As built or as not to built, this is the question?
March 23, 2012 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Were doing an addition to our house, mainly a new kitchen. But included in our wish list is a set of french doors and we must move the washer and dryer to a new location outside the main house. I had a highly recommend contractor come over to take a look. After going over our "wish list" he said the way to proceed is to make a "as built" set of drawings of the property with set-backs, electrical, etc. He does the drawings work himself and charges $50 an hour. Says the entire preliminary drawing could cost up to approx. $5000. My head hurt for awhile and I am just not clear on the best way to proceed. I know we cannot afford all the work we want to get done. I know we are willing to work with cabinetry from places such as IKEA or Home Depot, if that really makes a difference. I know I want to have everything up to code and work with permits on the job. I know my head hurts. I started my own overview house plan using Google SketchUp and the help of this very forum, but it is very preliminary and I am not sure if I am up to making it a complete drawing with gas, elec, plumb, etc that would be necessary for the final job drawings. What I am asking for is help on how to wrap my head around this project. Am I being naive to think that this can all be done without spending 5K on drawings alone? What else am I missing here?? Thanks, Henry
posted by silsurf to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's hard to tell without knowing the scale of the addition. Get multiple estimates from different contractors. Ask the reccommended contractor about the cost and see if there is something you can do to reduce the number of hours.

A couple of data points.

1) We refinished a basement and found from 3 contractors a factor of 3x difference in the prices quoted - and the most expensive was also using the cheapest materials.

2) If these drawings are used for permitting, you probably cannot do them yourself. It's possible $50 / hour is actually very cheap compared to having an architect put them together. This is particularly true if you are doing anything structural.
posted by NoDef at 3:28 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you asked other contractors for bids?
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:29 PM on March 23, 2012

How much are you planning to spend on the whole project? Spending $5,000 to do drawings on a $100,000 project would be well worth it. Spending $5,000 on a $25,000 project, not so much. The thing is, the better you plan, the better the details are on the drawings, and the less you then deviate from the drawn plans, the closer to budget your project will come in. Having no drawings at all, or having inadequate drawing and then deviating right and left by authorizing change orders to the original plans will cost you through the nose.

That said, I would have the drawings done by someone other than the contractor who is going to do the work. If you have a decent scale drawing of what it is you want to have built, a local civil engineering office can probably create good plans that you can put out to bid to multiple contractors. They can also guide you through making every possible decision on paper rather than on the fly as the work is underway, which causes delays and extra charges.

If it would take 100 hours to do the drawings, this sounds like a pretty big project, so $5,000 might actually be pretty reasonable, whoever you engage to do the plans. Something in the 5-10% of total cost for detailed plans is in the right ballpark.
posted by beagle at 3:32 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Property is 4950
Kitchen is 9.5x12 it would be a complete gut. The washer and dryer are being moved outside into a protective shed that is right where the gas, water and sewer lines are.
The french doors would be on a wall facing exterior and need an exterior set of stairs
We would also like shelves around the french doors
posted by silsurf at 3:35 PM on March 23, 2012

Response by poster: We are planing to spending less than $50,000
posted by silsurf at 3:36 PM on March 23, 2012

$50/hour for as-builts is not bad, especially since it's likely you'll need the drawings for permitting. But 100 hours for a project that size is too many hours.

Get a second opinion.
posted by Specklet at 3:41 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

[What's 4950 mean?]

So $5,000 in drawings on a $50,000 project seems a little excessive but not that much.

Do find out what kind of drawings your locality will require for a building permit. That plays a part in how you go about this.

If you really want to go with this particular contractor, tell him he has the job if he can limit the drawings cost to $2,500. If not, either do the best possible set of drawings yourself and get 3 bids, or see if you can get them done professionally, by someone other than the contractor you end up with, for something in the $2,500-$3,500 ballpark.

As noted above, don't deviate from the plan once it's finished on paper. Again, a little professional help on the planning side is going to save you added expense.
posted by beagle at 3:45 PM on March 23, 2012

Response by poster: This his response to the question on "as built"

The next step would be to start the as-builts, for the kind of work that we're doing the city will require a site plan or a plot plan showing the lot and everything on it with all the setbacks from the property lines. We'll also be required to show a floor plan of the house, in our case a partial would be enough, a foundation plan, elevations, sections and possibly construction details and a roof plan. Since most of our work will be in the kitchen we will want to draw 4 interior elevations and an electrical plan.It's hard to give an exact number at this stage but the average for a job like this is around $5,000. In the design stage we will use our plot plan as the master plan even if we're only doing one portion of the construction at this stage.
posted by silsurf at 3:50 PM on March 23, 2012

As part of my job, I draw as-builts (and shop drawings) for my employer, an electrical contractor. Fifty bucks an hour is less than half what I am billed out at. For the last small-to-mid sized job I did, we allotted 172 hours for design and drawings, accounting for about 7% of the job cost.

You're probably not qualified to create the sort of drawings needed. For the work my company does, we've had people try to supply what they thought were great drawings but they are just not acceptable.
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:54 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

As-builts are created when a project is completed. What you/your county agency will need are plans. Seems odd that there is a disconnect with the terminology here.
posted by Big_B at 3:58 PM on March 23, 2012

Go down to your city planning/building office and ask what they want. I just built a fully permitted 270 square foot building with a living roof(!), and they wanted an engineer's stamp on the calculations because of the huge roof load, but for the lot plan for setbacks and trench locations and such they'd have been totally happy with stuff drawn in crayon on a napkin, as long as it specified the numbers they cared about so that when the inspector came out he could verify that the numbers matched.

To Big_B's statement: I've always seen "as built" to refer to "here's the current state of the building", so I don't think there's a huge disconnect.
posted by straw at 4:00 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Big_B, straw is right: in this instance "as-builts" means "plans of the existing property" and is correct terminology. (I'm an architectural designer working on a set of drawings called "record drawings", which is what is produced when the project is complete.)
posted by Specklet at 4:11 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wait, if you're quoting his response in your last comment, he says "we will want to draw 4 interior elevations and an electrical plan" and you mention preliminary drawings in your questions.

Is $5000 for the as-builts only, or does it include the preliminary design drawings/design work as well?

This should be clarified, because it makes a big difference.
posted by Specklet at 4:17 PM on March 23, 2012

Ahh thanks. The more you know....
posted by Big_B at 4:17 PM on March 23, 2012

Yeah, working in the architecture field, "as-built" can mean two things: either a drawing showing the state of things before we start doing anything, or showing what actually went in the building when we were done. When I was in an office doing a remodel, we'd always refer to whatever drawings we did/had given to us that showed the existing building the "as-built" set, so there's not really a disconnect.

Keep in mind that there's going to be time put into the drawing set that isn't just drafting - if you don't have drawings of the existing building, someone's going to have to come out and measure the place and where it sits on the site and whatever interior stuff they need to get. If you're in a state with stringent energy requirements, they might also have to document a number of doors and windows on the property if you plan on adding any. Then they'll have to do some code research and possibly some records research to get your legal description and lot dimensions correct, and any easements or anything like that on the property that your building department will want to see on a site plan. So, while the cost for drawings can scale with the size of the project, there's a certain minimum cost just to take care of all that other stuff and the measuring.

I would have put the measuring at about 4-5 hours, depending on how much I needed to do, and then the code research at 2-3, depending on how easy the records department is, so you're already looking at $400 just for those things, before I've even put a pencil on a piece of paper. And, my firm would have charged $85 an hour.
posted by LionIndex at 4:21 PM on March 23, 2012

$50 an hour is cheap, the firm I work for bills out at $125
posted by sanka at 4:59 PM on March 23, 2012

I've done all my own permitting for my remodeling projects -- so far nothing quite as large as this, but getting there. At least in my city, where the permit people are friendly and helpful, it's possible to do this yourself, but definitely expect it to take time. Measuring takes time, drawing takes time, and then there's the time going to the permit office, showing them your drawings, being told what is wrong with your proposal, and then redoing the entire process until everyone is happy.

And without a friendly and helpful permit office, this would be a lot less pleasant. So you can definitely do it yourself, but don't downplay the amount of time you'll be investing. I'm not clear from your question whether or not the $5k includes just the as-is drawings, or also the drawings for the addition -- that's a big difference, and you'll need to clarify that.
posted by Forktine at 5:28 PM on March 23, 2012

One note: you might ALREADY have drawings of the property as is that would be sufficient for the planning permission, and would be a good start for an architect or whoever to built on to create drawings of the new structures.

Check your copy of the contracts that were exchanged when you bought the house. Ours includes these drawings, and that is true of most other contracts I have seen. (In Australia, so YMMV).
posted by lollusc at 5:54 PM on March 23, 2012

I am a contractor in Florida. An electrician. I do plenty of re-model work. I am amazed at some of the answers by people here - where can I find customers like you?

I am also a real estate investor. I own several homes as rental units. I re-model my owns homes often enough too. So, I know the experience well from both ends.

$5,000 for drawings on a kitchen re-model!?! Never heard of such thing, and it seems like a scam to me. Maybe things are different in other people's jurisdictions. Maybe other people are clueless, because that sounds completely insane to me.

First of all, why would you pay for drawings BEFORE talking to the building department? The only drawings you need are the ones the building inspector requires. You are re-modeling your kitchen, not paying for art. You can draw your own pictures, until a building inspector tells you otherwise.

Go to your building department and find out what they need. Do you even need to have a GC? Many states allow home-owners to oversea their own work.

Do NOT hire a contractor, then pay him for 100 hours of drawing pictures, before you ever see a tool move or ever talk to a building inspector to determine in drawing are even required.
posted by Flood at 7:15 PM on March 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

I'm reading this with interest. For comparison purposes, I was bid $10k to do the plans for a whole-house repair (2100 s.f.). I couldn't afford it, so I drew the site plan and floor plans, exterior elevations, and roof plan myself. It took me at least six weekends, not all of them spent working the entire time, but I did put in quite a bit of work. I paid about $2k for a foundation plan and structural / engineering calculations. We're not changing the electrical or plumbing. I've been using Ikea's cabinet program to design the kitchen interior. However. I'm just another clueless homeowner figuring it out as I go along. I may well end up having to pay more for additional drawings in the future. (I've already had one inspector say "you don't have a drawing of this?? get one, then I'll inspect it.") Or I may find problems due to a lack of drawings. In retrospect, I do wish I'd been able to get a detailed, high-quality set of plans. While I thought my builder didn't need them, it would have prevented some mistakes. And then, it'd be very clear exactly whose fault any "miscommunications" are, because either it's on the plans or it's not. I would be somewhat skeptical of having the builder do it, because the dialogue between the builder and the designer would probably generate a better solution overall. I can tell you that screwups during the building process can easily approach $5000, so if you can get a really solid set of plans for less than that, it'd justify itself.
posted by slidell at 8:25 PM on March 23, 2012

This seems a lot to me. I had the back third of a house re-done, including the removal of a large load bearing wall and a steel frame to replace it, a new glass roof, new french doors, a new toilet and the reconfiguration of staircase. This cost around £60,000 of which the architect's fee was £5,000. But this included tons of structural drawings for the wall removal, negotiation of local planning, liaising with structural engineers and project managing. It was money well spent.

When we later had some roof trusses and a bit of wall removed and an upstairs bathroom rebuilt I got a structural engineer to do a few drawings: they cost £300. As for the plumbing and electrical routing, that was all done by the plumber and the electrician.
posted by rhymer at 1:23 AM on March 24, 2012

I also consider "as builts" to be the drawings done to show what was constructed, after the work has been done. This is in recognition that things do not always unfold as planned.

My thought is that the contractor is including the total cost of all drawings - the plan drawings, before the work is done, and the as-builts, after it is done. Both may be needed for approval by the building inspector.
posted by megatherium at 3:42 AM on March 24, 2012

Another point: if the building inspector will require drawings done by an architect, you may end up having to have the drawings redone anyway.

Much of this does not sound right.
posted by megatherium at 3:44 AM on March 24, 2012

I spent just a little more than $6000 on architecture plans for a 1500 square foot addition PLUS a complete gut and remodel of 1000 sq. ft of existing space. Yes, something is off here.
posted by murrey at 5:36 AM on March 24, 2012

My ARCHITECT cost me less than that on a gut, rebuild and tiny addition at the rear of our house... and his staff did all the forms for council and made a damn fine coffee in their attached cafe.Very posh. Seriously, that's bullshit.
posted by taff at 6:02 AM on March 24, 2012

Response by poster: thanks for the great feedback
posted by silsurf at 9:12 AM on March 24, 2012

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