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Please help me determine if an architect is necessary, and if so find one
July 13, 2009 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Would it be a good idea to hire an architect for this job? Can you recommend one in my northern New England area, or can you recommend ways to find a good one? Any thoughts on how much the job should cost?

We live in a house that was built in 1980 and that has been added on to twice. As a result of the additions it has a kind of funky/atraditional interior structure and there are some spaces that are just strange shapes. Also, it was originally built to be passive solar, so a large part of a major internal wall is concrete (to act as heat-retaining thermal mass), and most of the house sits on a very thick concrete slab, which complicates interior renovations.

My husband and I would like to put in a third bath, upstairs laundry room (there is a laundry, but it's currently downstairs), and renovate the main bath. We would do most to all of the work ourselves, spaced out over time; we can't afford it otherwise. But, due to the funky interior, as well as the complications associated with running water lines or ducts (because of all that concrete), I think it could be helpful to hire an architect as a consultant. I envision him/her helping us plan the work: where to place fixtures and storage, where to run water/ducts, and so on. I don't think we would even need drawings; I would just like a professional's input on how we can make the best use of our space and address the challenges it presents.

We tried hiring a contractor for a similar job back when we owned another house, and I was not at all happy with the results; he didn't tell us anything we didn't know already. However, I believe an architect is much more trained in this kind of question.

I don't know anyone in the area who has hired an architect, and there are no recommendations on Angie's List.

Several questions:

1) Is this something an architect would indeed do?
1a) If not, who would?
2) Can you recommend one in my area?*
3) Or can you recommend any ways to find a good one?
4) I know the specifics of the job will affect the cost to a great degree, but I am interested in any thoughts on how long the job should take, how much it should cost (per hour), and/or how much it should cost total?
5) Have you done anything similar yourself? Is this a strange request or a common one? Anything else we should consider that I haven't thought about? Is there a different way we should approach the problem?

* My approximate location should be visible to MeFi members. Please let me know if it's not.

Thank you!
posted by Herkimer to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would hire one, if only to get good plans that would ease the permitting process. A structural engineer would also be helpful. Adding appliances up top might put you over some kind of wieght threshold you wouldn't think about.


This is pretty common. I would exxpect to pay anywhere from a grand on up depending on the detail you expect from the architecht.
posted by stormygrey at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2009


Do you know if the previous work was permitted? If so, good. If not, bad. You may have some work ahead of you with that. You will want a contractor (at least) with a good relationship with the building inspector to sort this out and remedy any problems.

The American Institute of Architects has an Architect Finder function on their Web site (www.aia.org). I'd start there to find an architect.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2009


have you made sure that the project doesn't need a building permit? you might want to check with you city or county planning department before proceeding. if so, you will probably need an architect and even a structural engineer if you are making structural alterations.

ask neighbors and friends for recommendations. the AIA is an ok place to look, but they won't have any information on whether clients were satisfied with the work. the only way to do that is to ask for references and make sure you make the calls.

for a small job, an architect would most likely charge by the hour ($75-125). you can always meet with several architects and have them each write up a proposal for services based on what you want. good luck!
posted by dityfleur at 1:03 PM on July 13, 2009


Sorry, I should say, permitting and building regs are pretty lax around here, unlike more metropolitan areas. The state itself doesn't even really enforce a building code. The prior work was permitted, though (that's the sort of thing they check when you buy a place, but I also checked myself). And we'll certainly get any work we do permitted, if necessary.
posted by Herkimer at 1:49 PM on July 14, 2009


1) Is this something an architect would indeed do?

sure... sorta. small projects like this one just aren't usually profitable to an architect. that said, many designers wouldn't mind offering advice if you come to them with a floor plan and a list of questions.

1a) If not, who would?

maybe a contractor. maybe a student, but they don't have the kind of experience you'll be looking for. maybe an interior designer.

2) Can you recommend one in my area?
3) Or can you recommend any ways to find a good one?


everywhere you and your friends and family live, work, shop, etc. was designed and built by someone. local knowledge trumps anything I can offer. ask around.

4) I know the specifics of the job will affect the cost to a great degree, but I am interested in any thoughts on how long the job should take, how much it should cost (per hour), and/or how much it should cost total?

a licensed architect bills anywhere from 90-140/hr in my limited experience. if you retained an architect's services for design drawings, they would likely have an unlicensed employee do the grunt work at around 75/hr. engineering fees are usually flat rates and start at maybe 500 per discipline (elect, mech/plumbing) but that's from commercial work so your rates could be lower or you might not need engineering, especially if your municipality's permitting requirements are lax. if you don't already have drawings of the existing home, expect it to take several hours of a pro's time to survey and draw it up, even before they do the new design work.

5) Have you done anything similar yourself? Is this a strange request or a common one? Anything else we should consider that I haven't thought about? Is there a different way we should approach the problem?

I don't know enough about residential work, but I believe this sort of scope could be handled by a general contractor without an architect's involvement. that would be the most cost-effective approach. unfortunately, a contractor is not likely to be interested in helping if you're going to do all the work yourself. (bummer about your previous bad experience, too, but recognize that contractor, like architect, doctor, etc. is a broad term that covers different specialties and degrees of experience). I'd try doing some legwork first (draw up the floor plan if you can) and then spend an hour with an architect, discussing general planning issues and things to watch out for. then, have a reputable GC get drawings, permit (if req'd) and build the project, or if you can't afford that, wing it with your limited knowledge and ability and live with the results of your experiment. (I don't mean that as discouragement, but a realistic expectation)
posted by Chris4d at 9:29 PM on July 14, 2009


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