Selecting a designer can be a challenge, particularly for owners who may not have been involved in a project for a decade, or ever. But, having your own blueprints of what you want before you decide who is going to do the job may actually make the decision-making process easier.
Adding on or renovating could demand special expertise and experience well beyond the know-how of most homeowners. Many consumers, therefore, value taking the first step of meeting with an architect, designer, consultant, or design/build remodeler. The designer can be as important to your project as the other contractors, and your decision to go with a particular one should be treated with care.
Yes, working with your own blueprint or plans helps your remodeling contractors, especially in the bidding process. They will be able to bid on exactly the same thing, item per item, as they will all know what you are asking for and will have to anticipate very little what the job will require. This cuts out guess work, and a lot is in writing up front. Some contractors could even invite you to present your own plans.
When going through the selection process, there are some things you can do to check out the backgrounds of those vying for the job.
- Call your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. They can refer you to registered architects
- Call the Remodelors Council of your local home builders association.
- Get referrals from personal contacts. People you know may be happy to share their recent experiences with work done on their homes, and this can include all phases of the project.
There are also some questions you can ask a designer directly that can make your decision more-informed. Ask for a list of five most recent projects similar to what you are planning to see how they carried out the vision. Also, ask more specific questions, such as the following:
- Do they make committed visits during the project?
- Do they have CD-ROM or other visual tools of your designs?
- Can the project really be completed within the budget?
- Have there ever been delays due to documentation errors, and how were they corrected?
- Will you be able to choose your own main contractor, products, manufacturers, etc.?
- How are any protests from contractors resolved?
Such questions can help you get a background on the designer's ability to represent your interest.
Once you have selected a design firm and have checked them out to your satisfaction, the firm can then use the design you provided and proceed quite quickly with formulating architectural approved blueprints. Then, your chosen remodeler can work adroitly with the approved plans and written specifications and can move ahead with the construction.
The process of finding and choosing an architect, designer, or design/build remodeler should be approached with the same care used in selecting any contractor. As the homeowner, you should gather enough information to allow you to make educated decisions on finding the firm that can best carry out your vision. This information, and having your own blueprints, can be the difference between just knowing what you want for your home and actually communicating your mental picture to the ones who will carry out your dream.