Working With the Remodel Professionals

When considering a home improvement remodel, you have to decide whether you are going to need the help of a professional: Architect, Interior Designer, General Contractor, Subcontractor. The following is a description of each of these professionals, their function, what they are capable of and how they can help you get the home of your dreams.

Architect. Architects are state licensed professionals with a degree in architecture and are trained to create designs that are structurally sound, functional and aesthetically pleasing. If your home improvement ideas involve structural changes such as moving walls, windows, or doors, an architect should be consulted. They also know construction materials, can negotiate bids and even supervise the actual work. AIA architects have passed an industry specific exam and belong to the American Institute of Architects. Expect to be charged a flat fee or a percentage of the total square feet of your project (about $2.00 per square foot).

Interior Designers. Even if you are working with an architect, you may wish to call on the services of an interior designer for the decorating and furnishing of rooms. These experts can offer fresh, innovative ideas and advice. Sometimes the interior designer has knowledge of materials and products not readily available in stores. You might also be interested in consulting with a lighting designer to specify fixtures and placement of lighting for your project and work with the contractor or installer to make your lighting scheme a reality. Other specialists include kitchen and bath designers, some are qualified and often informed about the latest trends in furnishings and appliances, but some may simply be there to sell you more goods. The decision depends on your scope: if your space needs only a minor face lift, you can call a kitchen or bath designer; but if your job is major, call in the architect and engineer. Expect to pay a flat fee or a percentage of the total cost of the goods purchased (usually 8 to 10%).

General Contractor. General Contractors are state-licensed professionals that specialize in construction. The primary job of a contractor is to insure that all construction work complies with the local and national building codes, the necessary permits are pulled and arrange for inspections as the work progresses. The General Contractor may do all of the work themselves, or they may hire qualified subcontractors, order construction materials, and see that the job is completed according to contract. When choosing a contractor, get three bids from licensed contractors; give each one the same set of blue prints, or the exact scope of work and your own sketches for the desired remodeling project.

Include a detailed account of who will be responsible for what work. And of course, visit your State Contractors License Board’s website and make sure that the contractor has a current active license. General contractors will work their fee into the final bid. However, don’t make price your only criterion for selection, ask for references and, if possible visit completed projects, then make your decision based on quality of work, reliability, and customer satisfaction. Finally, when you have chosen a contractor, request current insurance certificates before you sign the contract and start the project.

Subcontractors. If you choose to act as your own contractor, you will be responsible for permits, insurance and payroll taxes as well as direct supervision of all aspects of the construction. You will have to hire and supervise subcontractors for specialized jobs such as framing, wiring, plumbing, and drywall. Going this route requires a great deal of construction knowledge and a huge commitment of time for the day to day supervision of the project.