A good, tight contract can help clear things up in advance!


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