How to Hire an Architect

If you're planning a home remodel or addition, an architect can provide you with invaluable help. Any time you are tearing down walls or changing the "footprint" of your home, hiring an architect may not only be a good idea; law may require it. While it can be intimidating to bring outside help into your home design process, you can ease those worries and hire a suitable architect by following a few simple steps.


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    Determine whether or not you even need an architect. If your renovation does not require the reconfiguring of any walls, you may be better off simply hiring a contractor. Contractors will be able to handle most home updates by themselves. Replacing fixtures and finishes like cabinetry, flooring, paint and lighting is a contractor's bread and butter. However, if the floor plan of your home will change, you should hire an architect.
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    Search for an architect through the American Institute of Architects website. The AIA site has a great "Find an Architect" feature that will let you search for architecture firms by location. Check out the websites of some nearby firms. Look specifically at their past projects, and compare the scope of those projects to yours.
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    Choose several candidates, and schedule time to meet with them. Don't just randomly pick an architect and move forward; interview several candidates before making your choice. Tell them about your design plans, get a feel for how they work, and most importantly, be sure you'll be able to work smoothly with the firm or the individual you hire. You will be working closely with them, so it is important to have a good relationship.
    • If you already have a trusted contractor in mind, ask him to recommend an architect. Contractors work with architects all the time and will be familiar with the ones practicing locally. Don't overlook the importance of your contractor's opinion; the relationship between the architect and the contractor can make or break a project.
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    Consider hiring a design-build firm. Design-build firms are companies who keep both designers and contractors on staff, thus streamlining the design/construction process and improving communication. If you don't already have a contractor in mind, this is a good option. Design-build is a rising trend. There are now many design-build firms that specialize in small projects like home renovations.
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    Assess the fee situation. Once you have decided on an architect but before you sign a contract, ask how fees are configured. The firm may want to negotiate a fixed sum, or they may charge a percentage above the cost of time and materials. In the latter case, make sure to get a guaranteed maximum price written into the contract. This specifies the most you will pay the architect, which ensures that he/she won't run way over-budget by taking too long or selecting overly-expensive materials.
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    Read the contract carefully. Once the contract is drawn up, make sure you understand and agree to all its provisions before signing. Consider having a lawyer look over the contract with you.


  • Make sure the architect is aware of issues that are important to you, such as responsibly sourced materials or energy-efficient design.
  • You may know other people who have experience with architects with whom they are pleased. Ask around.
  • If you know a good contractor, he may be able to suggest a suitable, reasonably priced architect.


  • Don't choose an architect based solely on a low fee. Remember the old adage: you get what you pay for.

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Categories: Build Design & Remodel Own Home | Home Improvements and Repairs